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Feature: Retro GT Clothing Interview

Posted by Damien McFerran

We catch up with the chaps behind this awesome gaming-related clothing brand

Video gaming has spawned many iconic images over the years, so its little surprise that many brands have crossed over to feature on various items of clothing.

One of our favourite clothing companies has to be UK-based Retro GT, who specalise in custom-made designs that reflect several decades of misspent youth.

We caught up with Retro GT co-founder Lawrence to chat about how you go about creating such cool items of clothing.

Nintendo Life: When did you get the idea to start Retro GT?
Lawrence: We were selling t-shirts in Camden market before we started Retro GT in 2005/6 and since we both love games it became the next logical step. There weren't many t-shirts based on videogames back then; there were a few good ones but most were fairly uninspiring. Not like now, gaming t-shirts are everywhere - even high street stores have got in on the action. We felt there was a lot of potential for designs aimed at true gaming heads as well as the mainstream.

How do you go about designing a new shirt? Does inspiration simply hit you or do you pick key games and look for influences?
A bit of both I guess. Picking a game is easy, there are so many that we have fond memories of. Inspiration for the design itself normally comes thick and fast, it never stops; I get loads of ideas even after a design is finished. At some point I have to force myself to head in a particular direction or I'll never get things done! I also get ideas for the next design while working on the current one. My head's a mess most of the time, you don't want to look in there! Still, I like to think we capture the essence of the games successfully.

The difficult part is working the design and getting it to look attractive. Contrary to popular belief, we can't get much inspiration while playing games because our minds are always on the game. We're better off thinking about it on the toilet! Playing games still counts as research though.

Although they capture the spirit of the subject matter perfectly, your T Shirts aren't officially licensed - does this make the design process more challenging? Have you ever been contacted by any of the relevant companies regarding your designs?
It can be challenging sometimes but mostly straightforward. We avoid using other peoples artwork, which I prefer to do anyway, so that makes things much easier. We also avoid using true likenesses of mascots since they represent the companies who own them as well as the games. We could go down the licensing route but that's prohibitively expensive, we'd need to mass produce for mass market which means the lesser known games wouldn't get represented. Out of necessity we would probably end up sticking to Pac-Man, Space Invaders and new releases. Those are very well catered for by others already.

There's also the hurdle of the approval process which usually means slapping a big logo somewhere or using artwork the company provides. As an artist I prefer the creative freedom to give it a personal touch. Some people don't realise that we're a small outfit - we still print the shirts ourselves y'know - so it's hard work sometimes. This way we get to cater for like-minded gaming nuts while keeping our shirts' carbon footprints down. Both are very important things.

Oh yeah, we were contacted by the creators of a game once. They liked our shirts and wanted some for themselves, but we promised not to reveal who they were or what game they made. That was a proud moment!

Who handles the actual designs?
So far, mostly me. Gary likes to flex his muscles coding. He's happiest (and at his most miserable) when knee deep in code. We've also got more designs coming through by another designer that we've been itching to get out. They'll be released soon, very soon. They're in the final stages of design.

You're obviously very keen retro gamers - what titles do you hold in especially high regard?
There's so many to choose from...Street Fighter obviously. And Mario Kart of course, but if you ask me which version is best I'd have to say SNES, especially with friends round. We both love the Gradius series as well, they really hit a winning formula on the very first game and each sequel is consistently great. Gradius vs R-Type? Gradius wins.

There's also Quake, Tekken, Starcraft...so many great games. Oh yeah, I'm not afraid to mention it, I really like Pokémon as well. That's a legendary title, both culturally and recreationally. I've got to mention Bruce Lee on the Commodore 64 as well, utter chaos with 2 players.

Gary's a big fan of the Dizzy series and also plays a lot of Chaos on the Spectrum. Oh, and we've both spent a serious amount of time on Worms Re-enforcements...In the early days, our print runs would always conclude with takeaway and a Worms-athon!

Have you used Nintendo's Virtual Console for gaming? If so, what's your opinion of the service?
I haven't used it very much since I still have the old consoles kicking around. I prefer to keep the experience authentic although it does represent bloody good value for money. It's a very accessible way to get hold of great classics.
What's great about that, and the Xbox Live Arcade as well, is that a new generation are discovering the games we consider retro for the first time. The classics will always stand the test of time, as addictive gameplay is far more important than flashy graphics.

What does the future hold for Retro GT?
We'll keep doing what we love doing. Loads more designs are in the pipeline, and new products too. We sold mugs on the markets stalls before so once we get packaging finalised we'll make them available on the website. The first big thing next year will be a brand new website that will make navigation easier. We'll be Twittering more too - we plan to offer exclusive discounts and give-aways to our followers.

Thanks to both Lawrence and Gary for taking part in this interview and for making such bloody amazing products. Take a look around the site if you're interested, and remember that they currently offer free shipping to anywhere in the world.

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User Comments (31)

JamieOStaff

#2

JamieO said:

Nice interview @Damo, it is good to see Retro GT get some NLife attention, I have noticed their products in the back of Retro Gamer magazine. I like the way in which they are keen to represent a few of the less known games, I would happily walk around Birkenhead in a Space Harrier tee or displaying a SNES, or Mega Drive pad. I am looking for a red T Shirt for Christmas Day clobber, it is just my luck that the Space Harrier design is available in loads of colour, but red! (Black, Navy Blue, Brown. Olive, DarkGrey). Perhaps I should go for a red Ryu Shoryuken T-Shirt instead.

shingi_70

#3

shingi_70 said:

i mean as a guy who wants to go into fashion photography i loathe gaming/cartoon shirts even though my T-shirt collection has a few in them. I find these shirts more attractive on females anyway as a guy wearing them is automaticly sterotyped.

