Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Threads Interview: KEY LOW T-Shirts - "I'd rather be in Bandra"

Starting a T-shirt company is such an ‘in’ thing to do, I feel they’re a dime a dozen in our times. Is it a genuine interest in fashion or a genuine interest in being trendy? I don’t know.  What I do know is, I’m extremely anal about my t-shirts, from the message on it, to the fit, to the feel. I say fit, because I don’t want my man boobs all over the place and I say feel because two years back I was introduced to ‘organic cotton,’ haven’t looked back since. Metrosexual much? I don’t think so. I wear t-shirts 98% of the year – much to the missus’ distress. Shirts only get a shoe in during weddings, Christmas and my Mom’s birthday. Lol, or when I’m DJing a ladies night.

In Pic: Not one of my favs, great message though.

If I'm being honest here, India are still not up to mark in terms of the quality of homegrown T-shirts available. Top off my head, I know there’s Tantra – with the clichéd hippy ‘check out my OM, man’ t-shirts (they’re not so bad) and the other one that’s stuck with me is Barking Dog. Admittedly, I’ve only seen one of their prints and it’s pretty classic stuff.  The iconic Che Guevara image with a skull on the face and the text, “CHE IS DEAD, GET OVER IT!” The main issue I have with the t-shirts here, are they’re too goddamn heavy, thick and more often than not the neck ring chokes you. Also, that plasticy, multiple cracking type print that is abundant on t-shirts here is just plain wrong.  In this blog, I intend to feature t-shirt companies that are unique and doing something a little different - the companies that keep an eye on the detailing, rather than just slapping a print on any old thing.
In Pics: Samples of the KEY LOW collection, Wotto in pink and white

There are a few homegrown companies I’m noticing, which are doing something different… which is where I come to the main topic of discussion.  Last year on my annual trip to Mumbai, I was introduced to Key Low.  “Dude, he’s got the Space Invaders tee!”  Run by Bandra boy Karan Gonsalves (AKA KG $$$), Key Low put out t-shirts that fit just right and have some pretty hipster type messages and designs on them.  You can tell Karan has been influenced by his taste in music (Justice, Simian Mobile Disco, Daft Punk, Boys Noize) but now in his latest collections, they’re taking a little more of a Bombay feel to it. I’ve got about five of them and every time I wear them, someone will comment on it. He’s got a nice range of colours, a lot of funky prints and I think his pricing compared to your Nikes and Adidas, are pretty good.

In Pics: More samples from KEY LOW

Got in touch with Karan so he could tell us more about Key Low, what it takes to survive in this business, his favourite prints and more.

How would you describe the brand identity Key Low represents?
Well, I am not really into brands myself. I don’t like that word. Living in New York for a couple of years really introduced me to the whole streetwear, independent culture. Small companies putting out dope gear really keeps it fresh. In India, we don’t have any streetwear/urban labels. I mean when was the last time you saw a skateboard on your local street or a couple of Indian kids tagging up a wall. So, I formed Keylow out of a necessity really. Guys in India don’t have much of a choice in terms of quality and size. I mean in India an XL is closer to a medium and forget about the prints. Who the hell wants to wear “Athletic Sports Brand 69” as a chest print. I put out prints that are based on my personal influences ranging from music, patterns, imagery, fine art and any other random thoughts I might have. As for the name, Keylow works out like this: Karan Gonsalves ->  KG -> Kilogram -> Keylow. It was kind of a nick name my close buds have been calling me since I was a kid.

In Pics: KEY LOW made in India.

Your company is about two years old now, what inspires your designs?  How do you make sure Key Low always stays fresh?
Again, it’s really random. I get inspired just walking around, reading books, listening to music etc. Sometimes an idea just pops into my head. Off late, I have tied up with a few illustrators whose style I like and have had them do a couple of prints for me. I just did 2 prints with Craig Watkins aka Wotto and a one off print with Issa… aka Dr Bombay, a fantastic French tattoo artist who was living in Mumbai for a while. I will continue to work with illustrators to put out fresh prints as well as push my own casual designs.

