An interview by Connor Rafferty
Season Magazine sat down with Think Cool founder Joey Krengel, who started the clothing line when she was a high school senior in Chicago. She has continued to create designs during her time at IU, constantly working on designs or searching for inspiration. An easy brand identifier is the logo, a bizarre face based on a drawing Krengel saw in high school.
Responses have been shortened for brevity and clarity.
Season: What first got you into fashion—in particular designing it?
Krengel: I kind of hated that everybody always wore the same thing. I liked to wear my brother’s clothes since forever. I would just cut up my own clothes. I ruined a lot of clothes before I made anything cool. I liked to go to a thrift store and make my own things.
Season: According to an Envision Magazine article on the Think Cool website, one of the things you love is helping others express themselves through fashion. What do you think is being expressed through your specific apparel?
Krengel: A lot of girls are forced to look a certain way, or go out wearing certain things, stuff like that. It’s like, why are guys allowed to go out in jerseys and look like trash, but girls can’t even go out in a T shirt? I wanted to make something cool that girls would want to go out in. I make things for guys and girls, which is the big thing about it, that anyone can wear it. You can still look cool and different from everyone else.
Season: Are there any fashion trends that you feel are unique to Bloomington?
Krengel: A lot of people like to wear their sorority’s or fraternity’s stuff or the Kilroys shirts and stuff like that. I don’t have a problem like that, I just think it’s kind of unoriginal. There are some very creative people that go here, and I feel like we kind of just set the bar kind of low with what we put out there sometimes. Like, all the sororities and fraternities and Kilroys, they’re all the same thing. They just find a different logo and change it. I feel like we could do so much better. We totally could come up with our own things that are cool. I don’t know if they don’t want to push themselves or they don’t think it’s going to sell. Because that’s a big thing, too, is what they like here.
Season: There are some weird pieces of clothing in the Think Cool catalogue, “the face” in particular. What do you think “the face” expresses?
Krengel: It’s kind of bold…it gives no fucks, just does whatever they want. They don’t care, it doesn’t matter what everyone thinks.
I have a pretty high respect for people and genuine social skills and would never be rude to someone for no reason, but I’m going to do, act and dress however I want, and I don’t care what anyone thinks about it. That’s the message that I kind of want to portray.
Season: What would you say are the keys to building that level of brand awareness?
Krengel: I think the key is literally like, social media. But more importantly the connections that you make personally. I’m not that crazy about social media, I think it’s important, but the most impact I have on a person is when I actually talk to them. When they actually know me and understand what I’m going for. Once they do know that, they love it. That’s also pretty cool, too. It keeps me from stopping. It keeps me going.
Season: I read from the Envision Magazine article that you were inspired more by streetwear and alternative fashion trends. Are there any specific designers or brands that you admire?
Krengel: Yeah, a lot. There’s Adidas and Nike and all those sports brands, stuff like that. Gucci’s dope, and so expensive and I can’t afford anything, but I feel like Gucci and all those top brands really push that line, like what’s fashionable. Like Gucci flip flops, what are those? Why are those so much nicer than the regular ones? If someone shows up in regular slides they’re going to be like “What the fuck are you doing?” but if they show up in Gucci flip flops it’s like “Okay, it’s fine, like they paid $200 for those” kind of thing, you know? Which is kind of weird. I really like Dickies, they’re not like a streetwear brand.
Season: Are there any big brands that you feel have a strict artistic ethic that they adhere to?
Krengel: Supreme, almost everything they make is “rare.” That’s why the value is so high, because there’s only X amount and their crowd is so big, everybody wants it, so they’ll pay a lot of money for it. I think they do a really good job. Also, the brand Mishka. They inspire me a lot. They’re a Russian street brand that’s based in New York. They’re just wacky and wild. They’ve kind of adjusted to the times but at the same time haven’t changed at all. I really don’t know how they do it, I think it’s the people that wear it, the celebrities that wear it, how people hear about it, you know? I think Bathing Ape is pretty cool. I had only seen the guy stuff they had made, but when I was in California last summer in a women’s streetwear store, which I didn’t know existed, and they had these ladies’ bape hoodies that were so cool.
Season: What’s your single favorite piece you’ve ever made?
Krengel: I have this jacket that is like a varsity jacket, there’s three stripes here and the collar has three different stripes and the bottom has three stripes and it’s buttoned. It’s blue and swishy material. It just looks so legit, it pops, it’s in white. I always get compliments on it, people always try to buy it off me, and I’m like “okay, $400.” Until somebody offers me that $400 for it, I’m going to keep it.
Season: What advice would you give to those starting their own clothing line?
Krengel: Just do it, just start. Show your friends, and if your friends like it, they’ll probably want it. And if they want it for free, give them the ones you messed up if they don’t want to pay for it. Because your friends should want to pay for it. Definitely just try and use your friends around you.
Season: How can we at SEASON and our readers connect with you and support your craft?
Krengel: You can connect with me on Instagram (@think.cool). You can DM me. I have a website also (https://www.thinkcoolchicago.com/), you can contact me on there. I love to do custom pieces for people too. That’s kind of why I got into it, because I want people to have different things. So if you come to me, I can make you something cool.