ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: UTOPIA
1. We're super excited to feature you on our blog Darknet and tell about your work to our followers! Please tell us about the origins of BiYu, what was the spark for you to finally launch the project?
Utopia.US started fall of 2016. I had a sewing machine from my grandmother that I used to tailor my pants for work. At the time I was a full-time accountant. I taught myself more sewing skills from that one project. In the fall of 2016, I launched my brand which originally started with handsewn/designed one-off tees and sweatshirts. I dropped one piece a week on my Instagram. People began to anticipate the drops because every week they were different. That grew to me dropping 3 custom pieces a week and creative directing photoshoots. I bartered custom pieces for services, and studio space. My photographer, Weston (@_westonrich) asked for a chest rig in trade for his service and it was a challenge I accepted. I never constructed a bag until that point. That was a year ago, I’ve been doing custom bags since.
2. For how long have you been modifying clothes or bags?
I’ve been modifying my own clothes since 2015. Doing so sparked creativity within me that I didn’t know I had. I’ve been making custom bags from sports jerseys, jackets, Digiorno boxes and everything else under the sun since early 2018.
3. How did you transition from accounting to doing the clothing/bags full time? Tell us how much has your life changed since then!
I hated being an accountant. I realized very soon after beginning my career that it wasn’t for me. Once my business grew it became very evident that I couldn’t do both. I was working 16-hour days. 8 hours at my desk job and 8 hours sewing a night. My job performance at work suffered and I cared less and less. I knew I had to quit and take the leap of faith. Doing so, was not easy and that part of many entrepreneurs’ stories of exactly how they did it is often left out. I had to downsize my life to be put in the position to bet on myself. I stopped going out altogether because I focused on the brand in any of my spare time. I was paying $1200 a month in student loans which I decided to put in forbearance. This was necessary if I wanted to quit anytime soon and while the loans are gaining interest every day I know it’ll pay off in the long run. In addition to that, I sold my car, gave up my condo and me and my girl moved in with her Dad. After a few months of saving, I moved to LA which is where I knew I needed to be. My life has changed dramatically.
4. What is the main factor for your success to be able to follow your passion and make living off of it?
I attribute my success to my consistent work ethic, transparency, and outgoing personality. I’ve been able to connect with so many fellow creatives, customers and brands by being open and starting conversations. My transparency has allowed customers to really see my vision and become invested in Utopia.US’ journey. Many customers have become my friends. I like sharing my authentic self on Instagram, rather that’s me turning up and dancing mid sewing, highlighting my biggest struggles like my student loans or just laughing and having a good time. People connect with who you truly are, not who you want Instagram to see you as. A consistent work ethic has been the one thing to see me through all the bumps in the road. Things will never work out as planned but if you remain consistent, they’ll eventually work.
5. We see your collaborations with recognizable brands or celebrities, which one did you have the most fun working on?
My favorite projects are ones that start as an idea and are done for the sole purpose of me wanting to see it come to real life. With that being said one of my favorite bags is the one I did for Just Water. It started off as an idea after I heard about the company and how their bottles were made of recycled material. I thought it’d be cool to recycle the material once more and create a bag. I had no expectations when making the bag, so it was amazing when the bag reached Jaden and he fucked with it. Dope moment.
6. How do you see yourself at the highest point of your career? What would be your ultimate dream to accomplish with your work and when do you see that happening?
I see myself influencing other college grads or people in a profession they don’t truly love to reinvent themselves. It’s highly discouraged once you’ve “made it” or entered into a profession to leave it. I’m here to say fuck that. It’s never too late. I don’t think the highest point of my career will exist. I’ll never be fully satisfied with any one accomplishment. Once I achieve one set goal I’m thinking about the next.
7. Finally, we would love to ask - What would you say to up and coming artists who want to pursue their passion?
I would say find what you love and work incredibly hard at it. People will tell you to apply a work/life balance to your life, but I’d argue now is now the time. Put everything into your passion. I hate to sound cliché but it’s true. Doing what you’re passionate about is life-changing. I advise young artists to not be afraid to make sacrifices to get there because it requires many. Lastly, remove all doubt and negative influences both will hold you back.