In February I returned to the third annual Desert & Denim event, “a raucous trade show in the desert” that’s open to the public for the first time. It was here that I encountered Cody Montgomery and Sarah Harris, owners of TOTALLY BLOWN — a conceptual clothing line that uses shotguns to distress products. The idea came to Cody one fateful day after discovering that a mouse chewed holes in his T-shirt. What was once a plain, boring shirt suddenly became his new favorite piece. He eventually realized he could achieve the same effect using a shotgun instead of mice, and the rest is history.This is definitely a labor of love, as every piece is handmade, sourced and produced in the US. Much of the production process takes place locally in Joshua Tree with the help of friends and neighbors.
Last year, Cody and Sarah took us newbies out to the desert to shotgun some tees of our own, and it was a total blast! (Couldn’t resist an easy pun.)
I was admittedly a desert novice, but hanging with these two for even an hour was like a crash course in desert life. In the short amount of time I’ve spent with them I learned how to use a shotgun, had my tarot cards read, sky gazed from their outdoor bed, talked aliens and of course, tried on all the clothes. Here, Cody lets us in on everything from their creative vision to what’s currently on his playlist.
Can you tell me about your backgrounds prior to starting TOTALLY BLOWN?
I have a photography and textiles background, and Sarah has a degree in fashion design.
I’m guessing your creative process might look slightly different from other fashion designers. Can you walk me through your typical process, beginning from the inspiration to a finished product?
It usually starts with a textile that we think would either dye or shoot nicely. We play around a lot in the studio coming up with different designs and patterns, finalize the look, dye the garment, and then take it out to the range to blast at it with the shotgun. Then everything is washed, tagged, and possibly repaired if necessary.
Had either of you ever shot a gun before this?
I had a shotgun in the Danger Shack where I was living before the mouse chewed up my t-shirt and inspired the idea to recreate that effect using a shotgun. I’ve never been a big gun person, I just loved the effect. Later I got a lot more into the concept behind guns, the topics it brought up and the message we were spreading using that technique.
Guns are obviously a controversial topic. What’s your response to those who might take offense or not “get” why you choose to use them for the sake of fashion?
Guns can certainly be a sensitive subject. We tend to focus our message on transforming the gun from a killing machine into a creative tool and also on encouraging people to see all challenging topics, such as guns, from multiple perspectives. There are good and bad things about just about everything. What we want to do is encourage people to think critically about the subject and not just have an instantaneous emotional response that closes them off from greater understanding.
Another key factor in the design of the clothing is creating objects that reflect who we are. We all have strengths and weaknesses, we’re complicated and ever-evolving, just like the clothing.
What has been your proudest moment to date?
There isn’t one moment in particular that stands out, but in general the amazing feedback we get from out customers is our greatest inspiration. People often tell us how in love with our clothing they are and how it’s their favorite thing in the world…and that feels really good. Giving people something that they can use in everyday life that makes them feel empowered, attractive and one-of-a-kind.
What’s next for the brand?
Well the brand is shifting gears pretty heavily right now. Sarah is focusing on a new women’s underwear line and I’m just holding it down, looking for new opportunities for the business and coming up with new designs for 2017.
Why did you choose Joshua Tree as your backdrop? What makes it special?
Well, it is incredibly beautiful, has an authentic community of open-minded individuals, is relaxed and laid back, and is close enough to Los Angeles to access the markets and materials necessary to have a successful clothing brand.
We focus our message on transforming the gun from a killing machine into a creative tool.
Currently on my playlist:
“It’s So Easy” by Ted Lucas
The last book I read:
I’m currently reading The Kybalion, which is an ancient Hermetic text that is the foundation of philosophical understanding for alchemy.
My best travel souvenir:
Probably one of the Rainbow Hmong blankets I bought in Vietnam.
The best trip I ever took:
Spent a few months between Peru and Bolivia. Both are incredibly gorgeous and rich in history.