It’s unlikely that you’ve been to your share of music festivals and not heard kids talking about the festi business they plan to start. In fact, there’s probably a one in three chance that you’re one of them. No shame in that game. In fact, every brand on this list likely started with that same origin story, but here’s a little respect to the folks that actually got off the inflatable couch and fucking did something about it!
Now you may assume that the fact I’m an owner at Kritter Klips and Liquid Dreams would mean that our brands have a pretty secure spot at the top of the list, however, I may be a little biased towards how cool our own companies are, so we’re gonna go ahead and sit this one out. Now, with no further ado.
- Laser Guided Visions
When many folks at festivals think of holograms they think of the brand, Laser Guided Visions, but more often they think of the man, the legend, the lavender enthusiast, larger than life, Raja Hologram himself.
Have you ever just been walking along minding your own business at a festival and suddenly you hear “Come, come!” and you sense that for whatever reason this harsh intrusion is directed at you, so you turn your head in the corresponding direction to see a large, sparkling white guy, staring right through your comfort zone with his beady little eyes and again, “Come, come!” so you think “fuck it! He said he’ll spray me with lavender and give me free shit.” So you walk to him, and then you’re sprayed down with lavender water and sent to the back of the booth to cool off and hopefully fall in love with some art. Well... you just had a Raja experience!
Once in his booth, however, you quickly realize that some amazing shit is going down here. World-class visionary art is being displayed in a way that you’ve may not have ever seen before. It’s all holographic, and as you walk past the images, they change into entirely different art pieces (in case you didn’t know how holograms work).
Fact is, Laser Guided Visions has been on the scene for a lot longer than I have and is a true force to be recon. As a vendor, if you’ve ever had the opportunity to be Raja’s next-door neighbor, well, let's hope that you’re not the quiet sensitive type, or you may live in his shadow for the weekend, but I for one love setting up next to him and enjoy every minute of physically wrestling (he’s thic) for who gets to put their art on the shared corner of the booth.
Good chance you're like me and already have a dozen holograms from LGV on your walls, but if by some off-chance your walls are sad and your clothes un-lavender scented, then beeline it over to their booth at a festival near you, or if you're antisocial checkout - https://laserguidedvisions.com/
- Noralina Freedom Designs (a family business)
Run by a power couple that seems to do the impossible, Noralina Freedom is nothing short of impressive. Long fortified in the dust of the Playa, Noralina Robinson herself, the founder and designer behind the brand and long-time partner and master of festival logistics, Felix Mentzel, recently had a baby. So naturally, you may assume that they have slowed down a bit on the festival vending, right? Wrong, you idiot!
The truth is, long before the birth of their beautiful daughter, these two pushed harder than most festival vendors would ever even consider (including myself), and somehow they seemed to always do it with grace and style (excluding Felix’s behavior past 2am) while continuing to show up with new and exciting designs that kept their devoted fan base (mostly women) arriving in force. But now they somehow pull it off while doing an amazing job raising a child!
The collection is driven by a belief that women's fashion (and some men’s) can be both sexy and comfortable while using eye-catching, up-cycled and surplus fabric. This brand definitely makes my Good Shit List!
If you haven’t had a chance to explore Noralina Freedom’s collection, take a moment to stop by and say hi to this festival family or visit them online at- -https://www.noralinafreedom.com/
- Third Eye Pinecones
Enough said. Moving on.
Just playing, but seriously… if you're not familiar with this heavy-hitting brand, then your name is Isaiah, and you have recently broken free of your Amish community. That is the only plausible answer, end of story, moving on.
Is having a sliced pinecone around your neck just a way to let other kids in the grocery store know that you also go to festivals? Probably. Let's just focus on the brand before I start a rant about young folk needing to prove that they're interesting.
With their fearless leader and founder of TEP, Carl Weiseth at the helm, the Pinecone Crew didn’t achieve this level of notoriety by accident. Years of late-night dance parties, warm-hearted salespeople (cool kids) and crew managers that take charge have put this brand in a league of their own (I hate to admit).
