We had the good fortune of connecting with Nate Khouli and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nate, the decisions we make often shape our story in profound ways. What was one of the most difficult decisions you’ve had to make?
The most difficult decision was to end my first brand, Damascus Apparel. I started it in 2008 as a passion project with my business partner and after 9 years we found success as a futuristic streetwear line selling direct to consumers mostly through shopify. Unfortunately as business partners we couldn’t resolve our differences, even though the business was having it’s best year and growing quickly.
Having to accept that it was time to walk and I would have to start over was devastating…especially after putting my heart and soul into building something that I was truly passionate about.
Swallowing my pride and admitting I failed was very difficult.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Growing up in San Diego, CA I always loved bmx and video games. My first console was a Sega Genesis my grandmother bought for me when I was 5…In 1992 It came with Sonic the Hedgehog, I would play with my twin brother as much as my grandma would let us. Fast forward 25 years you can find shirt graphics looking like they were made for people living in Sonics’ universe…
What lights a fire for me is the thought of creating wearable clothing that appears to come from a different time in the future…clothing that has a personality of its own.,,To produce artwork that looks as if it’s alive…
When we started Damascus, our business model was simple: Ask student organizations on college campuses if I could design them free shirts for their club…if they liked it, we would charge to produce them.
I designed non stop, around the clock, for years, for all kinds of people all over the world, revolving around all kinds of subjects.
My art was constantly rejected…more than not…but getting the chance to design as much as I did, carved a path that led to becoming a professional. After years of that we decided it was time to walk from service and create a brand we could call our own with art we made for ourselves and hopefully for the rest of society to enjoy.
I believe if you’re not doing something that makes you vulnerable or pushes you out of your comfort zone, the road to accomplishing your goals will be longer. If we don’t mind the judgement of others and stay disciplined in our craft, we can express ourselves in a way that will capture the attention of people to share meaningful messages…ones that will inspire and move people to take action.
I’m most proud of the Neo4ic community. It’s filled with all walks of life from all over the place that love to use their gifts to improve the world around them. To me it’s what makes building a clothing brand meaningful.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
San Diego is one of the most beautiful cities in the entire world filled with wonderful people. I was born and raised here so I might be biased…but after traveling the world, nothing feels like San Diego.
Outdoor activities is the spirit and backbone here, so if you love being outside – you’ve made it to the right place.
When my friends visit we start off by visiting the beaches – Torrey Pines and Blacks have very scenic, but easy trails that are rad to cruise through quickly. Afterwards renting bikes or scooters to then get drinks through PB, stopping to ride the rollercoaster at Belmont park, then ending with lunch and dinner in OB is an amazing tour…One of my favorite spots in OB used to be the OB NOODLE HOUSE, but now it’s The Holding Company – The jiggly beef with lemon is too good.
Speaking of Tours, I like to make up fake adventures to go on with my friends, the latest one is a Tequila Tasting tour through Old Town. There’s an easy path down the main strip in Old Town, where you start at El Agave Tequileria, then walk down to Tahona Bar, then to a speak-easy called OCULTO 477, then end at Freds for a crazy fun dinner. Old town is usually filled with live music.
There’s too much to go over, but for a casual night downtown, for me a fun path is:
Tajima or Pokez, then Quartyard for live music and art, then Rustic Root or Analog, then to a club or bar in the Gaslamp district.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Dropped out of high school, alone with nothing at 18 and living out of a ford escort station wagon, my uncle George let me start washing cars at his rental business. After a couple years I worked my way up and could afford an apartment with a roommate and was back on my feet, it gave me a chance to start over and then eventually start my first business. Without him I wouldn’t be around. He had faith in me and because of that I learned to have faith in myself.
My cousin George for always supporting me in challenging times and helping me start Neo4ic after I lost Damascus.
My brother Shafiaq for helping me with renovation on my warehouse and retail store.
Of course I wouldn’t be anything without my loving family and close friends.
Some notable books that helped to shape a stoic perspective:
Personal Development for Smart People
The Subtle art of not giving a FU*K
The Obstacle is the way
12 Rules for life
Other: Personal Instagram: https://instagram.com/natekhouli