A self-proclaimed denimophile, Dominic Murray was compelled to start his one-man company, Cult Of One, to share his passion with the world. I catch up with him on the phone one evening and we chat about accountability in the fashion industry, floral embroidery and about making a difference in his local community.
Q: When and why did you start Cult Of One?
DM: I started Cult of One two years ago. It was a denim brand that I needed to start literally out of an obsession. I had just had it with the industry I was working in and I felt that I had to do something that gave me more accountability.
Q: What is Cult of One exactly?
DM: Cult of One is a one-man denim brand. I work with premium denim and create accountable products that are well-made and carry a bit of the creator’s character and what is important to them, as well as the character of the final person that owns the product. This connects the creator, the product itself and the final user of the product to create a consistent line of accountability. I take these 3 elements and find a way of making it the perfect fit, tweaking it, building it, crafting it and just slowly creating it so that all 3 elements are represented in the final product.
Every product is hand-made, customized and tailored to the person that’s going to use it at the end of the day.
Q: Is Cult of One is your passion project or is it your full-time job?
DM: At the moment, it’s a passion project for me. I work in the fashion industry as a designer. I started at Hip Hop back in the day and I went to a couple of denim brands and start-up street wear brands from there. Eventually, it got to a point where my day job and all the time that I was putting into it wasn’t giving me the satisfaction I needed. I decided to do something that I’m completely responsible for, something that challenges me. I wanted to do something where what I’m doing creatively is justifying the time I’m putting into it.
Q: And where does your passion for denim come from?
DM: It was right when I started working in the denim industry, on the very first day that I got exposed to this fabric! Before that, I had never really thought about denim as something other than a blue fabric we wear on a daily basis. But then I realized that it has character. It has the ability to age and break down and get more special. It can tell the story of whoever wears it. It’s so amazing and versatile. It genuinely gets better with age and since I started working with it, it became an obsession that I can’t avoid.
Q: You also do denim repair.
DM: I do. One of the biggest things I find in the denim industry is that a lot of people buy a pair of jeans and the more you wear it the better it becomes. But then eventually it gets to a point where it breaks or tears or you get complacent with it. Once it gets replaced, the story ends there. I honestly feel that when it comes to something so great, something that changes so much with you, why replace it when you can simply repair it? To repair a pair of jeans doesn’t take a lot of work but it does give you something that is more unique. It takes something that you’ve lived with for a number of years and makes it so much better, so much more yours. So, yeah as much as I can I encourage people to repair rather than replace.
Q: And you do all the work yourself as well? All the sewing all the stitching?
DM: Also all the embroidery – everything. I believe that if you’re going to create a product, that’s your promise to your customer. If you aren’t a part of every single process then what’s the point of doing it? So, going back to the crucial message of doing everything by hand, making sure that one person is responsible for every single step in the process.
Q: Tell me about Denim For Bread.
DM: The idea behind it was to take this amazing fabric that I love and that’s so durable and try to give it back to a community. Give it back to someone who maybe can’t afford the product itself and linking them to people who are conscious of products and of doing charity.
The project itself started when I created a headrest bag. The bag itself was designed as a bag that could double as a pillow. The idea was to create these durable bags and stuff them with as many supplies as possible: basic commodities like canned food, water, toothpaste, and sanitary goods and hand it out to people that really need it. So, people on the street, and homeless people around my area.
It creates an opportunity for someone who follows my brand to buy into this idea of giving back and really do something practical about it. You don’t have to worry about who it’s going to, how it’s getting there, or what it is. People want to support those less fortunate than themselves and I’ve given them an opportunity to do so.
Q: So, people can sign up to denim for bread on your website?
DM: Yes, they can sign up directly on the site or via Patreon. Your contribution covers the cost of the commodities inside the bag and then I cover the cost of the bag itself and get it handed out. On Patreon you can do a monthly payment so every month you’re paying for a new bag and you’re able to help another person.
Q: Where do you see your brand going in the next 5 years?
DM: When I started, I needed to create something I was proud of. Over the last 2 years, it’s grown exponentially and I feel very lucky. Over the next 5 years, I’d love it to become my sole focus day in and day out. At this point, I have my day job which helps to pay the bills but it’s slowly becoming less important in my life.
Q: And then if you scale, will you employ other people but still oversee every part of the process?
DM: Very much so. Cult of One was born as an idea of a single person working to create their own product. The growth that I’d like to invest in and put time into developing is, rather than hiring someone to work for me, finding someone to share the passion that I have. I want to provide a platform where they are able to create a product under a label that is recognized but they are still responsible for it. The person who then receives this product at the end of the day will know who it came from. They’ll know the craftsmen, the process, and they’ll understand what inspired the final product that they fell in love with. It’s to give them that connection, not something that came from a random production line in some random factory.
Q: There are all these artisan makers popping up around Cape Town over the last few years. What do you think influences this and what drives these creative people to now come out and start doing their own thing?
DM: I think as soon as you start seeing inspiration around you, you start questioning whether or not you’re able to do it. Just the sheer exposure of it really helps to make you want to give it a go.
You see it, you love it, you want to try it. Yeah, I think it’s a great motivation to start trying anything.
Q: Tell me about Blom Skollie.
DM: Blomskollie was a project I designed for Magdel at Carvel Art. She is a graphic designer turned self-taught tattoo artist. Her work is largely based on floral work – blomme. She’s a fantastic Afrikaans girl. I think a lot of creatives want to be a little bit naughty, they want to have something a little feisty, and when we start playing around with that idea, Blomskollie came out. I created an apron for her to protect her clothes while she is working. It is a custom piece made out of 13-ounce Japanese denim which I then covered with this amazing selection of hand-embroidered leaves and flowers to represent her work.
Q: You have a gorgeous Instagram account and a very cool YouTube channel as well.
DM: Yes, it’s a bit neglected at this point but with the launch of this latest collection – The Lost Boy. It’s going to be updated again with some more in-depth views as to how the product is created, the story behind it, the integration. For me, The Lost Boy collection the story of how I started Cult of One and about what inspires me. There will be more content going up there very soon!
Click below to find out more about Dom and his work