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Interview: Totally Good Time founder Kyle Menard on creating pop culture fashion

By Justine Browning

28 Aug 2018

Designer and entrepreneur Kyle Menard isn’t as concerned with keeping on trend as he is assuring his work reflects pop culture.

His brand, Totally Good Time offers handmade inclusive apparel and accessories meant to inspire through nostalgia, referential phrases and good will. The goal of each creation is to offer a piece buyers can’t find anywhere else. Initially founded in San Diego, California in 2015, the company is now based in Brooklyn, New York. Among the pieces available are sweatshirts, hoodies, jackets, bags and drinkware.

TGT recently gained attention with the help of stars Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, who took to social media wearing exclusive t-shirts made expressly for their drama series Big Little Lies. The black and white item, features the names of the show’s female characters - sending a subtle but strong message of empowerment in keeping with the Emmy-winning hit’s theme.

Other t-shirts in the shop's collection pay tribute to The Mindy Project, Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead and Riverdale.

FashionUnited had the chance to speak with Menard about the demands of running an emerging brand, using social media as a promotional tool and how his Big Little Lies design came to be.

What has been the overall message you aim to convey with your pieces?

My ultimate goal is to always create a piece that veers slightly from Fast Fashion, so you can keep the piece and wear years from now, but still feels current and contemporary. All the apparel in the shop is designed and created by me and the Totally Good Time brand is built on the feeling of pop culture familiarity with a dash of nostalgia. These items are influenced by what I'm currently intrigued with, what I think is on the pulse of what's current, and most importantly, on the pulse what's next.

What are the challenges of running the brand and meeting supply demands?

Every day I have to ask myself two questions, "would I wear this?" and "who is my customer?" At the inception of the brand it was all over the place. While the footprint was in pop culture, I became too busy trying to please everyone. It took a good chunk of time for me to zero in and focus on who my customer is and how I keep my aesthetic intact and stay true to myself. It's important for me to ensure that my customer is heard and that I can meet their needs without compromising myself. The tagline for Totally Good Time is "pop culture, but make it fashion!" and if I'm not melting those worlds together, than I'm not doing it right.

When you have an eCommerce shop you can get easily lost in the digital world. It's vital to step into the real world and see what people are wearing and listen to what they're saying. This goes in tandem with listening to my customers. One customer emailed and said, "I would love to get one of you items in a gray versus the red option - I would never wear it in red." I realized I wouldn't wear it red either. Why am I offering this piece in red? I needed to become more conscious of these decisions. These moments really make a shift in how the brand moves forward.

How have you utilized social media to help you promote your products and build a following?

The same goes for social media. I'm more hung up on being myself and being real than on likes. My goals shifted from the social media feeling like sales to a more natural approach of ensuring the Totally Good Time social media is your friend. You're making a choice to follow the brand, so my goal is to compose a caption exactly like what I'm feeling or how I would speak and accompany that with a relatable photo of apparel from the shop. I'm more interested in the engagement of comments. There was a time when I was doing a lot of memes and quotes on Instagram. In the past year I've moved far from that and put much more of the focus on the brand. It was that "a-ha" moment of "am I building a brand on memes or the Totally Good Time fashion?" The "day one" users that have stuck by my brand and the new users that follow, it's my job to ensure they feel like part of the Totally Good Time community. My goal isn't to put a sweatshirt out there and that be the end of it. My goal is to put a sweatshirt out there and build upon that with conversation within this community. They're the reason I get to do what I love and it's because of them them that being real feels so right.

How did you become involved in designing the shirt for Big Little Lies?

I knew I wanted to create a piece of apparel utilizing the names of the Big Little Lies leads, because each lead is so incredibly strong in a completely juxtaposed way from the other that's it's impossible (for me) to not feel inspired. My plan was to create a unique and original piece by giving a nod to the content that it's inspired by, while adding something clever and original so the audience understands it and feels the heart. In the case of Big Little Lies, I knew the promotional key art had a dropped letter for their promos (with the word "life"). First, I considered using the core five leads names in a wave type design to signal the Monterey life they lead, but that design is getting overused in today's market. I wanted to do something that would be clever and make people talk. I stared at the names and started word play. I knew I had something special when I shifted Madeline to the last row of the five rows and dropped the "n" in her name to have her final name letters spell, "lie."

How did the series inspire your work overall?

Big Little Lies is a scary show to be inspired by. It's almost too easy for anyone that has dealt with any real life issues to pull something from the show and find it relatable. It's too easy to find a piece of yourself in each character. It kind of shakes you up. I think that's the beauty of the show and why it resonates with so many. It's not only captivating and compelling storytelling, but it's also relatable to a level that makes you face your own demons and the value of perseverance and self-worth.

Photo credit: Courtesy of the brand.