When you think of graphic T-shirt companies, what comes to mind? BustedTees? How about Snorg Tees? Maybe Johnny Cupcakes? Or even Karmaloop? Well, it’s time for them to step aside, because there’s a new kid on the block — or company I should say. Boston based Mer+ge, founded by former NCAA basketball player and bio/premed major Victoria Jones, helps break the monotony that seems to have accumulated within the graphic t-shirt industry. By doing the unconventional Mer+ge has begun to make quite a name for itself.
Our goal at Mer+ge is simple… we provide clothing that stands for something. Our original designs and graphics promote self-expression and unity and strive to eliminate arbitrary separations among social groups. Mer+ge designs use political, social, and biological messages to merge science with art and demonstrate that gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, etc. are things that do not necessarily define us, but are rather just one part of who we are. More than a business, Mer+ge is dedicated to freedom of self-expression and unity. So now it’s your turn to make the Mer+ge.
Recently, Jetcomx’s head writer was lucky enough to sit down and chat with the budding entrepreneur/renaissance woman.
Andrew Boni: Thanks for taking the time to sit down and chat with us. Go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself.
Victoria Jones: I’m originally from Texas… yeeehawww but I feel like my lifestyle fits a little better in Boston. Don’t get me wrong, I love Texas but I love the diversity here. I just graduated from Boston College on May 18th! I just finished up my last season on the Women’s Basketball team at BC and I got my degree in bio premed and am now working on my graduate degree at BC.
I’m a pretty crazy kiddo. At least that’s what my friends tell me but I just like to think I’m ME… It’s kind of hard to be anyone else. I like to have a good time and laugh. Watching people fall down is one of the most entertaining things on the planet as long as the person isn’t hurt. My blog is a testament to that. I’m also a dedicated focused person who knows what I want out of life and I’m not afraid to go get it. I’ve done and seen some pretty interesting things so far in my life and I can’t wait to do more.
AB: Give us a some insight into how Mer+ge came to be.
VJ: Mer+ge is a clothing line I launched about 9 months ago but ideology wise about a year and a half ago. One day I was sitting in my plant molecular cell biology class and the idea just kind of hit me. I thought, “This stuff is pretty cool looking, kind of artsy.” I started sketching in my notebook and before I knew it I had more sketches than notes in the majority of my classes. After that I just had a vision and worked my way into making it a reality. To be honest, I probably should have been a studio arts major but I’m thankful I choose bio or I may have never started my company.
AB: What are some things that have influenced, shaped, and inspired Mer+ge’s style of clothing?
VJ: I think my life to date has really influenced Mer+ge. I’ve always been that person that never understood why clothing had to be so constrictive. Why were shirts made for men or women? I wanted to start a company that made apparel for human beings. I’ve purchased a lot of shirts that come from the men’s section and I’m sure everyone has seen some piece of clothing in the opposite sex’s section and thought “I wish they had that in my section.” As you’ll see by checking out our graphic tees, I HATE labels. Also, my biology classes have really influenced me as well. I mean biologically we are all the same and that is what Mer+ge is all about! Coming together despite our differences. But I think like most artists I am inspired by just about everything. I make sure that I always have my idea book with me so I can jot down anything I find interesting.
AB: Who are your biggest inspirations?
VJ: I know this sounds so corny and this is the typical answer you probably hear from most people but I’m going to have to go with…. Kermit the Frog… ;) no only kidding but in all honesty it is my parents. My dad is an artist and graphic designer and one of the most talented people I have ever met. This man can create, build, or fix just about anything. My mom is my biggest supporter in anything and everything that I do she is always right there to cheer me on or pick me up when things aren’t perfect. Her love is unwavering and without her who knows where I’d be right now.
Also I’m really inspired by music and my favorite band is Bloc Party. If you [Bloc Party] happen to read this just know that I think yall would look pretty good in our t-shirts! I actually have a video on the blog from a concert with Kele checking out one of the shirts. Good stuff, take a peek!
Last but most definitely not least I would have to say Ellen [Degeneres]. I love what she is doing and does for others and how she is truly the definition of what it means to “be yourself.” One of my big dreams is to be on her show one day and take her up on some dance moves… I mean I must say I am pretty well known for my dancing skills around BC!
AB: What’s a major roadblock that you’ve ran into thus far with Mer+ge?
VJ: Right now my biggest obstacle is probably marketing, I’m really trying to get the name out there. It’s hard because there are a lot of brands and companies but Mer+ge is something new, fresh, and different. I know that people can really benefit from what we are doing. In the beginning my biggest roadblock was all of the legal issues I had to work my way through (trademarking, copyrighting etc.) but now that I have all that stuff worked out I can focus on the fun stuff and working on marketing.
AB: What’s your favorite piece in the collection?
VJ: My favorite piece is going to have to be AIDS revolution. This shirt is one that I really feel represents what Mer+ge is all about and the direction we hope to move in with all of our apparel in the future. We are donating a portion from each shirt sold to an organization that is working to educate people about HIV/AIDS. The meaning behind the shirt is pretty neat, I suggest everyone check it out. I’m going to predict that the winner of the 7th grade Excel Academy t-shirt design contest will also produce one of my favorite T-shirts as well. Although the winning design has not been chosen yet I know the 7th graders will surpass my expectations and create an amazing shirt that will be added to the Mer+ge collection
AB: Johnny Cupcakes is a big force to contend with in Boston. What’s your take on him, his style, his ideology, and his clothes?
VJ: I think Johnny Cupcakes is definitely a force to reckon with. There is no doubt he is a leader in the T-shirt industry and he continues to prove that. His company has strategically mapped out an amazing way to turn buying a t-shirt into an experience something that Mer+ge is looking to do as well. His marketing is great and I admire what he has done and is doing with his company. Although I like his clothing very much I feel that this is where we differ in terms of content. Our graphic t-shirts look to educate and have more meaningful messages while still having great graphic designs and amazing colors.
AB: What are some of the things that you do at Mer+ge to separate yourself from the other graphic t-shirt companies out there?
VJ: At Mer+ge we like to keep our customers coming back for more. We want to spark conversations through our shirts. Each shirt comes with a collectible card that explains what each shirt means. We do this in order to make sure the customer never forgets what that shirt is about and if someone else wanted to know they could have the ability to explain it. We also look to make all of our shirts unisex because clothes are for human beings. To label them for men or for women seems to put a constrictive box on what society expects people to wear. We also like to include a surprise in each one of our packages. Something that you may not expect or something that may take you back to your childhood. If you have ever ordered a shirt from us you may know what I am talking about. If you haven’t then after you order yours you’ll see what I mean.
AB: Where do you see yourself/Mer+ge in 3 years?
VJ: In 3 years I see Mer+ge carrying not only graphic T-shirts and hoodies but also bags, vests, socks, shoes, hats and lots of other cool gear. We also see ourselves in boutiques and other stores as well as potentially opening a shop of our own. In 3 years all of our shirts will have an organization we are working with that has a similar meaning and we will donate a portion of all sales from that shirt to that specific organization similar to what we are doing with our AIDS Revolution shirt now.
AB: Anything else that you’d want to mention/get out to the public?
VJ: Well first off I want thank Jetcomx for the opportunity to share Mer+ge with you all! I also just want to mention this company is not about me. This company is about all of us… this company is about humanity and creating an understanding that in reality we are all the same and in order to create a better world we have to come together. By merging art with science we hope to demonstrate that gender, race, religion etc. do not necessarily define us but are rather just one part of who we are. So I encourage all you to make the merge and unite!
Check out some official Mer+ge apparel here