CRAIG RENWICK – OWNER OF AWAKE AT THREE
Written by Tayler Deighton
Craig Renwick is the owner of the super-cool underground streetwear brand Awake at Three.
I reached out to have a chat about his inspirations, how he got started, and to see if he had any advice on starting up your very own fashion brand.
Where did you grow up and what was it like there?
I grew up in a small village outside London in the UK. It was everything you would imagine a tiny British village to be - pretty, quaint, but desolate and quiet. Moving to Bristol for university was amazing for me. I love the city, the nightlife is great and the culture is rich.
Have you always been interested in fashion?
I think I took an interest quite late in fashion, probably partly as there was nobody really remotely pushing the boundaries in my little village. I started buying overpriced crap from ASOS, but quickly found a love for vintage/second hand clothes on eBay and Depop. I also started out painting and customising some of my old clothes, some of which made it onto an early Awake at Three website.
What sparked the idea to create your own streetwear brand?
At first, it was partly the classic misguided thinking that most people have of “How hard can it be? It’s just overpriced logos on tees! I can do that”, but it was also the desire to start a creative project that I completely owned myself. The idea of people taking some meaning, or getting some joy out of my designs, gave me (and still gives me) a big sense of satisfaction. I had vague interests in photography and graphic design at the time too, so a streetwear brand seemed like a good fit.
When and how did you start with awake at three
When I started in the summer of 2017, I actually called the brand “BadHand”, as it was the first thing I had drawn in my notepad. But I realised pretty quickly that when you try and say “BadHand” to someone the first reaction was almost always “Sorry, what? Bad-what?”. I spent an agonising week trying to find a new name that fit, and eventually I found Awake at Three written in a Courtney Barnett song and knew instantly that was the one. After all, a lot of Awake at Three is built on me working on the brand until the early hours of the morning.
In the early days, I started with dropshipping, but quickly dropped that after problems with quality and packaging. I found an amazing local screen printer that was literally 5 mins down the road from my place in Bristol, and have been using them since. In the early days, I would hand draw all of my designs and scan them in with my mobile phone, but nowadays I’ve gotten a lot better at making completely computer-generated designs (and drafting in people much more talented than I).
Where do you find inspiration?
I try to always have an eye out for nuggets of inspiration that could turn into an idea in my day to day. In the past, they have ranged from graffiti murals, poems, billboard adverts, pieces of contemporary art, phrases that jump out from books I read. I have always drawn a lot of inspiration from music, of which I’m a big post-punk fan. Turning a concept communicated in a lyric, or even a literal sonic element, into a visual design has generated a lot of original ideas for me.
What’s your brand image?
This is always tricky for me to answer, because my own tastes change so much every half-year or so. I think dark, cynical, satirical and nostalgic might describe what I want Awake at Three to be. God knows if it actually is.
Are there any brands you love and/or look up to?
Oh, absolutely. I should have mentioned that another massive inspiration are all the grassroots streetwear brands like myself that come from a vast range of background and all have their own thing to say. Bittersweet, Online Ceramics, NIHIL NY, Braindead, SCRT, Grafik Auf Textil, Heresy, TakeNote, Bound, Pleasures, LAME and 2144 Museum are all great examples to name but a few.
I noticed your ‘arsehole or hypocrite?’ section on your page. Would you like to talk a little more about those feelings?
In a nutshell - I wanted to make a greener choice for my packaging and ended up down this massive rabbit hole of conflicting opinions about biodegradables/paper/recycled plastics. I ended up getting paralysed in fear of making the “wrong” decision and being branded a ‘hypocrite’. But then I reasoned that I’d much rather just TRY and make a better choice rather than to just do nothing and be an ‘arsehole’, even if in the grand scheme of things it will make a tiny difference. And in fact, even if the quantitative difference is small, if you can inspire change in someone else, then maybe we can all make a bigger change throughout the streetwear community. Streetwear has never been afraid to tackle issues bigger than itself, and our planet should be no different. I’m pleased to say that I’ve since introduced new packaging that has a double adhesive strip so packages can be reused again - I need to update my website!
Do you have any advice for people who are interested in starting their own fashion brand?
First and foremost: just go and DO IT. There is no amount of Googling, reading, or research that will replace you going out and making all the mistakes you need to. If I had spent my first year actually designing instead of watching videos ABOUT designing, I’d have twice the talent and sales I do now.
Having said that, a few pointers. Start designing, and churn out a design every week. You’ll improve massively, especially if you use a place like the subreddit r/streetwearstartup to get harsh feedback. Use open source programs like Inkscape and GIMP like I still do if you can’t afford photoshop. Always take inspiration, but never outright copy. Go local with your screen printer, ask around for personal reviews, and go print off a small run of your design. Wear them around your friends and advertise on socials, but be genuine and yourself - don’t ram it down people’s necks. Growth takes time like everything else.
What do you hope to achieve in partnering with Hipland?
I’m really excited for Awake at Three to be retailed for the first time! It’s a massive milestone for the brand. I’m excited to be exposed to a different audience, and to show that Awake at Three is a brand to be taken seriously. I’m incredibly grateful for Hipland taking the risk, and they have been a joy to work with. They genuinely care about the culture, about small brands like Awake at Three, and am looking forward to working with them in the future.
Could you talk a little on your collab with @bychildish with the “brains” tee?
Ted Bettridge. What a talent. I came across him on Reddit years ago after I took notice of his portfolio brand CHILDISH, and have kept in contact since. A young upcoming designer from the UK, he has already had his work noticed by the likes of Slowthai, Half-Evil and none other than Tyler, the Creator. I’m very grateful that he partnered with me, and took on the task of producing designs on the theme of DATA DICTATORS while I was busy with university finals. The result was a nostalgic, witty design that when combined with the new oversized woven neck labels is definitely one of my new personal favourites.