Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Out of the Box: DorkiDori Clothing with Lenn Franz

DorkiDori clothing has been some of the most interesting designed clothing I've seen in a long time. When I started looking for car oriented clothing I could never find anything that sparked my interest. Following Zilvia I started noticing the name float around. Looking into what was on the home site, my mind was blown. Everything was full of color, there was about every car I wanted to see on a shirt, well on a shirt. Offering up tons of different product I knew I hit gold finding this company. I looked into DorkiDori and wanted to know more. So, I contacted the owner and designer, Lenn Franz. Lenn is a pretty down right cool guy. I threw down the questions, he put down the answers. Now check out the coverage.

How did the idea for DorkiDori arise?

DorkiDori Clothing was an idea I had years ago. I think it popped up as a viable idea in 2005. I had been into Japanese cars for about 3-4 years prior, but I had just started getting into fashion a lot more. No one at the time was making anything fashionable as far as car clothing was concerned. You could find a cheesy, poorly made shirt with an S13 on it and some boring font that said "240sx" to accompany it, but nothing about it stood out as fun or exciting. There were a few Initial D shirts you could get off eBay that had various characters on them. But, again, nothing that made you want to wear it when you go out and hang out with your friends or to a car meet. Honestly though, when I look back, the initial designs I started DorkiDori with (not many people have seen the original designs from 2005/2006) I kind of cringe a bit compared to what I can do now lol.

What does the name DorkiDori stand for?

Heh, that has always been a bit of a mystery for people and now Im going to spill the beans. DorkiDori was a nickname a girl I was dating for a while back in 2004 use to call me. When her and I were together, I was a HUGE drift nut. I was nuts about my car and the drifting culture in general. One day she was making fun of me a bit (in good nature) and out popped "dorkidori". I thought of it as a cute term of endearment kind of thing back then. But when I got around to coming up with an idea for a name for my clothing line, DorkiDori instantly stood out in my mind. 

Within your design's, in what way has drifting inspired them?

Its not necessarily drifting that inspires what I do. Sure, the drift scene is my favorite car scene. I'vee been nuts about drifting since i got my first S13 back in 2002 (yes, Im kind of old now lol). When I did my initial designs, they weren't really based on drifting so much as they were the actual cars and parts. People were re-doing already existing slogans and such (Dorito - Dorifto) on shirts, but there was only one other company that I knew of that did actual cars on shirts when I started. Ironically, I still think his artwork dwarfs mine. That company would be Import Bible. I took a lot of inspiration from Import Bible. I really wanted to push myself to create artwork that was as clean as his, but at the same time retain my own style. Import Bible, I think, really pushed the envelope for what "Automotive Apparel" should have been and currently is. I hope that people see what I produce in my artwork as something different and fun and not just a "clone" of Import Bible. (By the way, I want to give props to Import Bible, EffectApparel and JimmyUp...all of you contribute more to the pursuit fashion in the automotive scene than any other company out there. ALL OF YOU should be proud of what you do and I am glad that I've gotten the chance to grow along side such great companies and designers over the years)

But a more direction answer to the question could be, drifting isn't what inspires me, its all about the cars. Every car I reproduce on these shirts makes me want to push myself even further and harder to show them in greater and greater detail to pay tribute to how awesome they are in real life. I personally have a HUGE soft spot for the S13 Coupe and Hatch. I love both of those cars more than is legally allowed in some states. lol

How did you get into doing graphic design art such as what you do in your clothing?

Uh oh, that question had to come up. (Laughter!!) My entry into graphic design started in high school actually. I went to a local magnet school here in Vegas for art. I've always been a traditional artist. Basically I've been drawing since i could pick up a pencil. My Freshman year in high school, I thought computer art was cheating. That the computer would automatically do things for you. I couldn't have been more wrong. My sophomore year I decided to take "Commercial Design" as an elective. Well thanks to that class, I have now made a career out of graphic design. I started out using (I am about to show my age) Photoshop 2.5. I had spent a few months working in that when one day I sit down and all of the computers were upgraded to Photoshop 3.0. This was huge...PHOTOSHOP HAD A NEW FEATURE CALLED LAYERS!!!! I was instantly hooked. I the rest of high school LIVING Photoshop. Thru my junior and senior year, I just kept learning more and more about Photoshop. I had my first graphic design job at the age of 16 at a local photo lab here in town called Allen Photo. I learned about output to different RGB and CMYK printers. I worked with a lot of cool stuff. Allen Photo also introduced me to a program I use quite a bit today called Adobe Illustrator. I spend just as much time in Illustrator now as I do Photoshop for creating my designs.