If you haven’t danced your ass off at the Pinecones Booth by now, then you haven’t really experienced a festival to the fullest. But beyond the good times and ass shaking lies a truly impressive product with a strong ethos behind it. Every TEP pendant is made from a slice of the world's densest pinecone and then commonly inlaid with beautiful stones or other natural materials and finally resin-coated to give a beautiful, shining, protective finish. To feel even better about your purchase, the company commits to planting a tree with each pendant sold, so that’s good.
You’ve probably been to the Third Eye Pinecones booth more times than you can remember, but maybe you haven’t seen their very impressive website yet. Have a look! https://thirdeyepinecones.com/
- Warrior Within Designs
Based out of the San Francisco Bay, and over ten years deep in the mother fucking game, we have here another power couple carving their way. Founded by Jen and Grant Patten, who I really don’t know shit about, but they seem super lovable, and now with an additional partner, Casey Sol, who seems to be the tour-de-force leading the festival sales, Warrior Within is a true champion of the arena.
So what’s so special about this brand? For starters, they seem to me to have been at the forefront of women’s full-body, onesie, flare-leg, hooded body suite craze. And that's saying a lot! (you see what I did there?) I’m no festival historian, but they may have even been the first to really produce and distribute this style in a big way (let the arguments begin). Next is the way that this company is run. All their clothing is made right at home in SF with love and care while teaming up with other local legends like Jammin Inc with the tie-dye skills and Boulder superstar, Andriod Jones, who does some kind of art stuff I believe. They even do licensed Grateful Dead prints for all you little Jer Bears out there!
I can’t get too personal about this company, because I’ve really never dropped acid and gone out dancing with the owners or anything, but I read the “about us” on their website stating, “These creations begin as lucid dreams and carefully manifest themselves into physical form.” And I, for one, find it pretty impressive that these dream warriors, once having achieved the lucid state, go on to develop their fall line instead of succumbing to the temptation to fly around while having sex with everything like normal people. So that’s something.
Getting back on track here. This is an undeniably strong brand that truly shows up and does the damn thing while setting a good example in the process. Ladies and gentlemen (yes they do have guy’s stuff), go play dress-up at their booth next festival or visit them online at https://warriorwithindesigns.com/
- Umba Love
What’s not to love about Umba!
The sister team of Lonna Bartkowiak and Leesah Nobel, keep this pirate ship afloat and are exactly what you want in a fearless, renegade, woman-operated business! With no lack of passion, these two, along with an always amazing crew of strong-willed humans, keep it real as fuck on the daily. Umba, meaning sisters in Balinese, sparks the dialogue on where this all began. Once upon a time in Bali, two sisters decided to import some cool shit and to make their own brand of clothing.
Their own line of clothing turned out to be a hit and mostly consists of flowy, sexy, women’s dance and playwear, but what makes them different than all of the other brands here today is that they still have their outlaw, trader passion and carry many other brands and oddities at their booth, and they even have a brick and mortar store in the heart of Boulder, CO.
Because this Umba Love business doesn’t shy away from the bold and the extroverted, it has become an unofficial meetup spot for the vendor family who have long since drunk the Koolaid and have no fear of what waits in the untold night, past the old graves of forgotten dance moves and into the colored lights that burn with a fever that never leaves the body, not when one wakes or after the wheel of Samsara loosens from its bone-white axel and throws the immortal souls back into the moonglow of the dancing chaos, and all is remembered before the sun rises, and again forgotten as our legs give way to the day. So yes. It’s an impressive booth. You should check it out!
Or if you’re now terrified to venture in person to the place where starlight melts the moon's heart, check out their website! https://www.umbalove.com/
- El Gato Montes
Once upon a time, Santiago Fileta, the founder of this high-end leather brand, rode his bicycle deep into the hills of Guatemala and into the Mountain jungles above Antigua, where he met his maestro (that’s Spanish for teacher, read a fucking book) and so many “homies” to help him along on his path to greatness. But at what cost? Well, if you can in fact read, it says plain as day in the king’s fucking English, in large letters above his booth, on a sign of his own devising, “Really Expensive Shit”. That’s your answer. This booth isn’t cheap, are you?
