Vicken Donikian is someone who was born a hustler. In the 10 years that I’ve known him, I’ve seen him dedicate himself wholly and completely to amazing endeavors with a creative ferocity that you can’t help but get caught in his wake. Rather than casting his net wide, he dives deep and intentionally into projects; from years working with the Hill-side and Hickoree’s in Brooklyn to Towns & Cities, a hip-hop language learning app he created, launched, and co-writing and producing all the music for with colleague and friend Peter Muller, to stepping into his home and seeing his own larger-than-life paintings. He’s an artist and a creator who seems to never wait for permission to embrace new endeavors. He arrived in Brooklyn with this spirit and embraced it wholly during the 5 years that he lived here. I hadn’t seen Vicken since Barcelona, where we studied abroad together in 2008, and then I found myself one Sunday sitting two barstools down from him at El Born in Greenpoint. As it turned out, we’d been neighbors for two years and then there we were, sitting and sipping sangria together again, this time stateside. It was one of those weird moments of Brooklyn magic that bring people together despite its size and relative unlikeliness. It’s led us from Las Ramblas to Manhattan Avenue and finally to a bicoastal phone call where I would be introducing Good Fishing, Vicken and his best friend co-collaborator Samuel Bostick’s clothing brand.
After talking to him for over an hour, I found myself heedlessly lost in the tides of understanding what it means to start a new business, in the beauty of becoming completely and wholly enveloped in your passion project, and in trying to navigate the nuances of west coast slang (even with context clues I wasn’t hip enough to tell if ‘crackin’ was a good thing…) but despite my confusion, I gleaned the invaluable lesson from Vicken’s experience that when approaching something you don’t know, it’s best to start with what you do. With a 5 year background in merchandising and small business management at Hickoree’s in Brooklyn, Vicken has been able to plan, launch, and drive Good Fishing from ideation to creation. Despite its relatively new presence on the web, he and Sam understand what it takes to maintain and grow the brand for the past 5 years, starting with a steadfast knowledge of what they like out of clothing; it should be straightforward, simple, stylish; pieces that are useful and live longer than a season. Attractively simple is one of the brand slogans, and calls to mind the modern, unpretentious man. He’s the one you lock eyes with on the L train midday on a Wednesday because he’s beyond the 9 to 5. He’s the guy ordering another whiskey while on what you would imagine is either a business call or his mother on the other end of the line without batting an eye. He’s wearing contrasting solid colors and bold socks in such an aggressively casual way that you wonder why no one has ever done it like that before. He’s available yet unattainable but that doesn’t prevent you from getting willfully lost in a lustful daydream for the rest of your commute. Attractively simple; subtlety and tastefully dressed; unassuming yet deceptively seductive; and, perhaps, wearing Good Fishing.
Dive in below to my interview with Vicken Donikian of Good Fishing. Get inspired by this former Brooklynite’s vision of the hustle and trust me when I say there will be a little something waiting at the other end of your line. (ok, so it’s an exclusive promo code, just for you. but don’t just scroll, read.)
Brooklyn, I’m Trying When was good fishing established?
Vicken Donikian We officially launched online at the end of June, but the concept for brand started 5 years ago in 2012. Sam and I started planning it and talking about ideas for products and projects. We picked the brand name in 2012 slowly working towards what it’s become today.
BiT What is the story behind its inception?
VD The brand name is a reference to the mentality and approach to fishing. You set up and cast a line, and see what you get. We also like to use the word “fishing” metaphorically; a concept that could apply to various situations in life. That opens up opportunities for each person to also make their own meaning out of it.
BiT Describe the brand.
VD The brand itself has a simple but fun character to it along with a youthful energy. The clothing is simple and wearable, not flashy but is meant to be worn and used and enjoyed. Inspiration for our products comes from things me and same like to wear or use. We try not to take it too seriously and to keep fun references or images in our work.
BiT What’s in your current collection?
VD Currently we make tshirts, soccer jerseys, caps, tote bags, small accessories, toys, art work, and collectibles. This is the first collection but we have planned to introduce one or two new categories of products every two months until we can build up to a full line of clothing. We’ve structured the brand with a collection of basics called Good Fishing Standards that are generally mainstays for the brand that we’ll make year round. On top of that standard collection, we will release themed capsule collections based on specific concept we come up with at the time which will be limited production.
BiT Tell me a little about this first capsule collection you have launched, Marquette Records.
