Walking towards the Foodbeast headquarters, I immediately spotted him from blocks away. Standing outside, his unique style of gothic and urban streetwear catches the eye and drowns out the rest of his surroundings. As we’re approaching, we are welcomed by a cool and charming smile. Heading inside FoodBeast, we are lead to the rooftops. On a beautiful SoCal evening, the sights of Downtown Santa Ana were refreshingly breathtaking and the perfect place to begin our interview with Phil Gorgeous of Foodbeast and Touche KVLT.
Starting with questions that many always ask, “Who is Phil Gorgeous?”, “Why the name Phil Gorgeous?”, Phil explains his manager at Warner Brothers first called him “GQ”. At the same time, the female interns around the office became fond of Phil and his undeniable charm. So, one day when Phil called his manager, he was greeted with “Oh, is this Phil Gorgeous?” Since then, the moniker stuck.
Eventually, the nickname took off and became his own brand name. Many people in the industry started recognizing Phil Gorgeous and associating that name to many of the projects he was working on. Phil claims it was the name that kept him in business and built his network, allowing him to foster industry relationships that kept him relevant. It came to the point where if he stopped using the name, he might as well have said good-bye to his network too.
Today, Phil Gorgeous is not just your everyday dude, but also an embodiment of a creativity. As someone who doesn’t drink or do drugs, he made it clear that he’s addicted to creating. “What I wake up to do everyday is to make shit.” Phil believes that sometimes there is no pay out or understanding to the craft, but it’s one of those things that you just have to keep doing.
So whether it’s graphic design, commercials, music videos, logo/branding, print work, illustrations, web design, etc. – you name it, Phil Gorgeous does it. Phil claims he’s no master of one skill, but rather as a creative junkie, he’s pretty good at everything – a jack of all trades, if you will. He fine tunes his craft by continuously learning. In addition, while everyone wants to party and turn up, Phil is sitting in his creative space, reading, understanding, and creating. He believes anyone can learn anything in this world. Somewhere, someone has penned a book, made a video, written a blog, or taught a class – you just have to look for it. “I have always felt like, I didn’t want any obstacles in life,” he states. If you can understand what someone is telling you or you can physically try it, Phil believes anything is possible.
Phil tells a story of a time when he used to manage the band Under Oath: he saw someone shooting a music video and felt like it was possible for him to do the same. Initially, he thought it was a lot harder to be the subject, but later realized directing was harder than it seemed. However, with enough research, Phil’s concerns did not stop him from taking a crack behind the camera. Taking his no-such-thing-as-failure mentality, he brought the things he already knew into the unknown and created brilliance. With a hardcore and punk scene background, he was able to direct a music video that embodied the energy of metalcore. What a normal cameraman would not understand, he believes he understood. The head banging, the thrashing, the movements, all of such helped Phil connect with his subjects. In due time, Phil completed his first music video, which later reached a million plays.
Taking it back, the conversation steered to circa 2002-2004, when he was the lead vocalist for From First to Last (FFTL). Phil explains before FFTL, he was already in the music industry managing bands, but a part of him wanted to go back and play music. So he touched base with an old friend that he used to play in a black metal band with and recorded a demo with 6-7 songs. With the help of friends who ran a label, he was able to put the music out and book a tour. Hitting up other labels for support, they liked the material without knowing Phil was a part of the band. When they realized he was the singer, it made getting signed a lot easier. He used his resources to connect with Warner Bros, Sony, Universal and landed a deal similar to Fall Out Boy. Phil admits all of it was comedy because it showed the strength of networking. Unfortunately, for the kids in the band, Phil claims, the hype got to them quick and they forgot they were still a punk band at the heart of it. They became the “jocks” as he stated, their “too cool” attitude becoming evident after the label deals and tours. For Phil, it got to the point where his relationships were on the line and ultimately came to the decision that he’d rather manage bands again. So he made the tough choice to leave as a lot of legal things were looming at the time.
Switching gears, we delved into the topic of Foodbeast and his involvement with the site as their creative director. Phil describes Foodbeast as a food news publication for the millennial generation. It targets the youth that wake up in the morning and check their social media. Having built a reputation for dynamic and unique culinary content, Foodbeast became a supplier of content to major sites like the Huffington Post and Gawker . For Phil, he didn’t realize how big things were at Foodbeast until he found himself smack dab in the middle of the hype. On YouTube, 1% of people exceed 100K plays and hardly any make it to the millions. Phil states, Foodbeast’s videos were hitting 3 million in a week. They became a food news anomaly of young guys talented in different facets – writing, developing, and designing. Phil claims everyone is creative and quick on their feet; if something happened tonight, something has to be posted that night. He explains there have been times where they’ve even broken the news too early on some things.
Phil’s duties as creative director involve video directing and lending a hand to special projects, which play well into his background. He doesn’t just set up a video camera on a table and shoots; he takes a cinematic approach to things. His technique could involve a camera shot panning out slowly, sensually unveiling the object, until your senses catch you gawking and make you realize that it’s just a cupcake.
