J!NX co-founder on launching the standalone brand and working with Hot Topic
Sean Gailey has been playing games since he was seven and loved anything nerdy growing up. As a teenager with interests that were not the most popular and often encouraged to be hidden, he didn't have a clothing brand to rally behind. The experience left an impact that would later influence Gailey's professional career.
"I think that was when J!NX was born. Jinx was my alias that I used online so that's where the name came from," Gailey told GeekFold. "Then in 1999 when we founded J!NX, we started out with licensing but the dream was really to someday grow to the point where we had money to start a brand."
For the last 18 years, J!NX has provided gamers with a unique range of apparel and accessories inspired by a number of video games such as Heroes of the Storm and Minecraft. Gailey, co-founder of the company, said they only work with games they love and poured their passion into that area. It remains an important part of what they do, but this year it was time for J!NX to take the next step.
"It was finally time to launch the brand as a standalone thing that represented all games, instead of just one game, and this culture and this community that I love and I've always been a part of. It was really the realization of an 18-year dream now that we're finally launching this, the first video game lifestyle brand in retail with Hot Topic," he said.
The J!NX Brand launched in November with pieces featuring designs that played off the company's skull logo in a variety of ways, from a bright palm style to an overworld map. I was able to try a few of the designs from the line (disclosure: items provided by J!NX for review) and they were all quite comfortable. A size medium in the tees was form fitting enough that it looked stylish, but those that want a looser feel will want to consider going a size up. The company's new fall 2017 line continues to bring new looks for men and women. It's not just tees you'll find here either. There are leggings and a button up shirt dress for women as well as jogger pants for men. Overall from what I was able to try of the shirts and hoodies, my favorite items were the spray paint tee, poly frame hoodie, and game over hoodie. I found these pieces the most comfortable and could easily see myself gaming in them and wearing them at other times.
Gailey wants the J!NX Brand to connect gamers like licensed apparel does.
"When you're walking down the street and you see somebody wearing an Overwatch hat or a Halo tee, you immediately have that bond over that thing you both share. That passion you both share. Our goal is, and what J!NX means to us and what we hope it means to the community that we're a part of, is that when you see just the logo or the name wherever it is [and] however big or small it is, that stands for a passion," he explained. "A passion for video games [including] esports and moving outside of that for all games really."
The brand is available online, but also debuted in retail for the first time when it exclusively launched some items from the fall 2017 collection at Hot Topic Aug. 17. Right now it's mostly items for men or more unisex pieces at the retailer, though J!NX hopes women sizes and styles may be chosen next if this first run is successful.
Gailey said they considered all major retailers, but they've been working with Hot Topic to carry other items for the last 12 years and Hot Topic VP, GMM Ed Labay was the first person Gailey saw take a chance on video games.
"It was something he loves and he saw what was happening and they were really the first retailer to say 'we're doing this.' That goes a long way with me, to see someone believe like that and really follow their passion. We worked with them for so many years and I felt like when we launched with a retailer, it really needed to start at the core and their whole team needs to believe in it too," he said.
According to Gailey, J!NX wouldn't have partnered with the retailer if they had just said they'd give it a shot. However, they were apparently 100 percent behind the idea. Gailey sees them as "the only apparel retailer that's really embracing video games right now."
J!NX also wanted to make the release of the new fall collection more of an experience for gamers with its lookbook which tells a story and is something Gailey said happens naturally.
"When our team starts working on a marketing campaign, that's what happens. This is our world. This is what we live. You come home and play hours of Zelda or Skyrim then go to work the next day, that's what's going to happen. You're going to start telling a story with the campaign you're making," he said.
The brand also wants to elevate more than its campaigns, such as the experience when you visit them at conventions. That presentation at conventions has been elevating over the years and is part of changes Gailey has seen in video game fashion as a whole.
"We want to create a retail experience when we're at a convention. The way that clothing should be retailed, especially quality clothing and some of our new pieces are some of the nicest pieces we've ever made but if you give that to somebody in a plastic bag, that says something, right?" he said. "I think the presentation has been elevated, at least we're trying to elevate that."
Crafting an experience is something J!NX has also done for its esports brand J!NX Pro. They work with teams on apparel, but also share interviews with individuals in esports. Their esports line isn't available in retail stores, but Gailey thinks retail might be ready for esports soon.
"What I've been telling the buyers and executives I talk to is, I don't know that it's ready today but it could be at six o'clock today. It's going so fast and when it's time, I want to bring a meaningful entry to the retailer that we work with of esports," he said. "We're not just going to bring one team, probably feature our two teams, but want to see whole scene grow and that's probably going to mean representing several teams with that. It will be a meaningful presence of that world."
For now, J!NX is bringing their unique brand to life and offering items at retail that gamers haven't seen before. Creating a brand just for gamers with a distinctive look is certainly an interesting move and has potential if gamers are open to the idea of expanding beyond just displaying games they love on their clothing. The inclusion of items for women as well is a welcome sight and speaks to J!NX knowing the gaming community is full of a wide range of people, something that can still often elude some brands. How gamers react will determine if more than licensed apparel can truly connect this community and show if video game fashion is ready to advance to this whole new level envisioned by J!NX.