Brand Spotlight: Hidden Characters
Chicago-based brand, Hidden Characters, manufactures their products by hand, one-by-one. The attention to detail in these “hidden” pieces provide a stylish edge that encourages people to live and think freely as themselves.
We recently spoke with owners, Niko Tumamak and Aapple Yang, about the story behind the brand and the inspiration behind their designs. Check it out!
Manifest: What do you want people to think/feel when they see your brand name?
Hidden Characters: I have no desire to attach any other idea than self-love and community to Hidden Characters. I guess with those two ideas comes intentionality–as in nothing arbitrary or vapid
Manifest: How was your brand name constructed? What is the story behind Hidden Characters?
HC: The Hidden Characters is based on an imaginary musical (perhaps won’t be imaginary in the future) entitled “Find the Cure.” The musical tells a tale of a world under a spell called the “Super Ego,” which controls its entire population by telling them what and how to think, feel, live, etc. The Super Ego’s control looms so immense that everything is rendered monotonous and colorless. A group of individuals defect from the spell and form an organization, The Hidden Characters, whose goal is working together in espionage to save others from this wicked curse (to find the cure), liberating people to think & live freely as themselves.
Manifest: Your BDU pants have been a hit for us. What have been some of your other standout pieces thus far?
HC: This year more than before has really been an introduction of many new styles for us, one of which being the Flight Pants. A lot of these styles have been years in development and its always so sweet to see our customers receive them. But of course, we never wanna forget about the uniform staples, the BDUs being one of them. We’ve also continued to rework our track pants - the balance track pants and halfway track pants being two styles we’ve brought back in multiple colorways. It will be exciting to continue to develop new iterations of our staple pieces and explore new construction and silhouettes that we haven’t done before.
Manifest: What is the approach to your team's design process?
HC: Thorough intentionality. Consider everything.
Manifest: When your brand was in its infancy or a thought in your head, who were you targeting, and has it changed?
HC: We are a fake business. We don’t have demographic spreadsheets with targets. We don’t have a marketing budget to run ads; we don’t have a list of influencers to sponsor. To support us, you have to support us in a real way, not because you see it on someone you admire or because it’s the cool thing. We will never be the cool thing. Our goal is to just take care of the people who stumble upon us, support, and invest time into figuring out why they support us.
Manifest: Your clothing drops are very unique and almost "HIDDEN", what was the non-traditional approach to your drops that seem to not have seasons attached?
HC: Again, we are a fake business.
Manifest: Where do you pull your design inspiration for the brand from? How do they have an impact on your creative process?
HC: It’s all based on “Find the Cure” the musical. What does an incognito organization that’s sabotaging a global superpower look like? What rituals might they have? What do they wear in plain sight? What do they wear at night? It all starts with these types of questions.
Manifest: What are the brand goals for the upcoming year? Next 5 years?
HC: Our goals stay the same always: support those who support us.
Manifest: Who would be on your ultimate wish list to work or collaborate with?
HC: We run an incubation program for young designers in our art center called “Matters of the Heart.” The dream and ultimate wish is to help those kids get to a place where a collaboration with us or our friends would be impactful and life-changing for them.
Manifest: How does your brand showcase social responsibility?
HC: Something that has always been at the core of everything we do, ever since the beginning days of the brand, has been providing space, resources, and technical training for those who may not have access to all the tools they need to create their work. This is why we created Matters of the Heart Art Center, fully funded by our customers, community, and The Hidden Characters.
Shop Hidden Characters online and in-store now.