Well, maybe you’re not a cheap hoe by nature, but that doesn’t imply that you would necessarily choose to spend $500 on a pair of bejeweled boots or $600 on a fancy holster. Luckily for Santiago, someone who actually finished college (unlike him), or a person that just found out how to be successful (selling ketamine) will walk in right behind you to swoop those high-priced leather boots!
So let’s cut the bullshit. Are these items worth what this man (he is quite rugged) charges? Unfortunately, for all you trimmers that literally can’t walk away unless it’s destroying your financial future, yes. The answer is yes.
He designed every boot and bag in the booth and won’t bargain or bow to beggars, and it’s all hand made by mature men, not machines, and with his signature symbol of style and status being stones sewn seamlessly into the structure and standing strong and stoic, so you may too son. Words. I like the way I look when I wear his stuff. Done.
So if you’re the type that seeks the best in life, you should probably stop by his booth, and if you don’t have much money or really never plan to drop a paycheck on boots, you should go try everything on anyways. He loves that! But really, his prices are pretty fair for what you’re getting, and you can always go explore the web store to see what’s really going on. www.elgatomontes.com
- Freeborn Designs
Upon first meeting James Freeborn, you may think that he’s mild-mannered and would be more at home in an office selling medical equipment rather than at an Electronic Music Festival, but as you get to talking to him more, well, you’ll still probably think that. However, maybe that’s exactly the difference one could hope from a man that sells something you also wouldn’t naturally expect to find at such an event. Freeborn’s designs consist of high quality, predominantly men’s bespoke suits, vests, and blazers with a festive and funky twist.
From the moment you walk up to this impressive booth, you will notice something quite timeless about the ambiance. Set to warm wood, soft lights and earth tones, you will most likely enter through crimson and brass stanchions, as you would see at a classic theatre. Next, you’ll notice a large, old fashion, standup vanity mirror that looks like it was pulled out of the roaring ’20s. It’s upscale. Too classy to have a sign saying “very expensive shit” above it, but you guessed right if you assumed that these are not “cheap” garments. That being said, while not exactly “easy” on the wallet, the items sold here are actually quite reasonable for the class such cuts naturally fall into.
But why high-end suites at a festival? Well, it’s just my educated guess, but all this shit has been going down for quite some time now and that being said, not every “dude” running around at the show is a dirty little lot-crusty, seeking out the next heady pin trade and hoping that coming up on a jacket this weekend means it’s free on the ground and has drugs in the pocket. As I sit here in my dark bedroom at my little work desk, naked as the day I was born in the late hours of what has now become Thursday, I reflect upon my own journey and realize… I’m that man. I’m the one whose style has evolved and no longer wishes to throw on a flatbill full of pins to run off into the night. I’m not even hating (he says to save face, picturing a zombie-like swarm of wooks closing in on him while sweat runs down into his quivering eyes and in a desperate act of self-preservation screams out into the jewel cloud “I’ve loved The Dead since high school!”).
Anyways, It’s stylish stuff, and although Mr. Freeborn has not been on the ground for a great many years, his brand has made a chubby-kid-at-the-swimming-pool-with-only-one-impressive- athletic-feat-to-share-with-the-world, sized splash on the scene. Currently, many grooms to be, musical headliners and all-around dapper men have taken a liking to this clothing line, so just go check it out, unless your crusty, then just fuck right off. You can check out his website, https://wearefreeborn.com/ but you’re not welcome in the booth. He’s probably too polite to say it but, I will. Sorry.
- The Fairies Pyjamas
So FPJ’s was originally started by founder and boss babe (and roller derby competitor “Scary Fairy”), Michelle Lynn Johnson, who actually has a degree (unlike most of us), but as life goes, she partnered up along the way and so introduced Bryan Smart, master festival builder and all around problem solver to the biz. Together they have kept this Middle Earth eco brand growing for years now and show no signs of letting up.