DiggerandIndy

#5

DiggerandIndy said:

Controller hoodie looks cool! I wish our controller looked like that; ours looks a bit bland compared to that :-(

Zammy

#6

Zammy said:

I love T-Shirts like this and simply use eBay to get mine. Through that, I have a Death Note t-shirt, a Sonic one, a Stewie and Bender (Family Guy and Futurama) one, and a Mario "1-up!" hoody. It's awesome. =P

rustythekid

#7

rustythekid said:

A friend (girl) told me the other day that I'll do myself a favor if I don't wear those types of clothes anymore because girls consider it geeky, and I told her... kid, I've been a geek my entire life, do you want me to stop now? it's not like I wear them for work or for a freaking date...

well, actually....

@shingi: I'm into fashion photography, people really do care how the photographer looks, how "edgy" are the type of clothes you wear, in my experience if you wear those for work they don't care, since you're a "photographer" I don't do it though, but that's just a personal decision.

blank_user_1

#8

blank_user_1 said:

I got a cool mario shirt one time. Pizza delivery woman asked where she could get one. I was flattered until she said, "My kid would love it."

DamoAdmin

#9

Damo said:

Geez, didn't realise people were so uptight about their hobbies. Call me uncool but I wear video gaming-related T shirts all the time, as well as film and comicbook-related ones. I've had nothing but positive comments from people, although I'll admit that none of them were female and most were aged under 10. ;)

Sean_Aaron

#10

Sean_Aaron said:

I like them, but I notice a Defender deficit in their line-up -- even Next had one of those (which sadly I missed, though I did snag a Space Invaders one)!

Percentful

#11

Percentful said:

I'm extremely self-conscious about what I wear, so I don't usually wear shirts that have things like cartoons and video games on them. The one exception is a shirt I have that says "WARNING! GAME IN PROCESS! DO NOT INTERRUPT!"
I will admit that these do look a lot better than a lot of other Video Game T-shirts.

Stuffgamer1

#12

Stuffgamer1 said:

I've had a number of females compliment my video game T-shirts. I guess I just hang out with geekier women than most of you.:D

I don't wear shirts that AREN'T related to video games unless I have to for work (and I have one Uncharted polo I can wear to work at GameStop). Okay, that's not QUITE true...I have one shirt that only looks Kingdom Hearts-ESQUE. Until they put Star Wars in there, it's not officially related. Add a couple Homestarrunner.com shirts that aren't TECHNICALLY based on the games that are based on the cartoon, but I guess my point is that my shirts are geeky.:P

Anyway, these shirts look kinda cool, but mostly not for games I care about and too expensive anyway (exchange rate on 15 pounds can't be too great nowadays). I'll just continue buying geek shirts at Hot Topic, 80'stees.com, homestarrunner.com and Fangamer.com.:)

Objection

#13

Objection said:

I wear a fair amount of gaming tees, the ones youve seen over and over like "Nintendo Rehabiliation Center" and "Not Now, I'm Busy." Attempting to get even more, though.

Quint

#14

Quint said:

Q: what retro titles do you like?
A: "Pokemon"

... nothing to see here folks... how in the world is pokemon retro???

shingi_70

#15

shingi_70 said:

it's an old series there for retro. Even thoough thier are new releases the genral public of my feneration (17-20) see it as retro since its from our childhood.

Stuffgamer1

#16

Stuffgamer1 said:

I see 151 Pokémon as Retro. 251 is still good, but a bit more modern. After that, I see Pokémon as bloated crap.:P

ToneDeath

#18

ToneDeath said:

I've already got their 'Health Food' shirt, and might pick up the Space Harrier tee, plus one or two Street Fighter tops one of these days aswell.

@ pHaT-aNt_ : Sure, what I'd really like are two with Greg the grim reaper, one saying 'I HATE CATS' and the other '7/10'. First 100 orders signed by Corbie.

CorbsAdmin

#19

Corbs said:

I want a Nintendo Life T-Shirt! And coffee mug! And pen set! And stickers! And a baseball cap! :D

Stuffgamer1

#22

Stuffgamer1 said:

NLife shirt? Sure, if it has cool art on it. Has to be WAY cooler than just the site logo to warrent a purchase.

ToneDeath

#23

ToneDeath said:

I'd like one with the Captain Price/Mario I currently have as my avatar, jumping on a goomba with text that says 'TANGO DOWN!'

y2josh

#24

y2josh said:

I'd love a NL shirt, as long as it is a NL shirt and not a Super NES controller with NintendoLife wrote on it. I would get that hoodie of theirs if it weren't for that.

Chunky_Droid

#25

Chunky_Droid said:

I like the Facebook logo, that'd make a great shirt, Corbie made that suggestion, with our link on the back

CorbsAdmin

#26

Corbs said:

Yeah that 1UP mushroom with the "Get a Life" motto. That would be cool. We need a hook. :)

JimLad

#27

JimLad said:

uhhhh... Guile t-shirt!
Don't think I could wear it out though, I'm allergic to being punched.

Deviant_Mugen

#28

Deviant_Mugen said:

I'd definitely love to get my hands on one of those 'Sonic Boom!' t-shirts.

Also, needs more Metroid...

WanderFan91

#29

WanderFan91 said:

I agree with Corbie, a NintendoLife T-shirt would be much obliged. :)
NintendoLife FTW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, and maybe a Kirby T-shirt, or a Star Parodier one. :3

JamieOStaff

#30

JamieO said:

Oh yeah, Retro GT does have a 'Red' option for its Space Harrier tee, I simply had to search under the main 'White' version of the shirt, my order has been placed now.... and yep, I would happily wear a NLife T Shirt, too. :)

WanderFan91

#31

WanderFan91 said:

A NintendoLife T-shirt would be the best thing that happened in clothing. :) Considering I love going to this website so much.

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