Where are you based? Taipei City, Taiwan.
When did you start the AMPM shop and DAMAGE Group, and what’s your ambition behind it? My wife Joe and I, along with a friend from SF (San Francisco?), opened AMPM in 2005. My wife had her first brand PetshopsGirl on one floor, which was her studio and shop for creating primarily women’s accessories and fashion items. It was located upstairs in this shared apartment complex where my partner and I wanted to push AMPM as an underground art x graffiti shop gallery spot based on our backgrounds and interests in those circles. We initially wanted to develop it into a full-on graffiti supplies shop for the city combined with a meet-up spot, but that was unfortunately short lived. We saw the store going in different directions, and rental hikes ended up stressing the whole situation, so we only ran that location for a year and a bit before it eventually closed down. A year later my wife an I re-opened in a new location, but the overall direction for AMPM after 2007 was focused more or less on fashion retail rather than art gallery x graffiti supplies shop as I had originally planned. Also the new space couldn’t fit a gallery area at the time, so we just went with that because it was more practical. This is essentially how I got into making fashion goods, like creating limited DIY items and accessories, and doing our own individual brands to generate the income for the space. After 2 years of being in this location, we renovated it and were able to add a small exhibition space in the back where we could hold art shows, and pop-up events to introduce different local independent talent. Several years after, in 2013, we started Damage Group and launched it in Tokyo. From that point on, as it took off, AMPM became the flagship showroom for this brand. But after nearly 10 years in the East End shopping area of Taipei, we decided we wanted to expand our space, so more recently we moved to a larger location in a different part of town. Including our new show room for Damage Group with a shop space. We also added a café lounge, art gallery, and a mini-skate ramp. It really was a big upgrade for us, and we tried to create it as a more fun, interactive and creative space for the city too. I suppose future prospects or long term goals for AMPM x Damage Group would be to develop other locations, and expand outside of Taiwan. Having some show rooms abroad would be a really progressive move on our part.
Some of your items are very explicit! Where is your inspiration, or your references, coming from? When we first started Damage Group, my wife and I just wanted to collaborate on a fun fashion project together based off our own personal inspirations, which ranged from internet culture and cyberpunk chic combined with some references to socio-political and world conflict views along with an added dose of tongue & cheek humor thrown in. We were basically just having fun with it putting all this content together in a really explicit and ridiculous fashion. It essentially seemed to strike a major note with people, and from there we developed into a more established clothing brand thing later on. Our fans seemed to like the eccentricity of the line and the limited items approach, so it helped us keep going and just make more really.
Is there a community behind you guys? Do you work with a certain crew? Yes there is a certain niche scene of fashion fans that have helped us build the brand from the start. They do of course prefer the eccentric items we produce, and they like shock value items that catch eyeballs and essentially make a strong statement when you see it on the street. Primarily we attract clubbers and more high-end fashion types, but you’d be surprised by the broad range of fans we have out there not really associated to any of those scenes. It’s edgy and a bit in your face, so that’s the attitude part some want to express with their daily wardrobes. It definitely has a wide reach for our fan base, and part of the appeal is we do very limited and exclusive items runs so you wouldn’t see so so many people wearing our stuff around, which people seem to appreciate and prefer. We also happened upon this brand during a time when not many other brands were tapping into the style we were doing, so we stood out, and that helped develop us a lot in the beginning too. Nowadays there seem to be a lot of new brands out there doing this vibe however, and even the high end fashion industry brands are changing their direction into this area. We don’t have a crew we work with per se, although we do some collaboration projects with other artists and designers from time to time. Usually it’s just my wife and I doing mostly everything, from the design and production to marketing and promotional efforts, it’s quite overwhelming to say the least, especially now that we have a larger shop space to manage and a small child to care for.
Is IG the most important platform for you or are there other ways to showcase your brand? IG is essentially our best way to develop our fan base, as it is for most independent online marketing businesses of any field really. We do use several different types of social media platforms to promote our brand and spread the word, but yes, IG seems to be the most effective at the moment. Facebook was in the past our most effective platform, until they started limiting our reach through making you pay for advertising. It seems IG is following in the same direction at the moment, so we’ll see where that goes in the future. But besides the social media efforts, we also try doing pop-up stores whenever we have an opportunity to travel abroad. It seems to help with creating some personal connections when we are present and able to meet up with some fans, new and old.