So the first question many people ask about this clothing line, “ Are they like… sleeping clothes or onesies or something?” The short answer is no. Although many of their items would probably be much more comfortable to fall asleep in than all your other festival gear, they are in no way a PJ’s company. What they are is sustainable, festive, flowy, dancy, elf-inspired (without being obnoxious) line of wearables with a focus on functionality and layering. While FPJ’s was born as a line designed mostly for women, they have continued to grow their men’s department into something quite impressive, along with maintaining a strong presence in the holster and utility belt scene.
How’s their booth game? Strong! Did I mention they’re from Canada? You betcha! Bryan comes from an extensive background in the Canadian tundra (I think that’s what they live in) as a builder, welder, sculptor, and general tradesmen. Thanks to that working history, you can often find things like an entire raised hardwood (looking) floor in their booth, along with Michelle's keen aesthetic and of course, because they’re Canadian, a warm, polite and slightly awkward (how I describe all things Canadian) greeting when you arrive. After your kind reception, however, you take note of the brand. It’s actually extremely cohesive in its cuts, color pallet, and materials, yet despite its name and Tinkerbell influences, it’s actually a quite solid look for those like myself, who are not forged on the ren fair circuit and have no alter persona in the D&D realms (not hating, seriously, I’m already going to be crucified for the shit-talking on Canadians) but it’s actually a quite flattering and functional brand that every female-identifying (I’m watching my back) crewmember on my team owns multiple outfits of. I myself, for all my maturity and self-proclaimed sophistication, own and love several of their items.
So there you have it. Clothing that is faerie inspired, not really pajamas and is definitely worth your time to go check out. And while they do make it out to many shows all over North America, you can always check out the full collection online at https://thefairiespyjamas.com/
One last rip on Canadians since I’m already in trouble.
Q. How do you get a Canadian guy to tell you he’s sorry?
A. You punch him right in the face.
- Grass Roots California “it’s a movement”
Fist of all, I forgot when naming a business that you could just say “it’s a movement” and boom! You just created a fucking movement. Second, I thought when you name your business after the state you created it in and even include the word “ROOTS” in there, maybe you stay in your god damned state for a while! Well, founder and CEO (you include the title for these big dick companies) Ruga Connelly had other plans and quite frankly when you kill the game as hard as this brand has you kinda get to make your own rules.
So whats GRC all about? Smoking weed mother fucker! And hats. They also make cool hats. But fuck do these guys smoke tough and sing it from the rooftops! Personal story; The first time I met this crew was in Denver at a festival in winter called Snow Ball, and before the gates opened they offered me some dabs. I then got so uncomfortably high that I had to go sit in my van for like 30 minutes (bitch made) before I could hold my shit together and face the public.
Alright, storytimes over, let’s get down to business. Why are they so successful? The simple answer is that they make some really dope hats and team up with some of the largest artists and festivals in the world to create custom pieces that represent both brands amazingly. These dome pieces are adored by many walks of life, from clean-cut college kids to rasta singers, to filthy wooks that barely deserve mention, if not for the fact that they own a serious market share of the worlds GRC hats.
While they seem to have cut back a bit in recent years on making it out to all the festivals, they still do make it to a handful of the best ones, and while I haven’t seen Ruga himself running the booth personally, (not saying he never does, I just haven’t noticed it) this powerful brand definitely has created “a movement” in the festival world and deserves to hold rank on this list for sure.
Now go check out their booth if you’re at a big show (try Electric Forest), and try on some hats or other stuff. They do have other stuff. Clothing stuff. Or shop around on their very impressive website https://www.grassrootscalifornia.com/ Good talk.
- Anahata Designs and Infiniti Now
Apparently, couples like to make and run fashion businesses together. I don’t know. I can say that as a guy with a female business partner (this actually means just professionally you Bay Area poly people) it can be nice to have a balance of masculine and feminine energies in the office. Just joking! None of these brands have offices. Well, maybe that’s not true of everyone on the list but you can bet your ass that we’ve all set up some pretty fun mobile command centers. Let’s get back on track here.
