Blackcraft Turned a Heavy Metal T-Shirt Operation into Big Business
In the summer of 2012, sepulchral Orange-based clothing company Blackcraft Cult was just an idea, an itch burrowing through the brains of co-founders Bobby Schubenski and Jim Somers. Less than two years later, their designs appear on celebrities and musicians ranging from Slayer to Kesha, their revenues and online followers number in the millions, and the company seems to be on the cusp of total world domination.
"With Blackcraft, [our message] for kids is 'believe in yourself, and create your own future,' and that if Jim and I could meet this vision we had, then anybody can do it," Schubenski says. "We want to show kids that it's OK to be different, and to go against the norm. Be different, and stand out, get off of that rat wheel that everyone says they're on."
That positive message resonates with the heavy metal and industrial scenes that both clothiers come from, and shines through the dark imagery on T-shirts with lines like "Hail Satan and Drink Coffee." Schubenski cites early Orange County metalcore bands like Eighteen Visions and Bleeding Through as an inspiration, and both he and Somers promote a message of self-empowerment and personal growth outside and away from organized religion.
"When Bobby and I met up, we knew that in our world and the demographic we were familiar with, there was nothing like what Blackcraft was, so we knew there was a demand for it," Somers says. "From day one, when we put up our first Instagram post, it just went, and we didn't need to convince anyone of anything. People just felt like they were a part of it straightaway."
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Schubenski, a 25-year-old Pennsylvania native, played in a band with Somers' roommate, and met his future partner by crashing on his couch in OC at the end of a tour. The pair kept in touch after Schubenski returned to the East Coast, but when the Pittsburgh tattoo parlor where Schubenski worked started carrying clothes from Aqua-VI - the OC-based brand Somers worked for 3,000 miles away - both men realized that larger forces seemed to be drawing them together. "I remember the day he called me, I was walking down the street in Costa Mesa, and he was asking me for advice about screen-printing or design or something," Somers says. "I remember the feeling coming over me that I was going to drop everything I was doing, and figure something out with this dude Bobby. So at that time, I quit my job, dropped everything and that's when we started Blackcraft."
Since the company's inception in July 2012, Blackcraft Cult has amassed more than 15 million online followers, and the responses from the brand's social networks keeps the design process lively for the funereal-minded duo.
"The creative process has become a no-brainer for us, and by tying that in with social media, we can just keep pumping [ideas] out," Somers said. "We could have an idea now, and in five minutes it's print-ready and in ten minutes it's selling."
Blackcraft's two years of rapid growth has allowed for an expanded product line that includes locally roasted coffee and candles beside the shirts, hoodies and leggings infused with pagan imagery. The company plans to release a Kik-like mobile application, BCC Messenger, which includes custom emojis for their followers, and at the end of March, the newly renamed Blackcraft Inc., announced a stock offering that will allow investors to buy into their business and their brand. For Somers and Schubenski, growing the business is all about outreach.
"Growing so quickly, from nothing - not overnight, but almost - our problems have gone from, 'Shit, are we gonna eat Del Taco today?' to, 'Holy shit, we need to figure out this $50,000 production run!' Schubenski added. "This is something that we're both really passionate about, and we want to see it grow and hopefully change the world."
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