Senior Daniel Flores transforms his art into flourishing clothing brand

Ella Russell

Bad-influence: noun, someone or something that encourages others to do wrong by example.

That is how defines the phrase senior Daniel Flores has been called his whole life. During his sophomore year, Flores’ math teacher told him he was “a bad influence” on other students.

“I heard her say that, and I didn't think too much about it, especially because people have called me that since I can remember. Even my friends have called me a bad influence, so I just tried to let it slide, but the name stuck with me. I thought it sounded kind of sick,” Flores said

Being labeled this way inspired Flores to use his artwork to positively influence others.

And with that, Flores’ business, Bad Infleuences, was born.

Flores spells the word influence incorrectly to emphasize his individuality and comply with trademarking regulations. Using screen printing and hand drawn sketches to embellish a variety of clothing items, Flores made a profit of over $10,000 the first year his brand launched. As of January 2021, he has a combined total profit of over $25,000. He started upcycling clothing for his own enjoyment in 2018, not knowing that he could turn this hobby into a career.

“I’ve been fascinated by art since I was really young. During vacation, I remember going to museums and seeing all the statues. I went to the Louvre in Paris, Saint Petersburg in Russia, and museums in Estonia and Finland. Seeing the different types of architecture everywhere sparked my interest. I was really intrigued by how everything was made. I specifically remember not being able to lift my eyes off the Mona Lisa or the Venus de Milo: a statue in the Louvre in Italy,” Flores said.

Flores' father, Luis, encouraged his love of art from an early age and enjoyed the pictures Flores would draw of the family when he was less than 6-years-old.

“He was really proud of his work and the accomplishments he had at that young age. Then for a short time we paid for some lessons allowing him to learn different techniques that he was interested in. Later on, he started appreciating the art work of famous artists worldwide when we visited different museums in France and Spain. He was not bored at all, and was excited to learn about them,” Flores’ father said.

Flores took to making his own art when he entered high school. Passionate about graphic design, ceramics, and photography, Flores incorporated art classes into his high school schedule. Art teacher Veronica Belf witnessed Flores’ intrinsic love of his craft and his early professionalism in the ceramics classroom.

“His ability is amazing. He's really good in both photo and ceramics, which are two completely different mediums. His attention to detail in ceramics is what makes him really good at pottery. He is already more advanced than other students and this is his first ceramic class. As the mentor of a beginner class, my students typically need guidance. However, Daniel doesn't really need much help. He has such a natural talent. I do try and motivate him to achieve a higher degree of difficulty with his work. When I push him a little bit, he pushes himself even more. He doesn’t settle for the ordinary. Daniel challenges himself until he is proud of his work. He just won't hand in a traditional assignment. He sits and he works with the clay much longer than the average student,” Belf said.

Flores’ keen eye for quality art expands beyond the highschool curriculum. Flores spends his free time watching fashion shows and contests on TV.

“He is constantly reading and following the designers of the different mainstream clothing brands. He knows about the artists who design album covers for several singers, and the signature paintings of famous street artists. All of that called his attention, and I think it nurtured his desire to create and come up with his own original work,” Flores’ father said.

Flores, captivated by everything related to fashion and design, used his newfound artistic knowledge to make better clothes than the ones he saw on the market today. He felt bored with the recent styles that hung on the racks at Pacsun and Urban Outfitters.

“They were bland and everybody else had them, and the ones with designs didn’t spark my interest. I prefer to be unique with the clothing I wear, and customizing my own clothes really allowed me to embrace my particular style. One day I started looking up the steps to designing clothes, I immediately fell in love, and from there I taught myself the basics off the internet.” Flores said.

Flores works with screen printing, embroidery, graphic design, tye dye, sketch work, photography, and various paints. Combining these techniques with clothing items, Flores generates fashion-forward streetwear; selling unisex hoodies, pants, shirts, shorts, socks, and beanies.

“I like to work with a variety of art so my brand can reflect a variety of designs. I work to keep my customers always coming back to see new drops and new ideas. My pieces vary in design but I use a lot of pencil work. I love the way pencil work looks, it’s sketchy and personal to the artist,” Flores said. “Whenever an idea comes to my mind, I sketch it out immediately when I get home. If I like how the idea looks on paper, I’ll take time perfecting the sketch.”

When ready to turn his sketches into reality, Flores takes a picture of the drawing off his phone and emails it to his computer. Flores drags the picture into photoshop where he traces over it, adjusting any imperfections. He covers a Blick screen print with light sensitive photo motion ink and places a transparency printing from FedEx overtop. Using a heat lamp, unique to this process, Flores heats up the assembled screen print. The light exposes and hardens the photo motion that is not covered by the transparent design. When dry, the ink is washed off to reveal Flores’ design. To transfer the design onto an article of clothing, the screen is layed on top of the fabric and the desired speedball screen printing ink color is squeegeed across the print.

“Once the ink is dry, I fold the product, place a sticker on top, and fix the product into its packaging with a printed out shipping label,” Flores said.

With time Flores has perfected this process. Before word of Flores’ online store buzzed through the school, senior Asha Seabron became interested in a piece of clothing Flores wore to school, one he had embellished for fun, using only fabric markers. Seabron became Flores’ first customer after she told him she wanted to buy something he designed. Flores immediately got to work on another piece.

“I ordered a plain white crew neck sweater specifically to draw on. I wanted to upgrade a white sweater so I decked it with little drawings: a dog, barbed wire, a burning building, an explosion, some lyrics, and the word ‘bad’. I gave the piece to Asha, who wears it all the time. That was the moment when my business took off, ” Flores said.

