Enamel pins are everywhere these days. They’re taking over Instagram, Etsy and big retailers like Forever21 and Urban Outfitters. Everyone at Jakprints has at least a couple on their denim jackets, so we wanted to get the details on these mini accessories. We turned to the enamel pin master, Charlie Wagers of Lost Lust Supply, to find out what makes these tiny accessories some of the coolest around and talk design while we’re at it.
In a nutshell, Lost Lust Supply Co. is an online store that combines creative passion and a love for enamel pins. Brian Stowell and I both are in careers that focus almost entirely on band merch. With that, we’re constantly being bombarded with unreasonable deadlines, or a too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen art direction situation. We started Lost Lust Supply as a side-hustle creative outlet to make fun things without those bounds.
Brian and I have been long-distance best friends for something like 6 years. We’re both deeply involved in the merchandising and design industries, so we basically brainstormed on the idea for an entire year before launching in 2016. The goal was to have a fun little side hustle and maybe release twentyish designs that year, by the end of 2016 we’ve got 78 catalog numbers and 59 unique designs. Needless to say it’s exceeded all possible expectations.
If we aren’t texting about pin-orders or wholesale shipments, we’re sending goofy memes back and forth every single day. Before we started this project, people literally made jokes about us sharing a checking account…and now we do exactly that. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it works really well.
I collected pins like crazy when I was a kid. They were my favorite things to buy on family vacation, and I’m pretty sure I have at least one pin from every state in America. I guess I didn’t realize they were an affordable merch item until recent years, but once I realized I could apply art to a tiny and shiny medium, I was sold.
I think the main reason people love pins is because they’re versatile… and also because they’re shiny. They’re pretty affordable, but way more custom than a 1” button. It’s much easier to sell an $8 pin than a $25 t-shirt.
Brian and I both spend a lot of time outdoors, so a large portion of our pins have an outdoorsy camping theme; we call those the Wanderlust Series. Aside from those, it’s mostly themes and images that I want to make for a band, but can’t find the right client.
We mostly did this so we had an excuse to work with our friends. Having toured as a merch person for over ten years, Brian’s got an insane network of designers he’s worked with, and most of them are excited to do a pin for us. We’re definitely going to continue this next year, and are thinking up ways to mix it up a little bit. We also might offer a subscription service where you pay once, and get a pin every month after that.
In my opinion, the backing cards are just as important as the design of the pin. When I order a pin that just comes in a little plastic bag, it feels cheap. The presentation lets you tell more of a story about the item, or add more context to the design. My favorite is Teagan White’s backer for her Trash Squirrel pin; the squirrel is eating a slice of pizza surrounded by a bunch of other garbage. It’s perfectly disgusting and charming at the same time.
We basically got a cold call e-mail after we’d been in business for two months. Urban was one of our first wholesale accounts, and needless to say it was a pretty exciting day when that email came across the inbox. Brian and I both travel constantly, and it’s always fun to pop in to a UO in any random city and see our products on the shelves.
My story is not unlike plenty of other designers; as a teenager I was really into skateboarding and punk rock and the cool graphics that kinda filled up those scenes. I eventually realized I could use pirated Photoshop to design flyers and shirts for my friends’ bands. When I graduated high school I started touring a lot, and meeting a bunch of bands around the country helped me create a good network very quickly. That was almost 15 years ago, it’s crazy to think about that now.
As I answer this question, I’m sitting at the merch table in the back of a venue in Philadelphia, out here selling posters I’ve designed for Jimmy Eat World. It’s funny because I almost couldn’t work with this band due to time constraints, but 16-year-old me would’ve murdered 30-year-old me if I passed on this. A few other career highlights have been mewithoutYou, The Black Keys, Cloud Nothings, Pelican, David Bazan, Frightened Rabbit… the list goes on.
Honestly? I rarely change out of sweatpants until dinner time when I finally leave my house. I’m very fortunate to be able to work from home, and have been completely freelance since 2010. But I also think that job title has a certain amount of smoke & mirrors about it. Sure, I get to work with a lot of bands I admire, but I also spend a ridiculous amount of time sending e-mails or hosing out screens in a dingy basement. I truly appreciate the blue-collar aspect of my job, sometimes I just need to roll up my sleeves and get the work done.
I mostly play pinball or just hang out at home with my cat Junebug.
I don’t touch the stuff. I avoid it at all costs. The last two times I tried both ended in near panic attacks. It sends my heart rate through the roof. NOPE.
One of my best friends just opened a pizza shop in Detroit called Pie Sci, and he had a special called HAIL SEITAN: white pizza mozzarella, seitan, roasted red pepper, mushroom and sriracha drizzle. I’m gonna go with that.
Sigur Rós ( ), The Magnolia Electric Co. by Songs: Ohia, and Stars of the Lid And Their Refinement of the Decline.
Charlie and Brian are the perfect example of two great minds coming together to make a dream happen.