Kristofer Salfert has a golden combination of talent and business savvy, evidenced by how effortlessly his clothing line, Stupid Jungle Animal, has found success.
Since its official launch in 2008, SJA has managed to break into the local and international market – a surprising but not-yet overwhelming turnabout for the young designer. At only 20 years of age, Salfert is proving to be a sharp entrepreneur, running his unique line of streetwear solo as he pursues his degree in anthropology at the University of Manitoba.
“As a kid, I drew. I always had a knack for drawing,” the born-and-bred Winnipegger said by phone last week.
In Grade 12, Salfert printed and sold his first t-shirt. From there he began selling his designs to friends. Upon graduating, he registered his business and, using some inheritance money, launched SJA.
While most students in his position were hitting the streets with resumés, Kristofer has yet to work a job job due to his smart investment and drive.
He plans on keeping sole ownership over SJA and by maintaining limited runs of each design, he hopes to continue to focus on the individuality of each piece over mass production.
“I don’t want to be branded as a t-shirt brand,” he said, explaining that his designs are based more off of a philosophy than a certain “look.”
“I don’t want every Joe on the block wearing the same t-shirt. It’s quality versus quantity, not a cash grab.”
Ultimately, Salfert is selling an idea – one that he nurtures in his own life as well as in his work.
“‘Stupid Jungle Animal’ is sort of a metaphor for people who can’t relax and enjoy life,” he explained. He hopes to appeal to those who wish to engage in what he calls “the easy lifestyle.”
“Everything is just so go go go – all about working and all that. I want people to appreciate everything that life is. There isn’t a patented design I am looking for; buying into the brand is buying into the lifestyle.”
His past and current lines carry breezy messages such as “Slow Down & Take a Look Around,” “Get Irie,” and “Easy Sailing,” and are branded with SJA logos and graphics particular to the typical street and skate aesthetic which embrace a carefree-living vibe. The broad appeal of his designs has caught the eye of a few popular streetwear labels in the United States.
Although he humbly prefers to keep a lid on those international connections for now, he is eager to gain more of a presence in his hometown.
“Of course, I would rather be big in L.A., but I want to have local support,” he said, emphasizing that hometown pride is most important to him.
“You’ll never be ‘big’ in Winnipeg, but you can’t get stuck in a bubble.”
Salfert is pursuing a more lucrative market, but like many local artists, he is appreciative of the strength one can derive from Winnipeg’s supportive community, and is currently working at getting his brand into more local shops. He currently has merchandise available at Local Shop Awesome in Osborne Village.
This September, he is launching his new line, which will branch beyond t-shirts to include toques and classic crewneck sweatshirts. Future lines will see jean jackets and various other types of clothing he hopes will appeal to a broader audience.
“It would be great to keep going with this,” he said.
Considering his accomplishments thus far, Kristofer may be doing all right. It seems the easy life is working out for him just fine.
Published in Volume 65, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 2, 2010)