In a society where TV shows like “The Jersey Shore” and movies like “The Hangover” glorify drinking and drunk shenanigans, most people would take a double—or triple—glance at someone wearing a shirt that reads “PARTY SOBER” in large bold print, or at least ponder to one’s self the true meaning of this statement. Founder Dom Suazo and the crew that stands behind Party Sober Clothing embrace its irony in the hopes to set a new example.
Substream Magazine: How long have you been sober/straight edge and who or what inspired you to engage in this lifestyle?
Dom Suazo, Party Sober: Well, the first thing is like so we’re not necessarily straight edge, for our lifestyle or our company, but a lot of straight edge kids represent our clothing, they like to wear it. One of the things we started out as far as the idea of trying to deglorify drug use and drinking was that, we wanted to make it appealing to not only people who are straightedge, but everybody and that includes even people who are still using and drinking and the idea is obviously to direct them away from that lifestyle, but also to like engage other people just to bring like consciousness to it, because obviously with the way that you see mainstream culture today, whether its T.V. or movies, or magazines, it’s the fun thing to do you see shows like Jersey Shore you see movies like The Hangover things like that, and it’s always glorified as the fun thing to do. It’s fun, it’s funny, and people buy into that because obviously you want to be a part of the popular culture, that’s what they tell you everybody does. When you go to college you drink, when you go out to parties you drink, you do drugs, and I can tell you from my personal experience and my business partner’s personal experience, that’s why we started party sober. We’ve both gone down that path and it’s not as appealing as everybody makes it seem. It is at first you get into the whole lifestyle and its fun and it’s exciting but like anything else, it has its pros and cons. The pros are that you fit in, and then after a while that becomes all you know and for me that’s kind of where my addiction took over. I started to become so caught up with that lifestyle that I didn’t know anything different. And obviously I didn’t have any future doing that and being in that lifestyle. So that’s kind of, I mean where we started out at as far as the idea behind it is that ya obviously if you’re straight edge you appeal to that message to party sober, but for anybody else, I know people all the time who do drink and who do smoke pot and things like that but they’ll buy our shirts because they have a brother or sister who is in recovery and suffers or they know people and so they want to support.
SM: Who would you consider your targeted customer for the clothing line?
PS: So overall you know like that’s the whole message we’re not trying to alienate anybody by reading our clothing only to a specific genre of people or market but especially with warped tour we definitely do target specific buyers because obviously where a lot of the stuff starts is with you know popular culture is music. I mean at least for us, both my partner and I, it’s like obviously music is a big influence in our lives and the people that we looked up to were the rockstars and the musicians, and you kind of always hear that sex drugs and rock and roll but in reality the musicians that I know that are very successful and that are traveling, they’re actually clean. It’s a business to them and they can’t be in an altered state of mind to be able to tour ten months out of the year in an altered state of mind to run their enterprises successfully. So when we get musicians on board, who which we found out with warped tour a lot of these musicians love it, but they know that their crowd as far as the kids go are still really susceptible to a lot of those negative aspects and so we wanted to kind of mix it up so we obviously target a younger crowd because a lot of those kids are looking for something to be a part of and we wanted to put a positive message out there. So by getting musicians on board and a lot of it is metal, a lot of the kids that are into a lot of metal and things like that, those musicians may seem pretty hard core, and a lot of them are. But when you get deep down to what their values are, they’re very conscious individuals and so they’re very conscious of the messages that they put out, not everybody is but so I would say that that’s kind of been the foundation of where everything has been at as far as that question goes.
SM: Do you think it’s easier for the younger crowd to relate to your message because you’ve actually been through addiction and have been down that path?
PS: Well one thing that we try to advocate too is that a lot of the reason why what we’re doing works is because we’re not authority figures. We’re not trying to tell kids don’t do drugs and don’t drink because it’s like a dare program because a lot of kids don’t listen to that stuff. I mean I heard that all through school and I’m not a dumb individual but that just never struck home to me and I never really listened to that authority so a lot of the reason we do certain things the way we do them I mean ultimately were just trying to make sobriety cool. Obviously with clothing if you have something that’s a cool fashion and it promotes something positive, that’s where we’re at because we’re just trying to promote something that’s cool and so like really I think that’s why it works for us sometimes because I’m not your dad telling you what to do I’m your friend I’m saying to you I’ve been down that road and it’s not cool and you know look at us now we’re on warped tour, and we’re experiencing life for what it was really meant to be, or how I truly we’re doing feel like it was meant to be experienced. That’s not altered but actually living real experiences that you’ll be able to remember and share, and I mean there’s a whole social dynamic to it too it’s like we really we want to have a better environment for our kids, when we grow up we want to be able to say that we made this environment a better place and if we can do that through clothing that’s really ultimately our goal.