I have always been into learning how things work from A to Z. I am very hands on with everything I do. I've spent my entire working life in the field of graphic design. So when the chance to learn about screen printing walked thru my door at work one day, I jumped on that like crazy. This was in 2007, I was hired as the art director for a vehicle wrap shop here in town. One summer afternoon, our neighbor in the suite next to us walked in and asked if we needed any shirts printed. I asked him if I brought him some shirts and a design if he would print them. He agreed and so DorkiDori Clothing had an official screen printing shop. The rest of the story is history.

But for all of you who want to get into apparel printing and running your own line successfully, I will tell you this. ITS HARD WORK!!! LIKE SUPER HARD WORK!!! LIKE YOU HAVE NO LIFE HARD WORK!!! (Am I getting my point across?) You have to CONSTANTLY be creative with your designs. You have to find a printer to work with who will accommodate your needs and be willing to push their skills as yours develop. You will HAVE TO learn the ENTIRE screen printing process in order to design functional and likeable shirts. Most designers out there don't understand much when it comes from going from the monitor to the finished product. And in some cases, that's OK. But if you're going to be running your own line and making your own shirts, YOU HAVE TO HAVE TO HAVE TO learn as much as you can about screen printing. I have been involved in the entire process for over 2 1/2 years now. I'vee printed a few hundred DorkiDori shirts personally (yes I do print the shirts you guys buy at times heh) andI'mm STILL learning new methods and tricks to push the envelope about what I can and cant do with my designs on shirts.


What other projects are you doing along the lines of clothing and design?

I have a secondary line of shirts I produce called Black Umbrella Clothing. Thru the years of doing DorkiDori stuff, I had come up with random drawings and designs that I thought would be fun to put on shirts, but they didn't fit in the DorkiDori lineup at all. So I decided to split off and make a sister line to DorkiDori. Hence Black Umbrella was born. The Black Umbrella line also serves as a promotional line for a band called "The Dreaming" based in Los Angeles, CA (if you're an old Stabbing Westward fan, singer Christopher Hall and drummer Johnny Haro are the founders and still current members of The Dreaming. Check them out at if you like kick ass music!!!) Half of the BU designs I've released are based around songs from The Dreaming. The Dreaming currently sells my shirts at their shows to help raise tour money and such. But Black Umbrella is finally turning into the line of ideas I had originally intended it to be. The new Muffins and Kittehball shirts are getting fairly popular. Basically BU is just a fun way for me to mess around with shirt ideas that have nothing to do with cars.

I received your most recent newsletter, it mentioned that you felt, “it was time to grow the image of the company a bit more and mature it a little”, what is going on with the changes and how will it move DorkiDori ahead?

Well what I meant behind that was, it was time to re-brand DorkiDori a bit. The old pink and black color scheme/setup was starting to show its age. Pink and black was fairly popular when I started DorkiDori. It was really big in the Finnish (Finland) goth scene and the Cybergoth culture here in the US. It worked for a while, but I felt it was time to grow the brands image a bit and make it something a bit "cleaner" in appearance. I had been doing a lot of freelance work for people over the last few years and the red/black and red/white combination really started standing out to me.

I am looking forward to the future in a few ways. My better half Julie (shes the one who came up with the Muffins shirt slogan by the way) has given me a few ideas on where to take DorkiDori in the future. One of them is into the motorcycle world (mainly street bikes). That will wind up becoming another sister line to DorkiDori. I plan on releasing small videos covering local drift events soon. I am going to be developing the media section for the website over the next few months. Plan on interviews of amateur level drifters who want exposure, professional level drivers including Takatas own James Elterman and Nathan Brasz, plus, hopefully, some sit down time with The Dreaming for those interested in the musical aspect of what inspires some of the work I do. I've got a lot of stuff I've always wanted to do over the years and I am working to make those ideas a reality.

What type of involvement does DorkiDori hold in drifting? I know Nathan Brasz runs your name on his car!

I personally haven't done much in the drifting scene as far as racing goes since I sold my S13 last August (which I'm still not thrilled about), but I would like to continue to be one of the top and trusted names as far as automotive apparel goes in the car scene. A lot of stores you find in the malls and outlets don't realize what they are missing as far as not carrying products produced for the import enthusiast. I have been pushing for quite a while now to get my shirts into stores like Hot Topic and Zumiez, but unfortunately they don't think the import automotive culture and clothing have much in common. I've had TONS of people in the car scene ask me if they can get my stuff at a local store in the mall where the live. I have to keep telling them to purchase the shirts from my site as stores such as these refuse to carry them. Over the next few years I would really like to push hard to bring the import automotive culture into the lime light as far as fashion goes. The drifting scene has embraced what I've brought to the table for them, and drifting is just as big as skateboarding and snowboarding as far as I'm concerned.

And since you mentioned Nathan, yes he does run my stickers on his car. He has been my only pro-level sponsored car almost since I started DorkiDori. Nathan is an AWESOME driver and I love helping promote him where I can. I made a custom shirt for him in 2008 that he was selling and autographing for people. I had one planned for last year but it never saw production due to financial matters at the time. But him and I still talk to this day. Nathan is a great guy and I only hope we can continue working together as both of our recognition grows in the import world. I might do a shirt for him this summer, however, that's still up in the air as I have some big stuff coming up that I am working on that may heavily effect the style of my shirts. We will see...


