As a high school student, Daniel Bliley had an atypical fascination: marketing, advertising and the dawn of the web. By his first week in college at UVA, a career counselor guided him toward a marketing major at the business school, and before long he was fully immersed in topics like demographics, customer segmentation and packaging.
You’d think that trajectory would lead him to a “typical” career in marketing, but you’d be wrong. Sure, he has a 20-plus-year professional journey spanning healthcare, automotive, banking and tech startups to his credit. And currently he’s the VP of digital engagement at a Charlotte-based financial institution.
But he also has his own side hustle called Bigfoot Kick – a pro-artist, cryptozoology-obsessed fashion brand that’s starting to generate some buzz.
How does it all fit together? For that, we need to flip back to the beginning again and follow the trail of his other adolescent fascinations: hip hop, comic books and video games.
MAIN IMAGE: Tara Lilly
Late ‘80s/Early ‘90s Nostalgia
When he talks about Bigfoot Kick, Bliley’s enthusiasm is infectious.
“The inspiration was bubbling for a while,” he explained. “I work with spreadsheets, data and ROI in my day job, and I had been wanting to do something creative that was truly mine. I wanted a way to express myself, especially if it was centered on working with really creative people.”
In short, he was craving no-holds-barred collaborations in which the only hurdle was: Do we like it?
“I was binge-watching Cobra Kai on Netflix, and it was bringing up all sorts of childhood nostalgia for me,” shares Bliley. “I used to draw comic books and sell them at school, then I’d take my earnings to the arcade to play Mortal Kombat. I was listening to A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots and De La Soul. My brother and I even had our own high school rap group called Soul on Ice.”
He also grew up enthralled with rainforests, mountains and animals – an interest in zoology that morphed into cryptozoology. One could count the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot as “creatures of interest” throughout his growing-up years.
Suddenly, it dawned on him that these were the brand pillars on which he wanted to create something.
And that’s when “Bigfoot Kick” came to him as a catchy name.
Bigfoot’s First Steps
“I saw what North Face was doing with Brain Dead – a really cool, culture-driven collaboration with a pretty corporate brand, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Bliley recounts. “I wanted a fashion company that supported artists.”
So he launched in September 2020, starting with the typical first steps: establishing the business entity registering it with the N.C. Secretary of State and a sales license. And then, the creativity started flowing … along with the second-guessing.
“I went from ‘This is the best idea ever’ to ‘This is the worst idea I’ve ever had,’” he said. It was a wide range of emotions. But after getting some encouraging feedback from design legends like Aaron Draplin and Bobby Hundreds, he started to feel better. “Their confirmation really helped. Positive feedback from giants in the field gave me some great energy.”
What followed next was lots of garment research, sample ordering and screenprinter exploration.
“I wanted a legit, premium project,” Bliley said, “even if that meant spending a lot of money and time to find the right garment that fit the brand.”
Eventually, his journey led him to Charlotte’s own MacFly Fresh (“I wanted to work with a small, Black-owned business doing great work in the community”), as well as a woman-owned, West Coast-based company. By February, his first logo shirts and hoodies were rolling out.
Up Next: Artist Collabs
Finally, he got to the point where he was ready for his first artist collaboration, and some Instagram scrolling led him to the Queen City’s own Euli. “He was the one who really jumped out at me,” Bliley said. “He had drawn a baby Godzilla and posted it, which fed right into my love of monsters and cryptozoology. So I reached out and we discussed a series focused on ‘Friends of Bigfoot.’”
In the end, Euli delivered three designs – an alien, a werewolf and the Loch Ness Monster. “He crushed it,” Bliley declared. “We’re currently doing an update for Halloween featuring all three characters in one scene!” All pieces in the BFK x Euli Friends of Bigfoot series are available on the Bigfoot Kick store.
From there, the artist collaborations have only grown.
He worked with Charlotte multi-media artist Michael Grant – a.k.a. Infamous Kiddo – on a shirt called The Hunter inspired by hip hop and the outdoors. He’s done six designs so far with Madison Dixon and Andie Nordstom, owners of Mad Goat Studio. And he’s worked with Lisa Marie in Chicago on a collection coming out this fall, alongside a skull-themed collection done with Emma Atterbury.
Lessons Learned, Thus Far
Bliley feels the best work is done when an artist is given freedom, along with giving as much or as little feedback as they need. “When final (design) is signed off on, I want it to be a reflection of (the artist’s) true creative expression.”
He’s already working on a Spring/Summer 2022 drop, and he wants to work with more local artists as a part of that collection – which might tout a distinct “cartoon style.”And true to his nature-loving brand, a portion of all Bigfoot Kick sales goes to 1% for the Planet.
TAKE MORE STEPS WITH BIGFOOT KICK
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