If you’ve attended an anime, videogame or comic convention in the last two months, chances are you’ve seen someone wearing a Spirit Hood. The irresistibly soft and stylish nature of the Spirit Hood locks and pulls attention in like a tractor beam on a Star Destroyer. Not to mention Spirit Hoods are sexy to boot. With that said, I am going to go on record and say that Spirit Hoods have officially crossed the moat, broken down the gate and are taking the geek, otaku and nerd nation by storm.
A few days prior to this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) I received a press release announcing MMORPG publisher/developer Nexon’s first foray into the the industry-only event. The release also gave mention to Spirit Hoods, and stated that Nexon would be handing them out regularly to booth visitors in effort to promote their forthcoming title, Vindictus. Now, truth be told, the first thing I though to myself after reading this release was “what the hell is a Spirit Hood?” However, I found my interest peaked and decided to do a little research. One Google search later and I found myself shooting off an email to set up an interview.
My efforts proved fruitful and I managed to catch up with Spirit Hoods co-founder, Alexander Mendeluk at E3 to talk Spirit Hoods, fashion and being wild at heart.
Dark Diamond: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. For those unfamiliar with Spirit Hoods, could you bring us all up to speed by providing us with some information about the company, the hoods and your role?
Alexander Mendeluk (AM): Spirit Hoods are faux fur animal hoods that are about letting loose, having a good time and connecting to your animal nature. They are also becoming quite the lifestyle symbol; a symbol that represents fashion, music, night life, adventure and being wild at heart.
I am one of the co-founders and designers of Spirit Hoods. Just about all of our information can be found on our website under the “About” section on our site: www.spirithoods.com.
Where did the idea for animal-themed hoods come from? How did this lead to the formation of Spirit Hoods?
AM: Spirit Hoods stem from music festival fashion and culture. You see a lot of crazy attire out at festivals like Burning Man for example – a lot of faux fur. We thought it would be a great idea to make faux fur hoods that represent various animal spirits. My partner and best friend, Marley and I started making them by hand for friends and family. The response from people, when worn was so intense that we decided to improve on the design and turn it into a company. We officially launched in Feb. of 2010 at the Pool Trade Show in Vegas and BOOM, in 5 months we have accounts around the world, we have been published in some of the biggest publications in the world and are nestled atop the heads of A-list celebrities. It’s been overwhelming and AMAZING experience. We’re currently gearing up for the Pool Trade Show/Magic/Project trade shows this August in Vegas. You will be seeing a lot more hoods out there very soon.
Looking back, when was the first “official” Spirit Hood produced and what animal was it modeled after?
AM: The first hood I made was likened to a Bobcat – Marley designed something that looked like a goat, or a honey badger… In terms of the first “Official” Spirit Hood, it was a leopard. . .her name is Lucy, I have worn her almost every day and she has lost her spots.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced with designing such a unique product. Of those challenges what has been the biggest challenge to date?
AM: Hmmm, the biggest challenge I would say is manufacturing. People don’t realize what goes into making the garments that they wear…they just look at design and price and make a decision. Most manufacturers here in Los Angeles are used to working with basic garments like T-Shirts and sweats. When I threw what looked like a dead animal to them on the table they almost shit themselves. Each design is unique, with custom features like zippers, pockets, furs, liners, buttons etc. Every time you change a design or make a new design it poses problems with manufacturing. That’s why you see such a high price point. You are paying for these things; for quality. We aren’t making a generic shirt or hat, and we try hard to brand it as such.
What goes into designing a new Spirit Hood? How is it decided which furry critter makes the cut?
