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Meet Shawn Rojas of Experiment // Illegal Civilization

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shawn Rojas.

Shawn, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started designing tee shirts in 2012, I was 15 years old. It started out as me designing merchandise for the band I was in at the time and turned into me quickly realizing how cool this process was. I could draw something, or design a graphic on my computer and then get it put onto a tee shirt or any garment really. I got hooked pretty immediately and started to Experiment with a friend.

I started making a lot of different graphics and sending them to my screen printer and selling them to kids at school through Instagram. From there Experiment continued to grow and grow. As I continued to make more clothes, I started selling them in person at a gallery with my friend Samuel Karl who is an artist. We would have monthly releases and installations in here. People of all ages would come out and check out art, eat, and shop.

In 2016, I started sending my Instagram profile to a few different people I looked up to, and one of them was Mikey Alfred who runs Illegal Civilization, a skate/film company from North Hollywood. Basically, I would send it to them and ask them for advice or insight on how they do things. Sometimes they hit me back and sometimes not, but Mikey took the time to check our page and had nice things to say.

Fast forward to December 2016, I asked Mikey to meet up and chat, I wanted to pick his brain and try and learn some things from him, and he was nice enough to invite me to the warehouse where all Illegal Civ product was being stored. We talk for an hour or so about everything from design, to film, to running a brand at a young age. I remember being so nervous but excited.

I gave him a bunch of clothes of mine, and I was so excited and thankful for his time. In May of 2017, Mikey hit me up saying that he was looking for a part-time designer for IC and was wondering if I would be interested. I obviously jumped at this opportunity pretty immediately. We started working pretty immediately and realized that we’re a good team.

From 2017-2018, I worked primarily on all of the design and creative direction for clothing and general branding, and started in 2019 I started managing the entire brand on top of designing and creative direction.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Definitely hasn’t been smooth. I think one thing most young creatives deal with, especially now is juggling multiple things to make sure their art happens. For example, up until recently, I was working two jobs on top of running my own brand. Money was tight, but I made sure that my work was up to my standard and made sure my brand was still being a priority to me.

I think also just being looked at as a young creative with no real work in their portfolio is a tough thing for someone. Up until working for Mikey/IC, I was just making stuff that I thought was cool. I obviously took it really seriously but who knows if anyone else did.

I’m extremely grateful that Mikey saw something in me that could be bigger than what I was doing at my small scale. Overall I think lack of funds and lack of acknowledgment from others was a real struggle for me.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Experiment // Illegal Civilization story. Tell us more about the business.
Experiment is a clothing brand that really is me just making things I want to see on clothing. It’s things I want in my own closet but haven’t seen or haven’t seen executed the way I’d do it. It’s made up of myself, my brother Evan Rojas, and our friend Jonah Hawkins. Evan helps with promotion and engagement, and Jonah helps with visuals for our skate team.

Both of them have input on all of our designs and all ads, but for the most part, I handle all design and creative direction. We have a full team of creatives that also helps us called Varsity Team. Varsity Team is a team I’ve assembled of some of my favorite creatives which includes- directors, designers, musicians, and all around creative individuals. If there’s something, us three can’t do or need direction/help with I turn to those guys who are all amazing.

With Experiment, it’s our graphics and execution that I think it started to get noticed. We have a very retro and nostalgic feel to everything we do from our graphics to our video/photo ads. It’s something that I think hasn’t really been touched on a ton in recent fashion and so I’ve really worked hard to build out this aesthetic. We really specialize in basics, so tee shirts, hoodies, hats, bottoms, etc. Every once in a while we’ll venture out of that, but that’s really been our main source of interest from our audience.

I’m really proud of the fact that we’re a small company that has so many different types of people as our audience. There are young kids in junior high and high school wearing our stuff, and there are older adults wearing our stuff, I don’t think that our stuff appeals to just one type of individual. When we have events, you’ll meet every type of individual, and that’s what’s been so cool for me to see. We’re really starting to see a community grow because of the things we create.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I feel like the luckiest person in the world because of the people that have been placed in my life. From my team to my friends and my family. Without these people, I’m nothing and wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now. I also think that no matter what hand of luck you’ve been dealt, if you work hard and persist, you can do whatever it is you want.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Shawn Rojas, Jared Thelander, Junior Perez, Jonah Hawkins

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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