Back in 2016 Jez Parsons would often spend his weekends with friends at the local skate park in Rugby, Warwickshire. During one of these usual weekend skate sessions he noticed something, everyone was wearing a brand, some Nike, some Adidas, some were wearing lesser known brands. “What if I could unite them all under one brand?” Thought Jez, and so his brand Jailbrail (@jailbrail) was formed.
Last weekend I caught up with Jez (@Jez.Parsons on Instagram) to find out how he used his Instagram following to start his own clothing company and what advice he’d give to other influencers thinking of doing the same. Here’s a transcript of how the interview went down:
Q: Hello Jez, thanks for joining me. At only aged 17 you’ve already managed to successfully grow your own clothing brand, Jailbrail, using your Instagram and now have recently embarked on a new venture; Social Class. To begin, can you tell us how Jailbrail came about?
Hello, yes for sure. Jailbrail really started at the skatepark. In the skatepark scene it can all be quite segregated. You’re either a skateboarder or you ride a scooter or you’re BMXer and it’s all quite tribal. I thought that one way to unite these normally quite separate groups would be through a clothing brand, I saw the opportunity to help create a unique community.
Once I decided on the name and the message behind the brand I started off by buying 300 stickers. Stickers are the staple of many streetwear brands and have the benefit of allowing people to brand pretty much anything with your logo. I’d give them to friends, strangers, I’d ask people to put them on their skate gear, on their cars, on their bags. I built up that initial hype with the 300 stickers I bought and then just never let up.
How important was it for you that Jailbrail was seen as a local brand?
It was very important. I think a mistake I see a lot of other influencers making when they’re trying to build their brand is that they try and go global from the off. I knew that building up my own brand would take a long time and I knew it had to start with the local. By starting it off local it not only makes promotion a lot easier because your target audience are right on your doorstep, it also means you can easily build up local contacts and start generating small, but concentrated, buzz.
How vital was Instagram for building up the Jailbrail brand?
I think that without Instagram I would not be where I am today. I think a lot of people just don’t realise the business opportunities Instagram gives you. Instagram can be so much more than a place to put up family photos and dog pictures if you want it to.
The main thing Instagram allowed me to do was to build a story around the Jailbrail brand. If I just put up my hoodies on a webshop people would have no idea what the brand was all about. Instagram allowed me to post skate pictures and videos, behind the scenes videos, a variety of content and media that really allowed me to connect with the skate culture I was trying to build my brand around. It also really helped build up my name locally.
How important do you think stories are to building a brand?
I think that stories are vital to building a strong brand. Without a story a brand is just a cool logo or a recognisable face. A story allows you to build emotion around the brand, they allow people to not only just purchase a cool t-shirt or bag but also buy into a culture and community. The easiest and best way to do this is through social media.
In many ways Jailbrail was a way of telling my story through the brand. I wanted Jailbrail to be about connecting like-minded people, not just skaters but also creatives. I’ve taken this story into my other projects too; Social Class’s tagline is ‘helping connect you to others’.
What advice would you give to influencers thinking of launching their own brand off of their Instagram or Youtube following?
I think before you’ve even started designing logos you should first figure out what story you want to tell through your brand. The story could be your story or it could be more like a goal. It’s important that it’s a story you care about but if it is based on a goal then it’s also important that it’s realistic.
For example a story behind a brand could be that at its heart it cares about animals and wants to save animals from extinction. That makes for a great story but it’s not realistic for one brand to do. However, the brand could say that it will donate a proportion of every sale to the World Wildlife Fund and be animal friendly in producing its products.
Once you’ve decided on your story you then have to start designing a logo. If you’re starting a clothing brand it’s really important you make sure any logos or designs you want to put on the clothing are relatively simple. The easier it is to print on a t-shirt the cheaper it will be to make.
Once you’ve got a logo you then need to find a supplier who can both provide blank t-shirts, hoodies, hats etc. and also print your logo and designs onto those products. There are plenty of options available, just make sure you do good research to get the best deal.
What advice would you generally give to influencers?
I think the best piece of advice I would give to influencers is to turn numbers into interactions. Influencers often forget that followers are not there to simply like your photos and boost your numbers so that eventually you warrant enough for brand deals. It’s important that your followers also feel like they’re getting something from the relationship.
A great way to do this is through interactions. Whether it’s through simply interacting in the comments section or physically going out and collaborating with them. Any interaction that will make your followers feel valued will massively boost your brand and help foster a sense of community.
I would recommend starting off locally. Make a note of who it is that’s following you and see if there’s any collaboration opportunities.
One final question, in mid-2019 you decided to take a break from Jailbrail and start your new company Social Class, can you tell us a bit more about that and what’s in store for 2020?
Yes, taking a step back from Jailbrail was hard as I spent around 3 years devoting so much time and work into it but it had to be done. I knew early on that Jailbrail was always going to be a stepping stone onto bigger projects.
My new project Social Class is a social media management company. The aim of it is to help businesses to transform their social media and boost not only their profile but also their engagement.
We can also work with influencers who are looking to build their brand. So for example, if there is anyone who is inspired to start their own clothing brand, like Jailbrail, and would like some advice and support we’d love to hear from them. People can either message the Social Class instagram (@s0cial.class) or on my own personal Instagram (@Jez.Parsons).
Special thanks for Jez for taking the time to chat to The Modern Influencer. We definitely recommend checking out his Instagram (@Jez.Parsons) if you haven’t already and giving him a follow!