SM: Can you talk a little bit about your personal experience with addiction?
For me personally it was like, obviously through school I drank, I never really touched any hard drugs until I got out of school, but it was because of my environment I mean really that’s what every kid was doing it was really the cool thing to do people wanted to be kinda edgy and I guess in this kind of group it was like were using pain killers. It didn’t seem like a big deal using warpads and oxicotton and things like that um but you don’t really know like the psychological effects of what the drugs does to you until its way too late and then for me it was just everybody else was using heroin and that was like the easy switch pain killers to heroin and I went down that road really fast it was like I went from drinking, not really doing hard drugs to just hard drugs and was doing everything I could get my hands on and ya immediately I was going down a road that ended up leaving me homeless, um I did a lot of time in jail, I mean it was really a negative place I probably should have died several times I’m just really lucky to be alive and what I realize is that my business partner who’s a kid that grew up with um he went down the same path like I said because of our neighborhoods and um we both kind of realized we were lucky to get out of it. So years later after we had both gotten clean, and we kind of realized this is a really a negative path and we lost friends because of it, and we still see people daily that are affected by it and we wanted to put a better message out there. And it was just like we need to be able to do something together that’s relevant to what we’ve experienced and what’s still relevant to our neighborhoods nowadays so something like Party Sober just kind of came naturally to us because we’re both pretty like outgoing individuals and outspoken and I’m not afraid to speak my mind so I think something like Party Sober kind of just popped out because it was like it’s in your face it makes sense and its really out there and it doesn’t take much explanation it just is what it is and obviously the whole back story of it if people want to ask well how did that get started obviously it’s the conversation were having but like at the front of it when it’s just a name on the shirt and the design like that it really is just simple it’s like it kind of sounds often ironic but it also is just different when you see sayings on shirts that just say “let’s get wasted” you see people like it’s so accepted if somebody’s walking around with a shirt that says “let’s get wasted” and nobody really bats an eyelash to it they kind of look at it and they don’t it’s not shocking when you wear something that says Party Sober and it’s so different, it kind of mixes it up.”
SM: Well I think that’s awesome. So what would you say was your breaking point when you knew you just needed to change something?
PS: The last time I went to jail, I mean I really obviously the whole psychological part of the addiction is knowing that what you’re doing is wrong, and you want to stop and especially with a drug like heroin it’s so physically addictive that no matter how bad you want to stop you feel sick, and you feel a lot of negatives in your body and so you don’t physically want to quit even though psychologically your mind is telling you need to and you want to and you’re kind of battling back and forth all the time. So obviously for a long time I knew I wanted to stop I knew I had more potential to do better things. but the breaking point for me was like I was homeless, I was stealing all the time to get food, I was stealing to get drugs, and my family kind of just disowned me at that point because they were afraid I was going to die and you know they kind of had detach and so I was just in a very lonely place and the only thing there was, was me and the drugs and um the last time I went to jail like it was like a year I mean which was a substantial amount of time that I could actually reflect on everything and it was I think like a long enough time that I could get away from the drug and I had a lot of people encourage me, that said you still have potential and you know it’s not the end of the world and you’re still young you have a lot of time to fix things. I think finally I was just ready and I finally just kind of said enough is enough I don’t want to spend more time in jail I don’t want to be away from people, I want to really start living my life and doing better things and I kind of made that commitment to myself right before I got released and then when I got out I really had no restrictions at that point I had done my time and I think it was kind of time to change the pace and start a new chapter and I haven’t really looked back. So I mean then there was a thing that you know once I got out even though I had gotten away from the hard drugs there still drinking around all the time and so that’s where I kind of noticed like even though I’m not using hard drugs and I’m still drinking so I should probably get away from that too. And so there was a period where like I drank for a while and it was pretty bad and I just kind of realized like I said that even though drinking is socially acceptable, I’m still making dumb, dumb, dumb choices and I need to just knock it off. And so you know that was pretty easy to quit, once you know I mean quitting heroin is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done quitting drinking was not that difficult.
SM: Well good for you that’s seriously great. And who is your business partner?
