Flavour speaks to Lao Karunwi, Nigel Twumasi and Kwesi Ofori-Quaah, the founders of Mayamada, the t-shirt brand currently making waves in the wonderful world of Japanese manga and anime.
What does Mayamada mean?
The literal translation is “true arrow, true strike” but we actually got the name by doing a
mash-up of the name “Mayasuki Yamada”. He’s the creator of the Mayamada network;
they’ll be more about him next year.
The biggest influence is a Japanese magazine series called Shonen Jump which brings
together a bunch of different shows like Dragon Ball Z, Naruto and One Piece all under
one roof, which is what we aim to do with our shows and characters.
Can you briefly explain the 3 fantasy shows on Mayamada?
Samurai Chef which is a cooking show where contestants’ dishes are judged by being
attacked with samurai weapons. The meal that can withstand attack best is declared the
winner. The 11th Hour follows four connected strangers as they race against time to figure out asinister plot involving a special pocket watch and a mysterious character known only as the Orchestrator; and Hot Lunch is about a team of thieves led by a would-be-chef turned master thief.They are on a mission to bring down an oppressive cartel of elite chefs through a series of well-planned heists.
Have you thought about creating a real show?
Yes! We would love to have a range of animations based on the show. Animation isn’t
cheap so we’ll be taking small steps towards that. Until then, we’ve started putting out
manga pages to introduce people to the shows and characters via our blog.
Who are your real life heroes?
There are some great people out there that have inspired us like Guy Kawasaki who
wrote a book called Art of Start. It’s about how to start up just about anything and it
really helped us when we were forming the Mayamada brand.
What makes Mayamada different from other mainstream t-shirt brands?
We’re a brand that appeals to people who want to wear anime and manga inspired
clothing not just for the designs but for the great stories behind them.
The anime television network concept is not something you see in a lot other t-shirt
brands. We don’t want to just sell to you and never see you again, but bring you into the brand online and through the events that we organise like our free upcoming anime screening.
What tips would you give to someone wanting to create their own t-shirt brand?
Inspiration and perseverance; to create anything worthwhile you have to have the
imagination to see something that doesn’t yet exist. Have your brand idea solid and
distinctive before putting up large sums of money.
You recently exhibited at the MCM expo in London, which is one of the largest comic and game exhibitions – what did you gain?
Getting to talk to people about our brand and seeing their reactions; face-to-face you find
out what they really feel about the stuff you’re putting out. Another important thing was
getting to rub shoulders with established brands; people were so friendly and we got a lot
of advice throughout that we’ve committed to memory!
How else do you promote the brand?
Facebook, it really does help get the word out not just to our friends but to their friends
who can easily see what we’re up to. Also t-shirt, fashion and anime websites help too. Back in August we organised a picnic in Hyde Park as our first event and it was great! We’ll do more of that next year.
You’re all in full-time work, where do you find the time and energy to run Mayamada?
That’s easy. We love what we’re doing.
What’s the best thing about creating your own brand?
The learning opportunity and chance to really use your imagination in your own way is a
definite plus. Seeing people light up when they find out about the brand and characters is very motivating.
What plans are there to expand the brand in the future?
We’ve discussed spreading out into accessories and other kinds of clothing and we’ll
be looking at that in the not so distant future. But there’s so much scope to do amazing
things. More manga, more events, toys, animation and even a theme park!
You can buy your Mayamada t-shirts online http://www.mayamada.com/gift-shop.
You can follow Mayamada on Twitter @mayamada
Words by Melody David