Inked Magazine Interview: Steadfast Brand Owner Chris Collins
Steadfast Brand is one of the best selling products in the Inked Store so we thought we should take some time to get to know the man behind the brand. Chris Collins is no tourist tattoo brand owner, he’s covered from head to toe with some impressive ink and he even owns his own tattoo parlor in Ocala, Florida. After the Philly Tattoo convention he took some time out to talk with us about his ink, his brand and what’s next.
Inked: What was your first tattoo?
Chris: My first tattoo was a Skinny Puppy logo on my leg that we did with a homemade machine when I was in high school. I now strongly recommend not doing that!
Inked: What is your most memorable tattoo?
Chris: I would probably say my back piece. It is a tribute to my switch between living my life negatively to positively. After that one I just collected art and memories that I enjoy.
Inked: Do Steadfast Brand fans get your designs inked?
Chris: Actually the artwork made for the brand gets tattooed often and the fans send the pictures in to us. The name Steadfast has always been tattooed and has meaning to lots of people even when not referencing us but it feels really good when they tell us they got it because of their support of the brand.
Inked: Do you have any Steadfast inspired tattoos?
Chris: My elbow has the Steadfast Brand compass on it and my left hand has another Steadfast Brand diamond.
Inked: How/when did you start Steadfast Brand?
Chris: Well about ten years ago I started my tattoo parlor Fat Kats Artistry. I was never able to sit still and always looked for new ideas and outlets for my ambition. I did several projects and smaller companies within the tattoo industry and struggled to find an outlet that would let me bring all the talented people I knew together. About 5 years ago I decided that a brand was the best way to accomplish this. That way there would be no restrictions to the styles of art, products, or clientele that we could bring into the project. I wanted to build something that could reflect our collective experience and that could be defined by hard work, creativity, overcoming challenges, and living above the stereotypes that some of the public had put on tattooed people. I myself had to overcome personal demons and incarceration and I wanted to have a brand that didn’t hide behind a negative mask. I feel our authenticity and positive message is what has helped to solidify our fan base and keeps us moving forward despite the obstacles we have faced as such a young company.
The name Steadfast Brand was chosen in a conversation I had with my good friend and tattoo machine builder Joey D. of Infinite Irons. I was venting about the difficulty we were facing getting everything in motion and I said that I just had to remain steadfast. In that moment I smiled to myself and knew we had found our name.
I then contacted my friend Aurora Ansara to talk about what I would need in employees to get this thing running. While talking to her I realized that she had all the skills I required in 3 people so I made her an offer and she came on board as my partner. We are still a tight knit family style operation with a small army of amazing reps, artists, friends, and supporters. Our growth is a sure sign that in order to succeed you must remain Steadfast.
Inked: What inspires your designs?
Chris: The amazing artists we know and the ideas we have about reflecting our experiences. We pick everything in house and at the end of the day if we wouldn’t wear it, we don’t make it.
Inked: What retailers carry Steadfast Brand?
Chris: We are now in almost 1,000 stores in the states and several online stores. We now have distribution in Canada, Central America, Australia and we are working on a greater presence in Europe this year.
Inked: What are your best selling pieces?
Chris: This year has been great for the owls in our line and for our Follow No One wolf design. Our message based designs have really taken off which I think shows that people really want something that has substance for a change. (Both designs can be seen below)
Inked: You also own your own tattoo, how has that inspired your brand? Give us who, how, when, why about your parlor.
Chris: My tattoo parlor is the whole reason Steadfast Brand even exists. I came to realize that as our industry becomes more commercial (which is inevitable) we have to take our future in our own hands or one day we will all work for outsiders who have no love or concern for the business at all. You can only impact and protect something you care about if you get up off your ass and do it. Diversify or be left behind.
Inked: What’s next?