And as if all this wasn’t enough, Phil Gorgeous has started his own brand called Touche KVLT. He explains Touche KVLT is a play on pop culture, crafted in a way where it’s digestible for mass society, yet still keeps the irreverent essence of punk in a tongue in cheek manner. It all started when he was working for streetwear brand Orisue and they would make odd illustrations using little kittens with corpses painted on them or upside-down crosses with pentagrams. Phil and two of his associates at the brand got the idea of selling shirts, since his social media was getting a lot of attention with just pictures of cats. However, time passed, work slammed that window of opportunity shut for the meantime, and they never got around to doing it. For Phil, he was always writing down descriptive ideas and created sheets of graphics. Not surprisingly, he had other outlets and his “shit was not stopping”.
He had made boards, graphics, an Instagram, and was telling social media something was going to drop. So, aside from the others, Phil felt it was the best time to get creative. Starting with buttons, it soon went to stickers; finally, he had enough profit from the two to print shirts. Feeling like a brand on a budget, he got a 100 of each shirt in white, black, and grey – making thousands of shirts. For being a brand for only 3 weeks, Phil admits he was lucky because he had enough of a social media following – over 120K followers up to this point – to start moving through with things. It got to the point where his stuff was being bootlegged in China. And for Phil, he considers that the biggest compliment in the world. Selling really offensive beanies with “FUCK” across it with the U being a casket, or “Comme Get Des Dick” – playing off of a pun on the Comme des Garcons name a la SSUR’s own play off it – he then started doing giveaways. Having great connections with “bad ass models” who had over 50K followers, he was giving them free photoshoots. After the photoshoots, these models would post the Touche KVLT goods to their Instagram accounts, making people wonder what that brand was. Later, well known blogs were reblogging his stuff, and the feeling of an overnight buzz brought him back to the days with FFTL. Three months later, it’s still a one-man operation. Phil believes without his work ethic, he would not be able to do what he does.
He continues that he’s not necessarily bringing something to the fashion industry that others don’t, but feels like he has a darker tongue with satirical play. What separates him from other brands is a combination of his demographics and his background. Working with such urban-centric, streetwear brands such as Marc Ecko, Nike, Orisue, and Karmaloop, he can create that flip and then switch back to punk. Phil sees himself as this balance of a well-rounded or confused kid, depending how you look at it; he’s a mix of punk, metal, urban, and chic. His brain works in a way where he sees something and looks for ways of flipping it. Phil explains the funny thing about Touche KVLT is that he’s not here to invent the wheel or anything, he’s just here to make “fun shit, dope shit”. So when a critic has something to say, Phil doesn’t care and his response is “Touche, you got me”. A lot of his stuff has dark references, but he’s not satanic. In fact, Phil doesn’t give a shit either way. Shock value is the aim here and he’s here to build a wheel that rolls and sells.
Moving into the topic of social media, Phil thinks it’s important because everybody lives on it. Since it’s so accessible at all times, Phil views an active social media presence is important for your metrics and the number of people seeing your stuff. Everyone says he’s always on his phone. The logic: he can’t assume his post will ride out the whole day. He needs to be consistently posting and commenting as it is extremely tied to his income. “People won’t understand your product until they visually see it,” he states. Sometimes it begins by first noticing the model and then noticing the brand. At that point, when that person acknowledges the brand, it stimulates others to start paying attention. Phil explains, as a brand, you have to be smart and understand you have clientele not just in the United States, which means time zones are different. People are getting up, going to bed, having lunch, or on break, all at different times. So you have to be aware of these target windows. In addition, he advises there are statistics you can read about your metrics and when things are most active, which should help with the things you post. By keeping up, it helped him sell over a hundred jerseys in an hour. He knows people are checking social media, so he likes pictures, likes his own pictures, or replies back to the comments on his pictures to bring him back to the top of the feed – he needs to maintain that social media presence. To Phil, there’s a science and psychology to social media and you need to understand how they all work. For example, hashtags, he feels it doesn’t matter whose hashtag he’s using; he feels the more visibility, the better. At the heart of it, social media is what helped him start his brand and he will continue to use it to help Touche KVLT succeed.
Do’s and Don’ts about social media: “Do dope shit. Don’t do shit that sucks.” Phil believes there’s a difference between being active and pestering people – be sincere, be genuine, and be open. People don’t really interact they way they used to, and interaction means a lot to Phil. It’s easy to be anonymous, but if you interact with someone on that level, you’ll watch your numbers ramp. For Phil, regardless of his credentials, he’s still “little ol’ Phil”. He advises, “Never let yourself get too big for what you’re doing. Don’t buy into your own hype”. He believes how you act in front of the people who take care of you is who you are – never outgrow your britches.
Wrapping up, we discussed upcoming projects that should be on the radar. Clothing wise, Phil will be focusing on the evolution of Touche KVLT – not so much graphically, but more-so on textiles. He’s going to try jumping into cut and sew early and establish an RMF (Ready Made Fabrics) program. Also, Phil expects to see growth in his other endeavors with Foodbeast, music videos, and collaborations with other brands. He’s actually delving into women’s leggings right now with another company, which will probably stem into street goth for men. And in true Phil Gorgeous fashion, he’s also anticipating becoming a business owner of a “really odd business” next year.