Heading For Nowhere
If you’re a film geek and have the Internet you know Last Exit To Nowhere, maybe even own some of their apparel. Launched in 2007 by Mike Ford, their collections are a little bit different.
While T shirts with logos, designs and characters from “Star Wars”, “Hello Kitty”, “The Avengers” and all the other giant comic/toy/movie/blockbuster brands are a dime a dozen, who the heck are Lao Che Air Freight, Frog Comics Santa Carla, Camp Crystal Lake, Tyrell Corp, Plainview and Son Oil Corp, Abe Froman and The Paper Street Soap Company?
Ford’s first T shirt designs date back to the early 1990s when his brother Steve – a screen printer who’s now a pivotal part of the company – applied a lot of his designs to T shirts whenever the mood struck. As he one day figured, if he liked wearing T shirts designed with imaginary company names, logos, places and products from film and TV, other people might too.
12 years and countless shirts, hoodies, stickers, caps, mugs, wristbands, tote bags, posters and caps later, and things show no sign of slowing down. Moviehole.net spoke to the founder and director from the company headquarters just outside Nottingham, UK.
Where did the idea for logos for fictional places in movies come from?
I’ve always had an interest in graphic design, logos, typography and illustration– combined with my love for films gave me the idea for Last Exit to Nowhere.
How did you get attention in what’s now a very saturated market?
The concept was new at the time, there were literally no other companies selling T-shirts of film-inspired references the way we do. For that reason a number of media sources like The New York Times, The Irish Times, Empire Magazine and Playboy soon picked up on what we were doing and the seed was sown.
What’s the story behind the company name?
The ‘Nowhere’ aspect represents the fictional companies and places we feature in our range and the ‘Last Exit To’ was inspired by the film title “Last Exit to Brooklyn“ which I always liked as a name.
Who chooses the new graphics you’ll introduce?
There’s a small team who decide on these things, but I get the final say on most things related to design and graphics.
What are the rules behind what’s good, cool or iconic enough to put on a shirt, hoodie, etc?
My rule of thumb has always been if I like it and would want to wear it, we’ll do it.
How do you strike a balance between something being well known enough but not common enough to be seen everywhere and therefore stay unique?
The designs we choose for our range are deliberately for film enthusiasts who appreciate the intricacies of our concepts. The references we decide on always have to have a significance in the story of the film.
Some products are of logos for companies or institutions that don’t have ‘official’ identities on screen in a given film’s canon. How do you approach designing them when it comes to rights-holders?
We design in a way that reflects the story, era and feel of the film in question. We always seek permission when it’s applicable – thankfully we have a good legal team to negotiate these matters.
So do you also need permission or license agreements from studios or rights-holders across the board, including for designs that already exist?
In most cases, yes. Occasionally there are designs that don’t need licensing, but they’re few and far between.
What are you biggest sellers?
Our “Alien” and “Aliens” inspired items probably sell the best. USCSS Nostromo also sells well.
What was the most surprising big seller you had?
Probably the first range of T-shirts we first produced when the website went live, Amity Island and USCSS Nostromo especially. I was completely surprised by how well they went down with like-minded film enthusiasts.
What’s your favourite design personally?
My current favourite is probably our latest (House of Reptiles inspired by “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade“) – I love the reference and the colours of this design especially.
What’s the most esoteric design you have, one not even hardcore film geeks will know?
Arcadia Brewing is one that springs to mind, inspired by the 2017 film “The Endless“.
In case you didn’t know, the films referenced by the companies in the introduction to this story are;
* Lao Che Air Freight
The cargo airline owned by the villainous Lao Che, who double crosses Indy over the priceless jewel in the Club Obi Wan sequence of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom“ (1984) before Indy, Willie and Short Round unwittingly board his plane thinking they’re escaping from him.
* Frog Comics Santa Carla
The comic book shop owned by Frog Brothers Edgar and Alan in “The Lost Boys” (1987).
* Camp Crystal Lake
The stalking ground of the killer Jason Vorhees’ mother (spoilers!) in “Friday the Thirteenth“ (1980).
* Tyrell Corp
The robotics company that produces the replicants in the world of “Blade Runner“ (1982).
* Plainview and Son Oil Corp
The business venture of Daniel Plainview, the morally bankrupt prospector/industrialist from “There Will Be Blood“ (2007).
* Abe Froman
After furtively reading the reservation book at Chicago fine dining establishment Chez Quis to scam his way in with girlfriend Sloan and friend Cameron, Ferris tells the snooty maître d’ he’s Abe Froman, not knowing Froman is actually the sausage king of Chicago in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off “(1986).
* The Paper Street Soap Company
When imaginary friend (spoilers!) Tyler Durden hands the unnamed hero a business card after they meet on a plane, it’s for his company producing prestige soaps, manufactured from human body fat stolen from the dumpsters of liposuction clinics in “Fight Club” (1999).