AM: When Marley and I first started designing the hoods we started with the most well known animals. Just off the top of our heads we were like “we’ve gotta’ make a Wolf, Leopard, Panda and Polar Bear.” Then we started experimenting with different furs like Snow Leopard and Zebra. Shortly after, our first line was birthed. Now it seems to be more of a full collaboration. For instance Ashley Haber (partner) assists with the design phase as well. We also listen to our “Tribe Members,” or fans. We receive a lot of requests for animals through the Tribe. For instance: we held a poll as to what animals they would like to see next. The results of the poll gave birth to the Black Jaguar and Fox hoods. However, the Fire Wolf was commissioned by Nexon for their game Vindictus. So custom orders can influence what design stick as well. Now we are moving into a “party animal” line which will feature brighter colors and mythical animals that spring forth from our mind. These animals are separate from the “classic line,” which solely represents animals seen in nature.
Most recently Spirit Hoods teamed up with Nexon to giveaway Red Wolf Spirit Hoods to promote their upcoming MMO, Vindictus, at this year’s E3. This was the first time either party had a presence at E3 and it can easily be said that Spirit Hoods stole the show in regards to the most sought after, and quite possibly the most kick-ass promotional item ever given away at E3 to date. Now, I was there, on the show floor to witness about 6 of these scheduled giveaways first hand, but I’d like to hear your take on the cross promotion. How do you feel the event went? Did it exceed your expectations?
AM: I’ve been an avid gamer my entire life – definitely a closet nerd. So when I heard that we would be working with Nexon at E3 I was stoked to say the least. I knew the response that the hoods elicited on an average night out, but that was NOTHING like what we would witnessed at E3.
I must have seen 500 gamers literally fighting, clawing, scratching and even snatching the hoods right out from the death-grip clutches of one another. Folks were lined up for hours waiting for the giveaways to begin while Nexon blasted their kick ass trailers at on looking fans. What better advertising could you ask for than hundreds of people lined up at your booth playing your games, listening to your presentations and watching your videos for hours at a time? The event was amazing and definitely exceeded our expectations. The ripple effect has been huge!
With the success of Spirit Hoods at E3, has there been any thought about attending similar conventions like Comic-Con, PAX, or perhaps reaching out to the legions of anime and comic book fans?
AM: Since E3 there has been talk of Spirit Hoods at Comic-Con, and there’s a strong possibility that we will be back at E3 again too. We are very open to expanding into these markets. We’re not extremely familiar with all of them just yet, so if any companies are out there and willing to collaborate, we certainly welcome the opportunity.
Now for those who didn’t feel like being elbowed in the face or being trampled on by the force of several hundred videogame nerds charging at the red hoods like bulls to a matador, where can we purchase a Spirit Hood?
AM: Anyone looking to acquire a Spirit Hood of their own can do so by visiting our online store at www.spirithoods.com or through any of our retailers found under our “Store Locator” page. We even have a limited stock of the Fire Wolf hoods that we produced for E3 (sans Vindictus logo).
It’s my understanding that Spirit Hoods is a pro-wildlife company, and that a portion of sales are donated to several Non-Profit Organizations through something you’ve set up called “Product Blue.” What can you tell us about Product Blue, and are there plans to feature additional Non-Profits in the future?
AM: I am a huge advocate for the planet and so are my partners. It has always been EXTREMELY important to us to give back in some way with everything we do. It was a natural and easy decision to partner Spirit Hoods with non-profits that help rehabilitate the wildlife we love: the result was Product Blue. The Spirit Hood is a symbol of the love that people have for animals. Product Blue currently donates to 4 non-profits: Polar Bears International, Snow Leopard Conservancy, Panda Bears International and Wolf Hollow. I highly encourage taking a look at each of these non-profits, they are absolutely amazing!
What’s up next for Spirit Hoods?
AM: The Fall/Winter trade shows, baby! Expect us at Pool Trade Show in Mandalay Bay with Project and Magic. We will also be hitting up SIA this coming winter. It’s all about new designs, new locations and new adventures! We hope you and your readers will keep up to date on these adventures by joining us on Facebook and following our blog. We are constantly updating both and love to hear from fans.
For more information please visit www.spirithoods.com.
We want to hear from you. Can you see yourself rockin’ a Spirit Hood? What animal do you feel is your Spirit Animal? If you could make your own Spirit Hood what animal would you fashion it after (no Pokemon, they don’t count)? Leave your comments below.
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