VD The first capsule collection we’ve done is a tribute to this obscure funk soul record label that existed in bay area lat 1960s. We stumbled across the label while i was flipping through an old magazine and saw an ad for the label. the logo popped out at me and I began to research everything I could about it. We found out that they released a few singles and then we’re not sure what happened after that. We tried to imagine what a modern merchandise collection would look like for Marquette. We made mugs, pens, stickers, hats, tshirts, and have one of their old records for sale on the site we found at a record store. We made our first capsule for our company a humble tribute to an old company from the bay area.
BiT How did your experience in Brooklyn help you with this new venture?
VD I worked at Hickoree’s and The Hill-Side for 5 years, that’s really where I picked up all of my knowledge in terms of operations that we are doing with Good Fishing. I was working and maintaining the shop and packaging orders, and from there went on to managing and buying for the store and I was on that retail side for three years. At that point I transitioned more into the wholesale side of the business, showing The Hill-Side to buyers from other stores, maintaining accounts, establishing new accounts, going trade shows, working on marketing efforts, creating lookbooks and social media content and everything involved in that too. The Hill-Side being a small company helped me gain experience in all areas of the business, which has helped a lot in thinking about how to set up Good Fishing. That’s not meant to say that we know everything because we definitely don’t, but we’re grateful to be able to reference and lean on past experiences and relationships as we set up our own business.
BiT What challenges have you faced along the way with launching Good Fishing?
VD It’s so new that everything is one big challenge, from balancing how to set everything up financially and figuring out how to run the company with what we really want to make for the brand. For now, we concentrated on presenting as broad of a collection as we can while planning for future products.
BiT Was there ever a moment when you were like, holy shit this is happening?
VD Launching our online store was a big step. While we’ve been doing events and talking about the brand over the past few months and years, having the online shop is something that you can show people what it is that we’re making and they can look at it and keep up with the brand as we continue to build it up.
BiT How are you getting the word out about Good Fishing? Where are you casting your proverbial line?
VD Because we’re not planning to have a store, we’re focusing on getting the word out through pop-up events. Since our website launched, we’ve done a handful of events: a booth at the 4th of July festival in Atwater, CA; a booth at Haus Party in Oakland, CA – which is a super fun monthly party run by some friends of ours; and a couple of our own Lemonade Sundays events. Lemonade Sundays is basically our “grown-up” version of a childhood summer lemonade stand, where we have free lemonade for everybody, specialty cocktails and exclusive products for sale, and an overall awesome party vibe with loud tunes and Unstoppable Positivity.
(Wish you could get in on lemonade sundays? Have a little taste here, with Sam and Vicken’s dope lemonade sundays playlist.)
BiT Collaboration is obviously a huge focus for Good Fishing since the brand is the brainchild of both you and Sam. How would you describe each of your strengths in creating the brand and running the business?
VD Collectively, our biggest strength is that we’ve been best friends since college. We’re so close that we end up being on the same page about almost everything we want to do. Especially when it comes to talking about creative ideas and bringing them to life, working with someone you’re so in tune with makes that process fun and it comes together easily. That’s been good for both of us. In terms of outside collaborations, we’ve worked with NYC’s Don Da Menace and (ft$) to shoot our first lookbook “Parks and Recreation” and San Diego artist Keenan Hartsten to curate one of our products, the tackle box planter.
BiT The site and products look great. Finally, I have to ask this… what do you miss about living in Brooklyn?
VD Brooklyn has a different energy and pace that you can’t replicate or find anywhere else, and that’s just something you’ll always miss, but we’re both super happy to be back in our hometowns in California and to grow Good Fishing here.
Good Fishing as a brand somehow combines an influence of Sam and Vicken’s time on both coasts while transcending geographical boundaries into a collection and mood that is wearable, attractive, and contagious. Their approach to this venture has not been unlike a good day of fishing; take inventory of your supplies, your knowledge, your desire. Choose your spot wisely, a place you know and a market you are confident will be responsive. Cast your line in the best way you know how and with a little bit of luck, patience, and determination, see what you reel in.
It was no surprise to me to learn that while sam and vicken are kicking ass at launching their website and brand, they are already looking forward to their next mission. while i’m not at liberty to divulge the details, let’s just say it’s a distinctly liquid investment that will be smokey and risky and would go best with in a glass with one big rock and a fishing pole in the other.
Check out Good Fishing’s full collection here. use promo code “GOODFISHINGINBK” for an exclusive 20% off deal for Brooklyn, I’m Trying users, good from 8/30 to 9/6. Post pics in your Good Fishing gear using the hashtag #GoodFishinginBK and keep following @goodfishing_ to see how this ambitious brand continues to grow.