PS: Ferril Davis. Well we do everything; it’s just him and I. It’s interesting because we started out doing this as just an idea, it literally was just a year ago last July that it was just an idea and by August we kind of got the ball rolling with some of our own money and by September first the website was up and we were making sales and it really is just kind of something that was just an idea and then when we put the website up and the different designs came out, we realized that it was a bigger market than I think we both had even expected because I kind of thought once we put the website up all the first sales we were going to get are friends and family a lot of people in Utah where we’re from, and then we would branch out. But I think that first weekend what blew my mind was that our first orders were New Jersey, California, Florida, and New York and you know, they’re pretty big places so I was like “whoa!” I don’t know any of these people, it kind of goes to show you the power of the internet obviously with Facebook and things like that but, it really surprised me because I don’t know these people, they don’t know me, but yet yanno our idea is kind of taking off it and it’s kind of stayed that way ever since because I’d say one in ten orders that I deliver out on a daily basis are in our hometown, the rest of them are all out of state. So it’s kind of like just took off so one thing Ferrill and I have just had to learn to do is adapt and I think both of us like as addicts in our recovery have just kind of learned to adapt. Neither of us really know how to run a business neither of us have any experience so from day one we’ve just had this idea and we’ve just been trying to keep up ever since because every day we have new problems. We both kind of know our roles as far as what our strengths are, so we kind of just piggy back our strengths off each other because I know what I do as far as the designing and as far as the day to day operations as far as getting emails out and getting orders out and things like that and posts on the social media, that’s the stuff that I’m good at and he’s very good at you know communicating with our printer and people and setting things up like that so I mean we both kind of just know our role and like I said from day one it’s just been very like organic as far as finding our place where our roles are and where we fit in like I said adapting because every day it’s something new and we’re still figuring things out as we go especially with big things like warped tour, the expenses of trying to take ourselves on the road.
SM: And you said you were the designer of the images on the clothing?
PS: I come up with all the designs, I kind of have self-taught experience with graphic design so from day one I designed everything I designed and made the website, I designed the clothing, I designed the ads that go on our Instagram and Facebook and things like that so. I pretty much run the creative side of all of that because that’s just like I said that’s the stuff that I’m good at it.
SM: That’s awesome. I love the “Never Hungover” Tank. Where do you get your influences for the designs from?
PS: My influence is just kind of the people around me, and I ask a lot of people yanno I mean I obviously see trends and stuff anchors are popular, one of our really like other popular shirts has the owl on it, and people like that stuff, so we kind of try to blend what is popular but then put our own twist to it, like anybody else obviously the name is the number one thing we have going for us because it just is our catch phrase.
SM: Well it really stands out.
Well that’s the idea to just kind of put that statement out there, I mean you would laugh at how many people tell me “Well you shouldn’t make shirts that just say Party Sober so boldly on them because you leave a lot of people out and I think it’s the opposite way around I mean on a daily basis we get emails from people who say thank you for putting something together like this because we’ve been waiting for something that makes it available for us to be proud of being sober. Because obviously I think it is something to be proud of and some people feel like it doesn’t mean anything because people look at the connotation of if you’re sober you’re boring, or if you’re sober you’re and obviously for us that’s not the case because we’re sober it’s not that we’re better than you it’s that were just proud and we just want to be able to say Party Sober it’s a different lifestyle and it’s a different thing that should lead to more positivity. People want to be bold in that statement and people want to be proud of it and that’s ultimately just why we want to make it known and make that statement as big as we can on the shirt.
SM: I saw on the site that a percentage of the proceeds go to helping people from teens to young adults fight the deadly disease of addiction. What are some of those funds?
