Under The Influence – new student brand

Pena poses as he represents his product.

Photo by Haider Mashal / The Skyline View

Pena poses as he represents his product.

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Getting a vendor booth two weeks after starting to promote his clothing line arrived as a surprise to James de la Peña, a 23 year old student at Skyline. Before being invited to vendor at Skyline’s Rock The School Bells on March 9th, Peña noticed a bit of hesitation in beginning a hip-hop clothing line created from his own ideas.

“Everyone has these doubts,” he says. “You start by catering to what you like. You think ‘Are people going to buy these?’”

Peña sold 25 shirts after posting them for sale through on a website called undrtheinflunc.bigcartel.com. Within the two-week time frame, a photographer contacted him for a photo shoot featuring Peña’s brand, called Under The Influence. Networking and promoting is the step he put the most effort into so people notice the website’s existence.

“I’ve been networking like crazy,” he says. “Just mainly giving out stickers and flyers.” Peña began passing out patches he made at home using an iron and designed stickers that either read “WHO IS Hightop” or “Get High Stay under.” He decided to place the patches on beanies him and his girlfriend wore.

“This is butter right here,” Peña says pointing to the beenie he’s wearing. ”People wanted the beanies.” The patch on the hat has the brand name sketched across giving a hip-hop flavor to the clothing. Peña also wears one of his black shirts containing a drawing of a portable speaker replacing the head of a person dressed in a suit speaking over a podium displaying the Eye of Providence.

Jesus is featured on another shirt as a light-hearted parody of his typical picture showing his heart. In his right hand is a joint and a bottle of beer is placed next to him. Peña doodles regularly, so it was common sense to have designs he says are produced freely instead of paying someone to draw his ideas for him. Plus, he enjoys the edgy
cartoon effect the shirts display.

“When everything is shaped and virtualized, it looks generic when you use design generators,” he says. Doing the loose drawings is a way Peña connects people to the clothing.

“I look at a generated text and think it’s done by a guy behind a desk,” he says. “Why not reach out?” At Rock The School Bells, he used a marker for the writing on his vendor booth banner.

“I love people in the city playing music on bottles,” Peña says explaining the less flashy method in creating a vendor banner. “You can make art out of anything.” Peña jokes about how he’d write rap lyrics secretly in his household during his high school years. Most of his family listens to rock, but his main musical influence became hiphop music.

After quitting his job, Peña found himself focusing on creating the shirts after friends suggested to sell them. As this new business mentality sparked Under The Influence, Peña even recorded a song with his friend Johnny Kaplan, 21, to promote the shirts and their music. Both were in a music studio and decided to record themselves.

“We happened to be in the studio one night,” Kaplan said. “All of a sudden we went into a creative spree and the song came into fruition. The song came together at the perfect time.”

After finishing the song, titled “Survive”, a video of Peña rapping in the studio mixed in with Under The Influence clothing gained over two hundred views since being posted.

“Within a day, 100 views,” says Peña. “We’re just nobodys!” Even though he says he’s a nobody now, Peña strives to one day be someone able to keep a hold on his creativity.

“I just want to have my own thing and and be known,” he said. “I’m glad people are noticing. It’s an overall good feeling.”