Retro GT create their own designs based on popular gaming icons

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.

This Space Harrier shirt is bound to be a hit with Sega fans

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.

Sonic boom!

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.

Retro GT also do these cool hoodies

There's also Quake, Tekken, 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.