Inner-view: Thundercup & Kiona Stowers of Popular Demand Brand.
Sbrbn was able to catch up with Monica Lin aka Thundercup and Kiona Stowers two of the, scratch that. The only leading ladies over at Popular Demand Brand. Popular Demand Is a Los Angeles based clothing brand that has become a staple in the game with its loud colors and “Work hard, play harder and then work even harder attitude”. Both Monica and Kiona have played major roles behind the scenes and often times on the front line as well. From marketing & production to cocktails and personal life we dive deep into what it takes to thrive in this industry all while having fun doing it. Check out our INNER-view with both Thundercup and Kiona down below as we discuss their unbreakable bond, what it takes to make it in Clothing and some of the obstacles they have faced as a result of being powerful women.
Kiona you are approaching your four-year anniversary working for Popular Demand, how do you plan to celebrate?
I plan on celebrating with the PD team. As a tradition our boss, Blake, takes the team out for lunch and we get to unwind for a bit. Last year for my 3rd year anniversary we all went out for Thai, this year I’m thinking Mexican, can’t go wrong with a middle of the day margarita.
You have a degree from FIDM a renowned fashion institution. What drew you to streetwear? If you could be in any other parts of the fashion world where would you be?
Streetwear has always been a part of my life. Growing up in the 90’s to the early 2000’s, I was such a tomboy all I cared about were sneakers, jerseys and flannels; dresses and skirts just weren’t my thing. While attending FIDM, I did intern and work for a few contemporary women’s brands, which I enjoyed, but nothing compares to the free spirit culture of streetwear.There’s so much raw creativity in this community and I love it. As far as being in other parts of the fashion world, I’m open to the footwear industry as I have experienced both the street and contemporary sides of this industry; I think footwear fashion could be really Interesting.
Take your time, learn as much as you can and get INVOLVED. ~Kiona Stowers
As an Alumni, what advice do you give to FIDM students?
When I was at FIDM, I was in such a hurry to graduate and start my career. I took a night, weekend, and summer classes to finish as quickly as possible. I didn’t get to experience the whole “college life” scene as much as I wanted to. My advice is to take your time, learn as much as you can and get involved at FIDM; there are so many activities, clubs, and events to network at. It’s even better being able to do so surrounded by a community of like-minded creators. In this industry, it’s all about networking and making that connection, so I suggest you get out there and actually do it.My advice is to take your time, learn as much as you can and get involved at FIDM; there are so many activities, clubs, and events to network at. It’s even better being able to do so surrounded by a community of like-minded creators. In this industry, it’s all about networking and making that connection, so I suggest you get out there and actually do it.
You still box? I think the people should know you are kind of dangerous with the hands.
I recently got back into boxing, it’s a great way to stay in shape and be prepared in case some shit goes down!
How can the people reach you?
Were you a radio host? Tell us about that experience? What was your favorite celebrity interaction?
I was! I had the opportunity to host a radio show with DJ Sleek for the Young California family over at TheMixShow.com and it was such a great experience. I was pretty awkward at first and being on a live radio show that was also video streamed in real time, which was all totally out of my comfort zone. Being uncomfortable is also an excellent chance for self growth. Doing the radio show really put my people skills to the test, as well as research skills. You have to learn how to maneuver a conversation and try to get the best insight from people by wording questions the right way. We had a lot of really talented people come on the show and it was super dope overall to get a chance to sit down with people like Eric Bellinger, Lil Dicky, AnjaliWorld, Marcus Hyde, and more. Put yourself out of your comfort zone, kids! You’ll thank me later. *airhorns*
For those of us who pay close attention to you on social media, we see that you are a huge fan of anime. What are some other things that interest you outside of clothing?
I’m a huge fan of anime and cartoons that inspired my childhood, which is what inspired my #ThundercupAndFriends series. I’d love to meet Hayao Miyazaki one day because I love pretty much anything Studio Ghibli. I really love visual art and absolutely enjoy going to art museums. I also love traveling and seeing new places; I definitely inherited this from my mom because she’d always take me along to travel to different countries and see the world while experiencing different cultures. When I was younger, I used to read a ton of books. I was constantly reading, and this really helped me be able to write well. One of my goals is to set aside more time for reading nowadays because it gets hard to find time when you’re constantly busy nonstop. Also, food. I fucking love food and can eat like a beast.
