Photo Credit: @passivejuicemotel
There’s nothing I love more (and my bank account shames me for) than when Passive Juice Motel drops a new line. A sucker for nostalgia and a great tee, their products spoke to me instantly. All summer I’ve been rocking my Little Giants tote like it’s Prada because, for me, it’s better! Katie and Andrew Martin of Passive Juice Motel take beloved pop culture icons from our past and present and turn them into pieces a wide variety of fandoms can enjoy. From Harry Potter to Stranger Things, Passive Juice Motel has you covered. So it was a true honor to talk to Andrew about the company, fashion, and what’s to come from one of my favs out there.
Kendra: It’s 2012 and things are going better than you maybe could have expected and you both decide to quit your jobs and go all-in with Passive Juice Motel, with two kids at home. Some may say that’s insane, others (like me) would tip their hat and say that’s awesome. Did you have any pushback from loved ones like Katie…Andrew…perhaps don’t quit your day jobs just yet? What were those day jobs by the way?
Andrew Martin: Thank you for that! Our situation was unique in that we weren’t satisfied with what our jobs and situations were at the time we started trying the idea of selling products online. Katie had quit a job as a real estate assistant to be at home with our less than 2-year-old at that time and I had a job at an office supply delivery company. It wasn’t a situation that was going to lead us anywhere and we already struggled to even pay our electric bill. Buying a toy/hobby printer and trying to make some pieces to sell was as much a necessity to not lose our home as it was something we cared about and wanted to try.
Kendra: Did each of you take on particular aspects of the business early on or was it all hands on deck all the time, and has that either changed or remained the same eight years down the road?
Andrew Martin: It’s always been evolving but we have always found the parts we are best at and worked to make those parts of the process our main tasks. When we were ordering all the shirts and sending them to our porch, sorting each one and printing them, I did all the printing which was more than I could finish in any given time.
There were many times when I would go print from 8am until 8am the next morning and still not complete all the open orders. So during many of those times, it would just be whoever could accomplish the most pressing tasks. Essentially we were never caught up or complete so there was no rhyme or plan to any given day. There have been a lot of tough moments in this process where the only way to manage it is to take one piece and do that then move forward without thinking of all that is left.
Kendra: I think I came across PJM a few years ago on Instagram. A sucker for nostalgia, I’d always scroll through and wonder what to buy. Today I own a few PJM tees and a tote! But you guys aren’t always nostalgic. You have a healthy mix of new and old. How do you go about finding the balance between your collections when it comes to showcasing those nostalgic pieces you know will sell like TMNT and newer ones like Queer Eye?
Andrew Martin: We simply fill our shop with what is in the world around us and what we experience. Sometimes we will watch an old movie or show with the kids and making a lineup or designs from that material is our way of participating in it and how we express our interpretation of something big enough for anyone in the world to share.
Our overall goal is to take something big that’s accepted by many people in all different walks of life and then through the way we deliver our brand and lace it with phrases about equality and empowerment for women, we hope that we get to share that message with people from anywhere. By using the lens of pop culture we bring people together and in our mindset, we hope to spread a good message once we have people’s attention. Some pieces are just for fun and don’t carry such weight. But we try to have something for everyone.
Kendra: Are there any personal or obscure fandoms either of you have that you’ve thought of doing but have held off on over the years for one reason or another?
Andrew Martin: Oh man, that’s hard to say. We make lists for plans each month, so there’s a regular opportunity to try things. I will say in general a pop culture artist should stay away from animation unless they have the ability to truly do something unique with it. Because the thing you’re paying homage to is itself a drawing, you’re kind of getting on thin ice when it comes to those properties. So if I was able to just do it to the 9’s, I would love to make a line of Bob’s Burgers products.
Kendra: What I also appreciate is the design has sort of becoming recognizable as signature PJM. Who does the designing or were you both gifted with an artistic hand?
Andrew Martin: I do the art and drawing but that is only part of the overall process. Katie is our “taste” and flavor, picking colors, helping complete pieces, driving the whole plan and theme of what we will release or design and when so it is the ultimate collaboration between us. That flavor you mention is just what comes of our collaboration working together.
Kendra: PJM is like fine dining in that things are made to order. This isn’t fast food fashion. With that, would you ever consider going brick and mortar? Or perhaps doing conventions with pieces that’d sell there?
Andrew Martin: No way, we love our new setup. With the freedom from production and with most of our pieces shipping very quickly, we get to focus on everything we do well and not the parts that we were killing our bodies over. We have already been able to venture into new markets here locally and start to diversify our income. We love what we do with PJM, but we also love the idea of trying entirely new things so going all-in on a retail store, having to rely on a market to give that store foot traffic and the incredible costs of overhead and inventory are just not for us.
Kendra: You guys have new collections coming and going all the time. Can you let us in and tell us a little of what to expect as we head deeper into 2019?
Andrew Martin: Let me just say that we are about to release the largest Fall and Halloween we have ever had. It will include takes on the vintage Halloween yard signs and cards. We are really excited to roll it out.