First of all, are these two brands or one brand or two brands that became one brand or three brands pretending to be two brands or one brand with a multiple personality disorder? I can answer this question. A boy named Sven Waldhoer started Anahata and then met a girl named Tammi Wright who started Infinity Now and they kissed really hard and somewhere along the way they rubbed their two brands together like a couple of Barbie Dolls and now you have this love child.
So now that we have a comprehensive understanding of how these two entities became one, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Anahata is focused mainly on extremely detail-oriented, bespoke leatherwear, while Infinity Now represents more of the sustainable textile end of the business. But in all truth, I can hardly tell where one ends and the other begins, and that’s not a bad thing. The reason being, many of their clothing items are constructed of mostly textiles, like cotton or twill, but then have beautiful leather accents all throughout. Every piece they make is so ornate and fine-detailed, that it puts normal clothing to shame. Something else that makes this brand stand out after more than ten years in the game, is that they truly have almost everything you could want for both men and women. That being said, I fucking want every single fucking thing they make! I want to start crossdressing just so I could wear the women’s line too. I don’t want to fanboy out too hard here, but every single thing they do is perfect. I hate them. I hate them so much right now.
Anyways. Their booth is amazing, their stuff is amazing, their website is amazing and if you enjoyed this article please consider shopping on their website https://www.anahatadesigns.ca/ and purchasing something to send to me. I’m generally a shmedium with a 30” waist and an ass that won’t quit.
So the number ten just seems like the kinda thing you do when making a list, but that hardly means that only ten brands deserve to be classified as Most Influential in the festival scene. Here are some of my other favorites that maybe just haven’t been around as long, or don’t tend to travel as far and wide, or maybe just parked their stupid fucking RV in my backspace at LIB 2017, and I don’t know how to communicate my feeling effectively. It’s not an exact science.
“Sometimes science is more art than science, Morty. Lot of people don't get that.”
Laser Trees; Here’s a California brand that was started in the garage of two guys named Marc (with a C dammit!) Krell and Shawn Kessler, which brings the laser cutting game into new territory. Known for their attention to detail, original designs and gemstone inlays, these gentlemen have been producing world-class wall art, pendants, and other fun household items for over three years now and don’t show any sign of slowing down. They mostly vend in California but check out their website https://lasertrees.com
Buddhuful; This is a strong and well-seasoned company based out of Seattle that offers high-end, handmade fashion that feels like a blend of future yoga and sexy biker. I’m not the best at labeling styles (obviously), but we can’t speak of the brand without talking about the owner. His name is Mike Maffei and he’s the kind of guy you would hope to find behind an artistic label like this one. You will often find this chiseled, playa surfer looking man playing live music with a couple of friends outside his always impressive booth, and jamming into the evening, so go check him out (ladies, “creeper voice”) at the next festival or online at- https://buddhaful.com/
Chris Dyer’s Positive Creations; These guys have hit the scene hard. Obviously, Chris Dyer is a Juggernaut in the art world, but now with frontman, Cory Ponz, and second in command, Nathan Clough, leading the festival tour, it’s officially a powerful growing brand on the circuit. Quite honestly, if these guys hadn’t just got the machine up and running in the last couple years they would have bumped someone off the top ten list by now. Go find this colorful booth full of positive people at your nearest festival, but also spend money here ---> https://positivecreations.ca/
Conscious Convergence; Here’s a truly sustainable brand out of Guatemala, that not only uses all organic cotton but also up-cycled traditional Guatemalan textiles, with the purpose of empowering the natives of this land while community-building at the source. Founded by female powerhouse Selva Bhairavi, in 2013 this brand has now show-up full force at festivals around the world, including Europe and Central America. Go buy stuff right now! https://www.etsy.com/shop/ConsciousConvergence
I apologize to any hard-working brands that have carved out a place in this beautiful festival landscape that we've been co-creating and did not get mentioned here. I truly wish I had more time to honor every one of you magical beings in this article but for now I would recommend writing me a personal message with strong threats, confronting me face to face when I look busy at the next show or even vandalizing my work van if possible, (heads up, there’s usually people sleeping in it) but whatever approach you take to getting my attention please, make it memorable. Namaste.