Popular Demand has become extremely successful over the past few years; are there any attributes you can attest to that really made that push for you guys?
People always try to attribute success to one thing, but it never is just because of one thing. It’s never just that one celebrity that wears your clothes, or that one collab that set it off. It takes a lot of moving parts both in the spotlight and behind the scenes. This includes pure hard work, solid people that make a strong team and consistency. We’ve had to bug the shit out of people and network our asses off. A lot of normal work days turned into 14, 16, 18 hour days.
Even if you get one big “hit”, you have to back it up with continued momentum. We’ve made it this far and we still have a long way to go, but we aren’t leaving anytime soon.
Your title is Managing Director for PD; Tell us a little bit about what you do, and how important you are to the brand.
My title is actually Marketing Director for Popular Demand. I just work here, man. Haha, just kidding. I manage/oversee anything and everything marketing related. This includes creating campaigns, collaborations, projects, events & activations, partnerships, social media, and much more. I also handle the PR for the brand, which includes writing out a lot of the written content as well as press releases. We’re a small team behind a big operation, so everyone definitely wears multiple hats. I love my job because there’s always something different every day, and one of the bests feelings to me is being able to take a project from concept to fruition.
How can the people reach you?
If you really want to reach me, you’ll find a way! But otherwise, my social media is:
Thunder Cup & Kiona:
It is apparent that you and Kiona have an extremely close relationship, I believe I seen you guys being called lesbian lovers in the recent past? What’s your story? How did you guys meet? What has made you guy so close?
K: We met through Popular Demand back in 2012, and have seen each other pretty much every single day since then. Surprisingly we’ve never gotten into an argument or fight even despite us living together at one point. Loyalty, common interests, and mutual respect have kept us so close. I’m sure we will be in each other’s lives for a long time, PD or not.
M: We are very close but definitely not lesbians, haha. It’s funny because I was the only girl at Popular Demand at first and then one day, Blake mentioned he was bringing Kiona onboard (he had worked with her previously, before the brand). He had a bit of anxiety about the possibility of us not getting along, since we were the only two girls. Well, the complete opposite happened and we became super tight. I’ve seen this girl nearly every damn day of my life for the past 4 years and we continue to have a really strong friendship. When you’re on the same page in terms of work ethic, drive, and fun shit, you don’t really have any reason to argue. We even lived together for about a year and never had any issues. That’s friendship goals for you guys, ha.
You launched your Popular Demand’s first ever women’s collection this year, Congratulations. What inspired the idea of a women’s collection? What was the process like? Did it take the brand a lot of convincing, or was the collection just on the long list of things that PD planned to do?
K: Thank you, the inspiration came from our men’s line and both of our personal styles. We wanted this to be just as bold as our men’s designs, but to catered to the fit and style our female customers would like. This had been something we all wanted to do and finally had the opportunity give it a shot.
M: It fucking took forever! Haha, really though, patience is really one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from being in the industry. A lot of ideas or projects that you want to bring to life may not happen right away, but don’t let that discourage you. The women’s line really had to have good timing, and it involved a few delays and we had to go “back to the drawing board” a few times. The inspiration behind it was to create a product for girls who support the brand and have the same “No Apologies” mindset. The actual product development was lead by Kiona and we made a lot of decisions as a team. Kiona and I both made sure to go through the sampling process and ensure that all of the pieces were ones we loved and fit well.
Women’s clothing is a tough space to break into. How do you differentiate your brand?
K: We have been able to differentiate our brand by using bold colors and prints as well as staying true to our style as Popular Demand. We also wanted to make sure the clothing was both comfortable and wearable for our fashion forward customers.
M: There is an endless amount of people who try to sell clothes, so it’s really more about conveying a mindset and lifestyle. The stuff we create, whether it’s for men or women, is for people who are unafraid to stand out and do things their way, hence the “No Apologies” motto.