Seabron was happy to have helped Flores become a successful business owner, and, on one of the many days she wears his one-of-a-kind sweater, she either styles it with jeans to complete a streetwear look or pairs the sweater with leggings to dress it down.

“I knew Bad Infleuences was going to be a good business, so I was happy to support him, and excited to see where he was going to take his talent, and I thought it was cool that I owned his very first piece of clothing. When I'm wearing the sweater, I feel like I'm wearing his sketchbook. The designs are all original and freehand, much like stuff you would find in an artist's journal. When I first started wearing the sweater, I got a lot of compliments about it. I still do,” Seabron said.

Seabron even helped Flores create his logo before the launch of Bad Infleuences, inspiring Flores to sketch an intricate butterfly, replacing the thorax with a bullet.

“Last year, Daniel had sketched a few different renderings of the butterfly. I could tell he had his own opinion in mind, but he showed them to my friends and I who critiqued his sketches and somewhat voted on our favorite. We were all supportive of what he was doing, and we generally thought it was really cool and interesting. I’ll promote his brand by posting his new merchandise on my Instagram story, or telling people to buy his things. I want to help get the word out because it really is amazing what he is doing,” Seabron said.

Along with his friends’ support, Flores markets his work through Facebook ads, which target users based on their age, location, demographic, and profile information. Flores runs these across multiple Facebook owned medias: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and other external apps and websites.

“Facebook ads are the easiest form of marketing. If you have products that a lot of people click on, Facebook shows the ads more. A Lot of people click on my ads for some reason, and Facebook shows them to more people,” Flores said.

While Facebook has helped Flores' business take off, Flores initially funded Bad Infleuences by using the money he made working at Panera to purchase supplies. Flores recalls this as the most challenging moment of his entrepreneurial journey so far.

“Working at Panera was horrible. The managers always followed me around, and I didn’t like the work environment. Panera attracts a lot of older customers, and they got mad at me for no reason. I worked there for five months, and right off the bat I knew I did not fit in. I dreaded going to work,” Flores said. “Once I had a foundation of money to purchase supplies, I relied on my business for income. I have learned to use a pre-order technique now because that way you don't lose any money.”

Now, when a customer places an order, their merchandise is yet to be assembled, but their product is still shipped expeditiously. For example, blank shirts arrive at Flores’ house one day after an order, and he makes them the day after.

“The shirts are ready to ship out three days after the customers order,” Flores said.

Flores doesn’t just use his photography and graphic design skills to efficiently create his artistic line of clothing but to capture his customers' attention on social media. When he wants to place a new product on the market, Flores photographs his friends in his latest attire. Senior Lily Paul has been modeling for Bad Infleuences since the first merchandise drop in 2019.

“Daniel is a close friend of mine, so, when he started up his brand, I was all on board to help model. On the day of a photoshoot, we meet up to decide which pieces look good with each other and what I should bring from my own closet. We then go to a few different locations to take photos. Daniel does all of the photography and editing himself. I will help with conceptualizing and brainstorming places where we could shoot different clothing items,” Paul said.

While Paul helps Flores take his artwork into the real world, she is astonished by Flores' ability to create new designs.

“He is able to get his designs from his head onto paper, and then onto a screen print so quickly. He turns all of his visions into a reality without help from people. I'm just always so impressed,” Paul said.

Flores' vision extends to his business plans. He strives to keep 80% profit per item ordered. The remaining revenue from each order goes towards purchasing ink and materials. Flores currently works out of his bedroom, but with continuing success he soon hopes to expand his business.

“If Bad Infleuences continues to grow at the rate it is now, I could hire employees to make my products. This would allow me to create more commodities, and therefore, more profit. By the end of my high school career, I intend to have doubled my sales and expanded from making the clothes myself. I will probably need to have a special studio or warehouse. If this really works out, I hope to see myself working in fashion merchandising long term. Regardless, I definitely see myself minoring in art during college,” Flores said.

Belf has no doubt that Flores’ determination to build his business into a a much larger enterprise could become a reality soon, but she is equally impressed that, despite his profits, Flores remains humble.

“He has become lucrative in this artistic business, and despite his humility he is still becoming successful. That's what I see as so telling. I did not know anything about his business and had not seen anything that he was creating outside of school until another student informed me of his work. He doesn't come into class and brag about the brand he has created for himself. It's a whole other side of him that I had no idea about. This is my second time having him as a student, and usually I would know something like that about a kid. That's just Daniel, he's very modest,” Belf said.

Along with Flores’ modesty, his altruism is a trait his friends adore about him.

Flores longed for a way to help fund aid to Australian’s emergency as wildfires raged across its southeastern coast. Deeply moved by the danger to Australian’s diverse species, Flores began making merchandise that encouraged his customers to help Australia. He designed hoodies that did more than just spread awareness: 50% of the profit per sweatshirt was donated to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, a volunteer-based firefighting agency that responds to fires and motor accidents in New South Wales and Jervis Bay, Australia.

“Daniel helping out Australia is so noble of him. He is using his talents and his assets to help someone else, and help an entire cause. No one asked him to do that,” Seabron said.

Flores’ father grins when he thinks of how his son uses Bad Infleuences to be philanthropic. “I am really proud of him and his art work, and also how he has made his way through challenges to come up with a real, worldwide business, helping others out of his own interests and beliefs. The business he set up has made him responsible and respectful of the customer's expectations, since he has to meet the quality, delivery timing, and due dates to satisfy his customer base,” Luis said. “It has been a real life learning experience, where all of the knowledge and experiences he has had meet, creating something big and beautiful, unique and original, with no equal anywhere else.”

Students, staff, and the general public can purchase Flores’ fashion at Flores also promotes his clothing through his Instagram account, @bad_infleuences2029.

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