“Coagulated,” “distorted,” “sub-reality” and “undefined” are words used by Cal Poly students Riana Butler and Alex Holmes to describe their company, Uncle Inc. Butler and Holmes channel their love for memes and artistic expression into creating designs for clothing and stickers.
Uncle Inc. was born Fall 2017 when theatre sophomore Holmes suggested she and journalism sophomore Butler create a clothing company. The two immediately came up with the name “Uncle Incorporated,” or “Uncle Inc.” for short.
“We decided to just start doing some silly sketches and go from there,” Holmes said.
The first clothing product was a sketch of the two of them with “goo goo gaga” written in colorful text. Uncle Inc. now has several designs available, from both the “Primary” and the “Valentine’s Day” collections.
“It’s us just spitballing phrases that we think are funny or stupid and then just putting them on the shirts,” Holmes said.
Most recently, Uncle Inc. stickers have been posted for sale on RedBubble.
Design inspiration comes from memes the two enjoy and common phrases they say to each other. According to Butler, Uncle Inc. represents their own definitions of memes. The most popular prints thus far have featured the phrases “I’m fine” and “Mom, can you come pick me up?”
“I get compliments on my ‘i’m fine’ shirt all the time,” English sophomore Wylie Hughs said. “People think it’s really funny and very aesthetically pleasing.”
The figures displayed in the designs are simple, blob-like “amoebas.” Holmes free-hands them on a sketchpad website, using the “vibe” she gets from each quote as inspiration. The two then either use comic sans or hand-write the text.
“They’re definitely distorted. I feel like that’s just a way of reflecting like we’re ‘the other,’” Butler said.
Initially, Butler and Holmes thought the company would simply be a fun, creative outlet to share with friends. However, the two have been pleasantly surprised to find that strangers have been discovering and purchasing their products online.
Butler and Holmes use Instagram to advertise Uncle Inc. (@uncle_inc), and zazzle.com to sell the apparel, which comes in a variety of styles and colors.
“We literally make $0.60 off of each shirt, which go for around $15 to $20 because it’s not about the money. It’s about seeing people wearing our design,” Butler said.
Butler and Holmes said they often come across people who do not understand their humor. They agree that what holds a meaning to them may not resonate with others in the same manner.
“You don’t necessarily have to understand, it’s just something we do,” Butler said.
“Like, ‘Tickle my liver and call me Maurice,’ there’s nothing to get. It’s just there,” Holmes added. “They don’t have to be black or white.”
Their new five-piece summer collection, “Resurrection,” will be released next week. The name comes from reviving the company after a lull, in addition to portraying the cycle of life.
“Each design represents a different stage of life,” Butler said.
In the future, Butler and Holmes hope to start screen-printing their clothing and want to create their own website. They want to spread the message that anything can be done with just “a cloud of an idea.”