Working in the clothing industry I would think that you are surrounded by males almost 24/7, although you may not be intimidated by this, what words of advice do you have for young women who want to take a path similar to yours but feel “boxed out”?
K: You should never feel intimidated, especially if this industry is something you want to pursue. You have to stay confident, know your stuff and once you’re in, remain professional. Being in this male-dominated industry, you really have to have thick skin, and you can’t get easily offended, but you shouldn’t be afraid to speak your mind or give your opinions.
Fuck all of the aforementioned stuff. Come in here, work your ass off ~Thunder Cup
M: We are. It’s an absolute sausage fest everywhere in this industry. Candidly speaking, coming into this industry as a female will be challenging, but don’t let this stop you. Like Kiona said, you have to have thick skin and can’t easily be offended. There will be people who take you less seriously. There will be people who think you’re not as good as your male counterparts. There will even be people who assume that you climbed the ladder by sleeping your way up there will be people who think you should leave your opinions at home and sit there to look cute. Fuck all of the aforementioned stuff. Come in here, work your ass off, have some self respect, keep your legs closed, give a firm handshake, and make them take you seriously. I want girls to be able to come into positions like ours and prove all of these people wrong. We’ll make this happen.
There has been a big Cali push happening over the last few years. How has PD made themselves apart of that? How do you continue to be culture carriers?
K: I think we have stayed true to who we are as a company, we support fellow Cali brands and artists as well as promoting the west coast lifestyle.
M: Westcoast is one of the best places to be. The weather is great, people are nice for the most part, and everyone comes here to pursue their dreams. Along with great weather, there’s also lots of drugs, beautiful women, and shit load of parties. People make the mistake of moving out here and getting caught up in that whole “Hollywood scene”. We really uphold our incredible work ethic by honing our talents and really working 24/7. That’s what we’re about, and we’ve been consistent about that. We just want to create cool stuff and do it with dope people without worrying about where everyone else is in the race, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.
Many kids aspire to make it big in the clothing industry because they think all it takes is some clout and a screen printer. Care to burst any bubbles? What is it really like behind closed doors?
K: If only it were really that simple. Like Monica said you have to be willing to make sacrifices. So much time, hard work and perseverance is needed to make it big in this industry. If you are not willing to put in the effort why even bother. There’s a lot that can go wrong and you have to be a creative problem solver when it comes to the unexpected. I have dealt with many set backs as far as production, missing deadlines, not paying close attention to details and it’s definitely been a learning experience throughout the years. You must be dedicated and patient, success is not going to come overnight.
M: Listen, if you’re not willing to give up a huge chunk of your personal time, make sacrifices, shed some tears, break a sweat, and be uncomfortable, this is not the life for you. Making a clothing brand takes an incredible amount of work. You’ll fail multiple times and there is no such thing as luck. You have to create opportunities for yourself. Blake, the Founder/CEO of Popular Demand, always says “you have to make people care about you” and this is so true. No one gives a shit about you until you create something that has value to them. You really have to start from scratch and prove your worth.
you have to make people care about you
You both have had so much success thus far and still have so much of your journey left to go. What’s next? For The brand as a collective and yourselves as individuals?
K: As a brand, we’re looking forward to growing collectively in all aspects of this industry and remaining open to the different opportunities that come our way. As for myself, I’m still young and learning. Monica and I are currently in the process of starting a trendy cut & sew women’s brand that’ll be filled with not only trendy basics, but also timeless fashion pieces. We’re both really excited for this to launch, so we’ll keep everyone posted on the release date!
M: I’ve never really felt like I’m “too young” for anything. I’ve always challenged myself to maximize my talents. The brand is doing very well and I’m looking forward to continue contributing to the longevity of it. I’m also excited to work on a number of other projects we are looking to launch, including the women’s brand I’m working on with Kiona, and more. The #ThundercupAndFriends series is like my baby, and I’ll be sharing more things of that nature by using my personal brand as a launchpad. I’m always working on passion projects too, and want to create more platforms and opportunities for young people to discover positive female role models. All in all, as long as I continue to have fun with what I do, I’ll be more than happy.