"Managing Expectations" may seem like a pretty half-assed motto, but not when it's coming from LQQK Studio founder Alex Dondero. The four-year-old Brooklyn-based print shop, which includes Dondero, his partner Max Feuer, and a "rotating cast" of printers, has garnered attention for its hand-dyeing and screen printing projects from fashion labels including Patrik Ervell and Theory, and artists Tom Sachs, Baron Von Fancy, Joe Garvey, and Eric Elms. Then, just last year, as business was booming, they decided to launch their own streetwear label, too.
Since gaining traction among bigger brands for their printing services, LQQK has received some ambitious requests for their small operation—mostly for large-scale prints and large orders (recently they printed 1,000 invites in three days for Rihanna's Puma fashion show). "We try to be as genuine as possible and have full integrity with everything that we do," Dondero says, citing a past project with Patrik Ervell for which they dyed six yards of fabric at a time. "But we don't have as much time as we used to."
LQQK continues to work with their core high-end clients, but focusing on their in-house brand and collaborating with smaller artists has become their main focus. "It's easy to get burnt out working on big production runs," Dondero explains. "The brand has given us a lot of energy and spark."
Inspired by Richardson Magazine—a comparable venture that's a publication first and a label second (LQQK also printsRichardson's shirts)—and outerwear brands such as Patagonia and Stone Island, LQQK designed a down jacket from digital-printed nylon made to look like wool. They've also made hats and T-shirts (Dondero is particularly excited about large prints that incorporate a breast pocket because most shirts with large prints simply forego a pocket), all with their signature LQQK logo.
The brand is only a year old, but it's already selling in influential stores including Supply in Tokyo and, in January, hosted a temporary installation at Dover Street Market New York alongside other emerging local labels like Small Spells and Auto Body.
Dondero is quick to clarify one thing: "We don't want to pigeonhole ourselves to be the brand that prints on everything. We're aware that if we spent a lot of effort just designing catchy graphic tees, we could make a ton of money; but there's zero integrity and excitement in that." Collaborations with artists like Tommy Malekoff is where their passion resides: The LQQK team recently made a line of printed shirts with the artist's Memphis photo series—the sleeve of the shirts are marked with their unofficial motto, "Managing Expectations," "Managing" on the left arm, "Expectations" on the right.
It's a saying that doesn't just apply to their work ethic, but also represents their future as a whole. The LQQK team doesn't know exactly what's coming next, but whatever it is will surely be tackled with the same dedicated spirit for which they're known. "It's a bit backwards, but we wait until the next wave of inspiration to make the next thing happen," Dondero says. "We reexamine what we do every day."
For more information, see lqqkstudio.com.