PS: We haven’t actually donated anything just yet. We have a program that we’re trying to work with, it’s call The Fold Foundation and basically they do exactly what that says they actually give to rehabs for teens to young adults. We haven’t donated to them just yet. We’re trying to get to the point where we can actually make enough money to actually give them a sizable donation. We’d like to get to the point where we can just like give them a thousand dollars. But the way things have been so far a lot of the money we make just goes back to the shirts and it’s not a whole lot so we’re still trying to grow we’re still trying to get off the ground to the point where we could do that. But that’s ultimately the idea of what we would like to get the proceeds of the store to go towards. It’s kind of hard to get people to like attach to that idea. Because number one selling party sober like the name and the shirts to a lot of people is a hard thing to do right now we don’t have the money to come up with a lot of marketing to get our name out there to the general market so we’re still kind of stuck in that underground novelty so it’s really difficult to get our name out there, but as we grow I’d like to because I’ve had some experience working with TOMs shoes, the first thing that people know about TOMS shoes is that when you buy a pair of shoes, they donate a pair. I want our name to become sunominous with that I want our name to be that you know when you buy a party sober shirt, that a portion of that money goes to this specific foundation, and so we put our message out there now to let people know that we have this goal that we want to give this money to a specific place but as of yet it’s not at that point yet we’re still trying to get to a point where we’re making enough money to do it. Ultimately that’s what I would like to see and im a pretty big dreamer so I try to even foresee the future years beyond that. I’d like to see it get to the point that not only are we donating money to a specific program but we’re also creating our own programs and creating our own foundation where maybe we even have a facility that we give programs to kids who need help like that because going back to one of the things of why I’ve stayed clean is because I have kind of dulged myself into the artistic side of creating shoe designs and like I’m an artist at heart so I’m always creating stuff that’s what’s kept me clean. it wasn’t that I just wanted to quit one day I mean I did but at the same time I also had a lot of projects and activities to be involved in which kept my time occupied and that kept me away from negative things and kept my mind focused on something positive. So I think ultimately I would even like to see us have our own programs where we can give activities and different things like that to kids who want help because ultimately I think that’s what will keep them clean because if they a safe place if they have a good environment where they can stay productive that’s whats gonna keep them clean to begin with. So not now it’s still kind of an idea but I think we’re getting there I think that right now we’re at the best point we’ve ever been after warped tour because getting our name out there to warped tour has been really beneficial. So I think we’re getting there.
SM: How has Warped Tour been going by the way? What has the reception been like?
It’s kind of 50/50, as far as just us being on the road I kind of told you it’s been an adventure it’s been crazy. It’s been basically like no sleep, a lot of time on the road, you know setting up every morning tearing down every night everything go, go, go. As much as I’m like that at home it’s really kicked my butt, because just being like that you know few weeks on end it’s kind of been like, it’s just exhausting. Especially with the heat the way it’s been it’s been so hot that it’s been crazy, on that end of it it’s been nuts. But yeah the reception has been kinda 50/50. There’s a lot of kids that see what our message is and walk by us and go “no thank you” and you know they’re pretty rude about it. And they’ll go “that’s stupid”, you know “that sounds dumb”, “nobody wants to do that,” and there’s always going to be people like that and you know we’re pretty resilient to that it kind of doesn’t really bother me. But the other reception is that people really love what we’re doing and whether they buy a shirt or not there’s people that always come up to us and they’re like “this is really cool,” “I really like this,” “I really like the idea behind it,” and you know “it’s really cool to see somebody try to make a difference.” And so it’s kind of 50/50 and then the people who are open to it and do buy shirts and are into the idea, they’re very, very loyal and it’s very true to them as it is to me, it’s like they’re part of our family their part of the party sober crew, they’re part of what this idea is and so I think when somebody buys a shirt lifelong we’ll always have a friend in them, because they’re going to be a part of, you know, not just the messages because we’re not just a clothing company, but the idea and the movement, as long as we’re around and moving forward their going to be a part of that and moving forward because without them, we wouldn’t have that movement. So it’s been 50/50 but it’s been very cool to see no matter if we’re in California or Phoenix or Vegas or back home, just that there’s a whole group of people out there who are kind of all a part of it and if they like it, it doesn’t matter what state, they’re all a part of this union. So it’s been very cool to see.
SM: Even like you said, if it’s people who aren’t open to the idea, they still could be going home and talking about it and spreading the word. I think it’s great you got on Warped this year.
PS: Yeah. It’s taken pretty much everything we’ve had to get out there, you know, to get our name out there to get on the road, we’ve had ups and downs and it’s taken more energy than we ever thought possible, but like it is obviously worth the toughs because you’re right whether we get our name out to just the people who are really into it, we still get our name out to people who may not appreciate it, but it does switch up the dynamic and it makes people more conscious of it and maybe if it’s a week down the road or ten years down the road they may understand it better or they may not but at least it’s there and it’s presented and we’re there and like I said we’re resilient enough to put our name out there and whether like us or not we’re people who are at least willing enough to put our name out there for the sake of making people proud and that’s something to be a part of and we’re very dedicated to it.
By Jen Schwartz