The Horror Revolution: First off, what’s your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?
Ben Scrivens: My favorite horror movie (and favorite movie period) is John Carpenter’s Halloween. I saw the network television premiere on October 30, 1981 at the tender age of four years old, and was never the same. I can’t say I was scared when I initially saw it, probably because I had no idea what I was watching it. As I got older, it did scare me on subsequent viewings though.
THR: What drew your interest in creating horror apparel? I mean, you are obviously a horror fan, but what drew you to this underserved market specifically?
BS: I was influenced by not only pop culture as a kid, but also skate/BMX culture and was also fascinated by brand design, specifically companies that created apparel for those cultures. However, as a lifelong horror fan, I realized that I didn’t have any apparel that featured my favorite movies, so I decided to make my own.
THR: I read that you were already a graphic designer before you started the business. What kinds of stuff did you work on before Fright Rags?
BS: Yes, my love for brands, logos, and design in general led me to study graphic design in college, with a minor in printing. My first job out of school was at a prepress house where I had to put together layouts and films for packaging; mostly kid toys for Fisher-Price. I then went to work for a small laptop bag company where I was the third person ever hired (it was the owner, the office manager, and me). Since it was a small company, I was in charge of a lot; product photography, web design, print collateral, brand design, advertisements, etc. I learned a lot about business from my time there and my boss was very supportive as I began Fright-Rags in my spare time.
THR: What all goes into licensing all of the properties that you guys work with? It’s amazing how many movies are represented in your clothing!
BS: It can be quite a process but the basic process is to find the owner of the property you want to license, negotiate a deal, and then get to work. Finding the owner can be hard; sometimes it’s a major studio, other times it’s literally a person who produced it or inherited the rights. Negotiating a deal usually comes down to what royalty percentage you are willing to pay, how much money you are willing to put down as an advance against those royalties, the length of the term, where you can sell, and what categories you want (the types of merchandise you want to sell). Once all of that is settled, any design or product idea has to be approved by the rights holder before it can be sold. We also have to report sales each quarter and pay any royalties due.
THR: There’s so much love that clearly goes into designing every piece in your inventory. Walk us through the steps in the design process from idea to shipping.
BS: It always starts with the title and what categories we have for that property. For example, say we want to do something for Halloween; we know we have t-shirts, so we begin brainstorming ideas. It also depends on what type of permission we have with the property; can we use actor likenesses, do we have to use approved assets or can we create our own art, are there limitations? Then we think about the different artists we use
and what their strong skillsets are. It’s usually a blend of giving the artist carte blanche to come up with their own idea and ideas we have already worked on as a team internally.
THR: Who gets the ultimate say in what goes to print? Have you ever had to override something that just wouldn’t work, or is it one of those situations where everyone works in such tandem that it always works?
BS: Technically the studio always has the final say; even if we all love a design, if a studio rejects it, we cannot sell it. However, I generally have the final say in what we do (as long as it’s approved by the studio). There have been many designs we have delayed releasing, or have not released at all, just because I didn’t feel they would work. They were approved, but I didn’t feel they were strong enough.
THR: You guys are known for your quality and customer service, something that is certainly not a given when shopping for shirts online. How important do you think those two aspects are to the success of Fright Rags?
BS: They are vital to running a successful business. We can have the coolest looking merch online but if you receive it and it’s crap, then we haven’t done our job. Or if you have an issue with a purchase and we are jerks and don’t help, then you will never buy from us again. We have a 75%+ repeat customer percentage which is huge for us, and we have to continually earn that trust from our customers. Especially these days, where there are many other places to shop for horror apparel; we want to make the best products possible backed with superior service.
THR: Is there a dream property that you’d like to make apparel for that you haven’t been able to get the rights to yet?
BS: I have been extremely lucky in that we have been able to secure rights to not only my favorite film (Halloween), but many, many of my all time favorites. One film that has eluded me though is Silver Bullet. It is one of my favorite films but no one has claimed to own the rights so at this point it’s in a bit of limbo unfortunately.
THR: One of the best things about reviewing horror and talking to people in the industry is actually getting to meet some of the people behind my favorite stuff. Has there been anyone that you’ve met while working with your company that just blew your mind, one of those people that you just
couldn’t believe you were getting to talk to?
BS: Yes, I have been very blessed to have not only met but befriend many people I grew up watching in movies. While many of those relationships have surpassed the “fan/celebrity” stage, it’s never lost on me how fortunate I am, and how grateful for those friendships. That said, being able to talk to Jamie Lee Curtis directly has been recent highlight that I never
thought I would have. We had the license for Halloween 2018, as well as the only company with apparel rights for Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends. I was introduced to her via email by a mutual friend in the business to send her some shirts and other merchandise for her charity and we’ve been in touch ever since. It’s pretty surreal to open my inbox and email and see an email from her.
THR: Finally, what is your opinion on Bigfoot? Not whether he exists or not, everyone knows that he’s out there somewhere. Just, like... what do you think of him/her?
BS: I just hope that, if Bigfoot does exist, that he/she is happy. People have dedicated their lives in search of this creature; scouring the Earth for a glimpse at it. So I hope wherever he/she is, they are living their best life.