Q&A with The Long Shot Exp.

If you like meticulously designed and originally crafted, modern headwear, chances are you will like The Long Shot Exp. We caught up with Long Shot founder, Mike Holmes, to learn all about the brand and his experiences so far…

Welcome Mike, how are you doing?

I’m good thanks Dan. Thanks for asking me to answer your questions and sorry it took so long!

For those who may not be aware, could you give us a bit of background to the brand and your journey so far?

The Long Shot Exp. began in early 2015 making bucket hats. Since then I’ve played around with bucket styles, introduced caps and most recently the Marvin Mountain cap. All pieces are made to order, by me, in my workshop in Manchester. I learnt pattern cutting and manufacture as part of a BTEC in Clothing Technology in the late 90s. Between 2000 and 2005 I had a t-shirt label called Militia that sold in Bond International, Wellgosh and (for one season) in United Arrows, Tokyo.

Immediately prior to starting Long Shot I was working as a graphic designer in Liverpool. I left that job to be at home with my two children. Not long into that journey making became a necessary creative outlet for me, the brand was a natural progression and by setting up as a direct to consumer – made to order model I could test the water with very little risk.

How has the label changed since 2015?

Originally the hats were made from whatever fabrics I had around, each one was numbered and not repeated. I have photos of the first hundred or so numbered versions. A couple of years in my skills and finishing had improved greatly and I decided to apply a more considered approach to the fabrics and silhouettes, loosely following a ‘seasonal’ direction.

That ‘seasonal’ idea has loosened over time and I suppose you could describe the model as drop based. I try to release new pieces monthly with a thread running through colours and fabrics for a longer period.

How big of an impact has COVID had on your setup?

My workshop is at home so no impact in that sense, during the first lockdown things were quite smooth and sales remained steadily growing. The kids were off school but my wife was furlowed so it wasn’t difficult to balance work and family life. By the second and third lockdowns home-schooling had become a big deal and it became very difficult to find time to work. Compared with the issues that have affected many people, I feel fairly lucky.

What’s been your biggest achievement with the brand so far?

As cheesy as it sounds, every order is a massive deal. When customers order again, and multiple times in some cases, it is so humbling and really grows my confidence that the product is spot on.

Hailing from Manchester, I assume inspiration comes from all around you?

I actually hail from Liverpool but I’ve lived in Manchester for almost 20 years. Both cities are busy, dirty, urban environments and I love them. I’m inspired by the juxtapositions of cultures and situations that arise in the city.

Where else do you take inspiration from?

Like many people, I love an iconic image of some cool person rocking a great look. I’m less interested in the actual pieces of clothing than I am in they way people wear them. That nonchalant, thrown together way some people have really does it for me.

I try and have a lot of imagery and inspiration around generally, books, magazines, pictures and posters. The magpie in me needs constant visual stimulation, bare white walls send me under!

Talk us through the creative process of your hats, each one is made by hand, right?

Yes, everything is made by me from the initial idea, to pattern construction, sampling and the finished product. As I mentioned earlier, the making is something that is very valuable to me. Being able to have an idea and make it happen is extremely satisfying and I take a few seconds of proud reflection with the completion of each piece (quickly followed by packing up, labelling and a trip to the Post Office).

What brands are you a fan of?

There are loads of brands I like for different reasons but there’re a few that I’m always excited to see. POP Trading Company from Amsterdam are great, very much a skate brand but presented in a more ‘fashion’ environment without losing any of it’s ‘realness’, they seem to have a positive and friendly community vibe. 18 East of New York is another brand that comes from a skate perspective without being stuck in that world, lots of ‘if you know you know’ nods to 90s skateboarding. Another New York brand, Adsum make super classic pieces that wouldn’t look out of place in so many periods. And back to Amsterdam, Patta I love for their community spirit probably more than their output. Always raising up their friends and family with love and positivity.

Any brands you would like to collaborate with in the future?

Not really. Boring answer sorry! There isn’t that one brand that I’d die to work with. Opportunities come along and I like to explore ideas with other people/brands. I do like the idea of working with illustrators on prints in the future.

Moving away from fashion, what else are you into?

I identify as a skateboarder despite very little time spent rolling over the last however many years. Skateboarding and skateboard culture have been fundamental in how I see the world and how I interact with my environment and structural systems. Skateboarding champions elegance and style over winning, preferring a beautiful loser to an ugly winner.

Where’s the most random place you have spotted one of your hats?

Apart from bumping into a friend in Stretford wearing one, I’ve never come across my hats in the wild. I think I’d lose my shit so it’s probably for the best.

Onto music, does it play a part in your designs?

Intermittently I’ve released T-shirt graphics under the title ‘Six Bars of Soul’. These are graphic interpretations of favourite tracks, so the short answer is yes. A lot of the inspirational images that I spoke about earlier are of musicians and their styles influence the feel I want to get from silhouettes.

Who are you currently listening to?

The Bristol Bass sound is always in the mix somewhere. Lot’s of funk, soul and jazz that comes from following the samples and threads of 90s hip hop. I enjoy trying to find new things, there’s a lot of good neo-soul and new British jazz being released. Manchester has a lot to offer in that vein and I drop into some Burgundy Blood or Children of Zeus on the regular.

What are your plans for the future with the brand?

Keeping on, keep improving. I’ve always got a few plans on the boil and sometimes they actually see the light of day! The Marvin Mountain cap has been by far my favourite piece and it has been met with a lot of praise, I’ve another mountain cap style planned for the end of the year. I’d like to get a bit more playful with fabrics and patterns so some focused sourcing is necessary.

Any plans for any collabs?

I met up with Carl and Fred of Good Measure this week to discuss doing a printed T and hat this July. I’ve been making the GEE bell hats using Good Measure’s production offcuts since last year and it’ll be nice to do something we both put our name to. We’re looking at a graphic with a good message, something to offset the toxic masculinity and macho bullshit too often seen in menswear.

Finally, describe the brand in only 3 words...

Meticulously crafted headwear.

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