Simeon Talley, founder, Guns x Butter.
What is Guns x Butter/where does the name come from?
Guns x Butter is a political t-shirt line inspired by art and contemporary culture. I collaborate with others to make cool shirts that have a political message. The brand also partners with social justice organizations to make the creation and release of each shirt a campaign for a specific cause.
For example, right now I’m partnering with an organization that works to combat sex trafficking in Iowa. With every purchase of a shirt a donation is made to that organization and a scholarship fund for girls who have escaped trafficking.
The name comes from the 1960’s. It was a way of thinking about the choices and trade-offs that existed between spending money on the Vietnam War and funding President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program.
Tell us about the brand and how you got started in design and became a designer?
Truth be told I’m not an actual designer. I find artists to work with to execute a concepts and designs. On the front end of the creative process I’ll pick a political issue that I think connects well to the Guns x Butter brand and find an artist who’s style and approach I like.
I created the Guns x Butter brand because I wanted to do something creative and cool with my political background. I worked on the Obama campaign in 2008, which is what brought me to Iowa. At some point I made the decision that working on political campaigns wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life but wanted to connect my political beliefs with my desire to do something creative and being an entrepreneur.
Why specifically fashion or a t-shirt line? I looked around and I thought I could fill a void that existed — a line or a brand that was authentically political and a fashion line.
What inspired the Guns x Butter brand?
Guns x Butter at its core is about getting people to think more critically about the world they live in and using fashion as a vehicle to do that. When people hear the name itself, it makes them think “Well, what does that mean”. The shirts themselves and the way I visually present the brand to the public are all about pushing boundaries making someone stop and think.
The political issues that inspire the designs are a little dark and very serious. Those issues that represent the underbelly of contemporary culture but yet affect so many people.
With being such a political brand, have you had any issues getting shirts printed or with people wearing them?
Not really. But then again I recognize that this and the approach I’m taking isn’t for everybody. That’s fine. I don’t intend to offend anyone for the sake of being offensive but if I’m staying true to what the brand is some people will be uncomfortable.
The goal isn’t to generate controversy but discussion, absolutely!
What is the reaction to the brand?
The reaction has been very positive and supportive. I used Kickstarter to print my first round of shirts and had a pop-up in downtown Iowa City which went really, really well!
To most people fashion has this reputation of being fickle and superficially ephemeral. I think that a lot of people view Guns x Butter as sort of refreshing. As fashion that stands for something and wants to do real good in the world. Which is actually a trend you see. Most clothing and/or accessory lines created in that past couple of years all have a philanthropic aspect to them. Consumers just don’t want to buy a product. They want something that adds meaningful value to their lives, or their communities or to the world.
What is your next step, what do you see the brand accomplishing?
My ultimate goal for Guns x Butter is to be the #1 political t-shirt line/brand in the world. I want people to judge me and the line from that benchmark.
Right now I’ve just released a new “Anti Sex Slave” shirt which is part of an anti sex-trafficking campaign. With each purchase of a shirt a donation will be made to the Network Against Human Trafficking and a scholarship fund for girls who have escaped a life of forced sex prostitution and trafficking.
I’m always looking to collaborate so if anyone reading this is interested in working with Guns x Butter, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.