On this week’s episode of Working, Karen Han spoke with Andrew Ortiz about Super Yaki, his movie merchandise company that sells film-themed apparel and accessories. They discussed how his childhood love of movies evolved into a business, how Super Yaki comes up with designs for its collections, and the emphasis on celebrating niche films. This partial transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Karen Han: Can you walk us through a timeline of putting a collection together? What is the kickoff? How long does it take to make sure you have everything ready? How long does the ideas process take?
Andrew Ortiz: We’ve been really lucky, in that really talented people have reached out to us and wanted to work with us. First and foremost, if someone reaches and they want to work on a collaboration together, the one thing I always ask myself is, “Is this coming from someone that we have never heard of before, or that we’ve heard an abundance of?” To be as blunt as possible, movie criticism, fandom, appreciation, or whatever, it tends to be a very one-dimensional figure, which is a white male audience. So when we have people reach out to us, no matter how talented or how great the idea might be, I have to make sure that we are getting submissions and getting ideas from people that I don’t really hear from that frequently in this world.
With that said, when people reach out to us, and if we like their artwork, they usually submit a few concepts. I always ask them, “Where do you want to go? What do you want to see? What’s your”—I hate to use the words guilty pleasure, but—”What’s the movie you feel like you just love unabashedly, that you might not see that much love for?” When people reach out to us, they’ll say, “Oh, I really want to do this collection, or this collection.” It’s like, well, which one’s the one that you think is going to be niche-r? Which one’s going to be the one that’s tougher to do? We go with that, because that’s very much within our style, which is celebrating the smaller, less-represented movies.
Then, I let them loose. I say, “OK, great. Let’s do this.” Case in point, when we worked recently with Courtney LeSueur, she approached us with a couple of different ideas for collections to build around, and Grease 2 stood out to me because it was like, “I can’t remember the last time I saw a Grease 2 anything.” There’s plenty of Grease merchandise, but Grease 2 feels like this castaway—the neglected stepchild kind of thing. I said, “What if we built a collection around Grease 2?” and she was super into it. I said, “OK, great. At this point, you’re free to design whatever you want. If you want to put some concepts together, and then we can work together to get the best foot forward with these ideas.”
It’s never my place to dictate the artwork. All I do is try to make suggestions that could help with the production side of things. If a design’s a little too complex, it’s like, “This is beautiful artwork. I would buy this as a print. However, printing it on a shirt might make it astronomically expensive to produce. So what can we do here that doesn’t infringe on your creative vision?” I very much try to be as malleable and as helpful as possible throughout that process.
Where I feel I excel is when we have the artwork completed. Then we can think about, “OK, what are we going to put this on? What are the blanks that you want to use? Do you have any ideas in mind?” I always ask people like, “What’s your fantasy wish list of what you’d like to see your stuff on?” More often than not, people are totally happy with just shirts and sweatshirts and stuff. But every now and then, you get a crazy idea like, “Let’s do a blanket,” or, “Let’s do this on a mug,” which isn’t that crazy in itself. But it’s fun to have their blessing to try these new things out.