Originally published in the December, 2014 issue of Juxtapoz, available here.
When we first met Andy Mueller, he was a photographer with this little side-project clothing line, The Quiet Life, and it sat, well, quietly in the background. Today, The Quiet Life has grown into a full-force brand with a wide array of apparel and accessories that reflect not only Andy’s history in skate and design but fine art as well.
Juxtapoz: What did the beginnings of The Quiet Life look like? Where and how did it come to fruition?
Andy Mueller: I started The Quiet Life in 1997 with a few co-workers from inside my Chicago-based design studio, Ohio Girl Design. At the time, I was mostly designing record packaging and shooting band photos, as well as some work for Burton Snowboards and a few smaller action sport brands. I ended up meeting Andy Jenkins through mutual friends, and he started giving me a bit of freelance work for Girl Skateboards in late 1998. I moved to California in 1999 to work full time for Girl and their shoe company, Lakai Limited Footwear, while continuing to moonlight on Ohio Girl Design and The Quiet Life projects in the evening and on weekends.
How does your work at Girl Skateboards influence The Quiet Life? Do you try to keep your work at both companies really separate, or is it all intertwined?
The Quiet LIfe has been my main hobby for the past 15 years, and I feel like I'm pretty good at keeping my workflow separate. My years at Ohio Girl really taught me how to manage multiple brands, clients and projects that are all going on at the same time. As far as influence goes, I'd have to say they are both intertwined and separate. I know this might sound funny, but there's no way that, as a designer, you can completely turn off your inspiration and keep it completely separate. I've always approached all my design work as trying to do what's best for the brand without always pushing my artistic hand on things that don't need it. I like to do what the project needs and try to base my decision on that. Some things work for both brands, some things don't. Style might overlap a bit, but the repetition doesn't. I'm not really interested in doing the same thing twice. I'm really proud of my work for Girl and Lakai and the work I've made for The Quiet Life. It's been a dream come true working with so many talented and amazing people over the past 15 years at both companies.
You were a pioneer in partnering with artists to design apparel. Who were some of the first artists you worked with, and what artists are you working with currently?
We actually did our first collaboration way back in our beginning days, back in 1997, with Andy Jenkins of Girl Skateboards/Bend Press fame. I don't even think the word "collaboration" was used back then, so it's funny I'm calling it that now. He was our first guest artist and did a great graphic for The Quiet Life; it fit perfectly.
We don't have a determined artist program or anything like that; we like to work with artists and designers as they come up and feel natural. In the past few years, we've been honored to do capsule collections and collaborations with Cleon Peterson, Steven Harrington, Justin Krietemyer, and we have a great project coming out this month with Los Angeles-based artist Katsuo. In addition to capsules, we have also built a great team of international contributors that include James Jarvis, Cody Hudson, Stefan Marx, Luke Day, Christian Morin, Todd St. John, Megan Whitmarsh and Jay Ryan. We have a few great artist projects lined up for 2015, so keep an eye out for what's next!
What was some of the color inspiration for your latest collection?
We don't necessarily build our collections in a traditional way. We like to pick a few key colors that run throughout the line, but we also build several mini capsules into each season that might not share all the same colors. We also do "fabric stories" that may partially replace the traditional way of building color-based collections. In terms of color story, I'm still loving black and navy, maroon, white and some of the offbeat yellow and sea foam colors.
Where are some places or objects that have inspired Quiet Life patterns?
That’s a tough question, I've never really thought about it much, it just happens. Our patterns can come from anywhere. They can start off as a doodle in a sketchbook, or they can
start as something from our environment. I'm always shooting photos and taking snapshots of what I see, and a few patterns have come from those photos of textures or objects.
How do you balance trends versus originality?
I like to think we give more weight to originality on the scale. We strive to be original, but if you really think about it, almost everybody making commercial product is following some sort of general trend. I think trends can be okay so long as you give it your own twist and don't take them too seriously—you have to figure out how to make it your own.
You've done a lot of five-panel hats in recent years. Can you predict or forecast what direction hat styles will move towards in 2015?
Yeah, we've made quite a few. The hat thing has been a wild ride. It's been an exciting few years in headwear, but to me we're more than a hat company. I like to think of The Quiet LIfe as an apparel brand that makes great hats, not a hat brand that makes apparel. We've tried to let both shops and customers realize that we have a full brand story to tell in four main product categories: cut n’ sew apparel, printed apparel, accessories and headwear.
In terms of the upcoming trends, it's hard to say. As soon as I think it's going all plain and solids, than the patterns will come roaring back! But if I had to pick for 2015, I would
say that it's all based on the materials. I see quality materials and craftsmanship having a huge importance, and solid, tonal colors holding tight for another few seasons. I'm also proud to say that all of our hats are made in Los Angeles.
Do you actually live a quiet life?
As The Quiet Life has grown, things have definitely gotten a little more noisy. I like to work hard, and then I like to get away. I like to turn it on and off. To me, the term isn't just literal, it's a way of acting and existing, a personality type, almost. I think of it as being true and honest and trying to do the right thing, trying to not create noise and confusion for others.
What are some product areas you'd like to get into that you haven't explored yet?
Personally, I'm still in love with photography. I just got my Toyo 4x5 field camera out and have been shooting with my Hasselblad again as well. I’d also like to try combining my design and photo work. I'm not sure what it'll be like, but I'm going to start experimenting. In terms of product areas, I think we'll push The Quiet Life Camera Club a little further with some additional photography-based product offerings and photo accessories.
What can we expect to see from The Quiet Life in 2015?
Big things! In all seriousness, though, we've got quite a few things in the works that will launch in early 2015.
For more information about The Quiet Life, and if you love photography and want to join the QL Camera Club, visit thequietlife.com