In the future, where do you see DorkiDori going with sponsoring people in drifting?

As far as sponsorship goes, for 2010 the only car I will be doing a sponsorship with is Nathan Brasz's S13. 2010 is a bit of rebirth year for DorkiDori as 2009 wasn't exactly great in a few personal matters. I put in a lot of time to what I was doing last year and lost a lot from it. But fortunately, all that I lost is now starting to come back to me and is keeping me motivated and upbeat. I will be taking applications for sponsorships come November/December of this year for the 2011 season. I am a bit of a hard ass when it comes to accepting cars for sponsorships that are on an amateur level. I set up a sponsorship program in 2008 with a few people and it back fired on me in terms of business. I'm not going to get into details, but the promotion level I was expecting was not there. The sponsorships for 2011 will have to be met on a professional level that I should have incorporated since day 1.

I would like to give a bit of advice for people looking for sponsorships (and take this from someone who has quite a few sponsorships in his automotive lifetime). When you are applying for sponsorships, you are basically asking a company to invest in you by giving you discounts or free parts. If you are applying for a sponsorship, you need to keep in mind a certain level of professionalism. If you send Greddy an email saying "Hey, I have a 240sx that I want you to sponsor. I don'tt have any parts, but I am determined" and a few pics taken from your iphones camera, they wont look twice at you that'ss just how it is). Now, if you take the same car, do a nice photo shoot with it with your friends Nikon D40 camera and create yourself an actual "Business Presentation", companies will take notice of you much more, even if you have very little done to your car. Its all in how you present yourself to people.

Since you have been dealing with the drifting culture for 3 years now with your company, what do you think of the community and culture of drifting?

The drifting culture in general has changed so much since I started in it back in 2002. There have been a lot of positive and negative things to happen in it. Its sad to see the wrong people in the scene who came in just because it was the popular thing to be in. With those people comes theft, shady parts dealers etc etc. We all have to be careful now. But on a more positive note, its nice to see the culture expand out to the point it has. Information is so much more freely available. There are track days to promote drifting on the track instead of the streets now (I'm a big promoter of this). The amount of tuning knowledge of various popular drift cars has exploded. Though, I think some of the "family" feeling that drifting use to have in its early days of 99-03 in the US has gone away. But its nice to see what has developed over the last 10 years in drifting culture here in the states. I know the popularity of it has calmed down a bit in Japan which is sad to see. Honestly though, with Toyota, Subaru and Hyundai introducing new entry level, RWD sports cars aimed at the younger crowd, drifting may get big again with the introduction of a whole new generation of drift fans.


Where do you see drifting going in the years to come?

I think Toyota, Subaru and Hyundai (and Nissan if it ever got off its ass) will really help bring in a whole new generation of "drifters" with the Genesis and the FT86/Toyobaru. I for one am really looking forward the FT86. Its probably the most aggressive and fun car Toyota has made available to the US since the Supra. The Subaru version is exciting too as that may attract a whole world of Rally people who are curious about drifting as well. But I can bet you when the FT86 does premiere in a years time, it will be EVERYWHERE!!! I think this car will really help people get excited about drifting again since the car as a whole was inspired by a classic drift icon, the AE86 Corolla.

I don't see the sport changing much, just the styles and cars. Aero, JDM/USDM car styling, wheels, music, etc etc is always changing in the drift scene, but the sport itself remains the same (which is nice to see). For a few years when Formula D was big in the mainstream, the sport almost seemed like it was made into a "Ballet of Destruction" which concerned me as the skill of drifting seemed to be overlooked. But it looks like the recognition of the skill has come back quite a bit.

Do you have any final comments?

I want to make this clear to anyone reading this or who has purchased shirts, YOU MAKE DORKIDORI WHAT IT IS!!! If I didn't have the awesome customers I do, DorkiDori wouldn't exist. I think a lot of people have a mixed up idea of DorkiDori in some ways. DorkiDori is owned and run solely by ME. I am the only person you will talk to when you email with a question, call about a concern or see a group buy on a forum with my shirts. I design the shirts, website and any other printed media, I pack and ship all the shirts you guys get in the mail and I do all of my own promotions. So all of you reading this, please know that DorkiDori is a small business that takes itself very seriously when it comes to the product it sells to its customers. I personally wear the shirts I make for all of you. I've beat the crap out of them to make sure what I sell you guys will hold up to whatever you throw at them.

Please feel free to add DorkiDori on facebook at

Lenn Franz
DorkiDori Clothing


  1. I think this is the same dood that starting hustling his line on way back.

    OG Status

  2. Ah cool man, awesome to see that your business is doing well!