 In Pic: The ISSA KEY LOW print

Tell us about world famous t-shirt illustrator Craig Watkins? 
Craig is fantastic. He has been printed already on DBH (designsbyhumans), threadless and a bunch of other sites. I reached out to him and we decided to print 2 tees for India and see how it does. I love his style and the artwork pops on the tees. Hopefully, in the near future, we can have at least 2 every month from him. 

In Pic: www.WottoArt.com

Would you say starting your own t-shirt company is a lucrative business? 
It depends. Like any business there has to be a scalable model behind it. You make money when you sell 10,000 pieces per month. Printed tees are awesome and all, but I also make everyday regular wear for guys. So you can pick up a plain round neck/V-neck/Raglan/Henley/collared in around 20 colours from me as well. In addition, I use a fabric finish that no one in India uses. It makes the fabric really soft and at the same time the quality is top notch. The goal really is to build a company that offers a wide range of simple everyday clothing for men. You know living in India, when was the last time you saw a teal V-Neck for sale? Well, we got it.

Besides Key Low, what have been some of the t-shirt companies you’ve loved and worn? 
So many… Zoo York, Crooks and Castles, Dissizit, LRG, Alife, Jeepney, Tits, Exact Science, RVCA, Sneaktip…the list goes on and on.

In pic: RVCA made in California

Out of your collection, pick out the three designs, which have been bestsellers and tell us why you think they were popular?
The “I rather be in Bandra” Tee was a huge hit… well being a Bandra boy and all…what do you expect? Then I did a “Run Bombay” tee… a play of the RUN DMC logo. Also, the Nietzsche tee was a hit.

In Pic: KEY LOW bestseller

Personally, which is your favourite?
Right now, I rock the hell out of DJ tees… the one with all the DJ/bands I jam out to when I wanna dance.

You’re based in Bombay, spotted any of the Bollywood, VJ types sporting your t-shirt? 
Seen a few. Let’s leave it at that. :)

You are stuck on a deserted island with a life supply of batteries and a boom box, list out 6 life changing must-have albums you’d like to have with you and why?
  1. Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt – You have to have one Jigga album. Period. 
  2. Daft Punk – Homework - Need I say anything about this piece of art. 
  3. Any Led Zeppelin album
  4. Zero 7 – Simple things – to chill out.
  5. Cassius – 1999 – My feeling for you… just for that track. What a beat!!!
  6. Notorious BIG – Ready to Die – The best lyricist of all time... although you can’t go wrong with any RAKIM album as well. 
  7. The Supermen Lovers – The Player – Pure French House.
Join the Key Low Facebook fan page: Click here
Check out the Key Low website: Click here
Shop for Key Low T-Shirts Online: Click here

Key Low and You Heard It Here First will be running a competition where you can win two limited edition Key Low t-shirts designed by Craig Watkins... Hold tight. - SG


  1. How can I buy these T shirts? I checked the website out.. When you click 'buy now', there's an error message.. also... kudos... you've got some great designs

    1. Great article with excellent idea!Thank you for such a valuable article. I really appreciate for this great information..t-shirt of dogs for women

  2. Hey rahul, check out this website:


    If you look carefully, you'll find the Key Low logo, in between John Player and Pro Base, click on it and you should see the whole collection with prices. Check out the Facebook Fan Page too, you could get in touch with Karan directly.

    Thanks for the feedback... :)

  3. Good stuff, Shaolin! I've totally gone ahead and ordered a couple of tees online. Lets hope they live up to being as good as they look :)

  4. Prmod! :) Karan actually did the Richard Durand T-Shirt for Submerge. Which ones did you get? You should get in touch with him with your feedback or some design ideas, he's a very cool guy.

  5. Read about you in todays HT.. Nice concept keep it up and good wishes

  6. These are some cool concepts. I love Urban Style Tees with a modern twist. These are some great ideas. Keep them coming.

  7. Nice. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It's great that you also wear Jeepney Clothing. I wear them too.

  8. Nice post. I would like to add more that iwearme provide online fair trade organic t shirts in India. http://www.iwearme.in/pages/fair-trade-t-shirts

  9. Glad to see this unique collection. Keep writing

  10. Very nice collection of printed T-shirts that have really very funny images.Thanks for sharing

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  12. I must say all the T-shirts shown in this post are awesome.......I think I like them all......
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