Wasteland Society is for the weirdos; those who believe there is no such thing as “normal”; people who recognize the reality that sadness is a part of life, and that’s okay, detailed the duo behind the irreverent clothing company.
“Whenever people ask us what we stand for, I always say existentialism with inclusion,” said Peter Nonprasit, who founded the Kansas City-based streetwear brand with his wife, Sarah Dye-Nonprasit, in 2017.
“Because we’re all going to die at some point, so we need to stop being really terrible people and just try to help each other.”
Wasteland Society combines the ideologies of punk, post-punk, grunge and counterculture aesthetics, with an emphasis on inclusion, existential angst and despair.
“We recently held an archive sale that featured our previous collections, and we were retiring clothes from five years ago,” said Dye-Nonprasit. “It’s been great to see how the style of Wasteland Society has evolved, but our message remains the same.”
For Nonprasit, her outlook on life was greatly influenced by the trauma she faced as a teenager, she shared. Doctors discovered she had osteosarcoma – a type of bone cancer – below her knee when she was 19 years old.
“It’s something I’m still trying to address to this day,” Nonprasit said, noting that creating designs for Wasteland Society is a way for him to express thoughts about personal hardship.
All Wasteland Society apparel is screen printed in-house using water-based inks on ethically sourced garments, the couple said, noting that they are committed to going against the grain and creating on their own terms.
“It’s definitely a labor of love,” Dye-Nonprasit said. “We print from our garage, so whatever the temperature outside is the temperature we are working in. We are trying to find a better balance this year. We will continue to print our own stuff, but will incorporate more embroidery and patches and possibly partner with other local businesses.”
Bad days turn into business plans
A couple of months after getting married in 2017, Dye-Nonprasit recalled a particularly bad day at her previous corporate job.
“I knew I couldn’t work for anyone else forever, and Peter is a graphic designer by trade,” she said. “We sat down and figured out what we wanted the future to hold.”
“I’ve always been passionate about clothing and design,” Nonprasit shared, explaining how his passion for clothing grew in the early 2000s as he closely followed sneaker brands and Japanese streetwear. “…he went from this idea to ‘Let’s do it. Let’s invest in a business and get our hands dirty.’”
The duo taught themselves screen printing through YouTube videos, which came with successes and failures, which they candidly shared.
“The first screen printing machine we bought was a nightmare because it was made of wood,” Nonprasit said. “There was sawdust everywhere and this fear of cutting yourself on the wood.”
“We quickly sent it back,” Dye-Nonprasit said, laughing.
Ever since the inception of Wasteland Society, Nonprasit knew he wanted his designs to be inspired by mental health, music and pop culture, rather than creating apparel specifically for Kansas City.
Despite this intent, Nonprasit’s few ironic Kansas City designs have been among the brand’s most popular, he shared. Some of these designs include: a “Bandwagoner” tee in the iconic gold and red colors of the Kansas City Chiefs, and a collection of t-shirts and hoodies that simply read “Generic Kansas City Shirt” and “Generic Kansas City Sweatshirt.” .
“I’m calling [the Generic Kansas City Collection] our crown jewels; I usually hide them in the back of our shelves in pop-ups because I don’t want them to be front and center,” Nonprasit said. “I never want to be pigeonholed, but those projects also really paid the bills and kept us going. at the start.”
Building a community
The Wasteland Society steadily increased its social media presence in its early years, but the couple had a hard time finding their target audience in Kansas City, Dye-Nonprasit said.
“There was a very real moment during the pandemic where Wasteland was hardly a thing anymore,” Dye-Nonprasit admitted, noting that they opened a small shop in North Kansas City in 2019 but had a falling out with the owners of the building in 2020.
“2021 came and we were like, ‘What are we going to do?’” Dye-Nonprasit continued. “That was when Jackie [Nguyen] from Cafe Cà Phê contacted us and asked us if we would like to drop by with her. She had no idea the impact she had on our business and how she really changed the trajectory of where we were going.
It all started with Cafe Cà Phê’s “Christmas in July” event in 2021, with various vendors popping up in the Sequence Climbing parking lot in the Crossroads Arts District.
“I didn’t realize that the demographic I was looking for was the demographic it supported [Cafe Cà Phê] – you know, very different people of all races, orientations, ages,” Nonprasit said. “Just people who are trying to figure out who they are and to be able to express themselves freely in a safe place. That’s what Wasteland is all about.
Pop-ups and partnerships continued with the Wasteland Society designing merchandise for Cafe Cà Phê and other vendors, such as Devoured Pizza, whom they met through pop-up events.
“We have a really great community of other small business owners, and it’s been huge,” Dye-Nonprasit said. “They have our back and invite us to events, and I think that’s been one of the biggest parts of our success.”
“Live shouldn’t be that hard, but it is”
The duo look forward to continuing to experiment and express themselves through Wasteland Society in 2023, shared Nonprasit. In early February, Wasteland Society plans to release its first collection of the new year: “A Pain That I’m Used To”.
“[It is] a collection about accepting coexistence with our current existence,” Nonprasit explained. “We are forced to numb ourselves to the pain and struggles of an uncertain future. for impending doom as soon as possible.
Wasteland Society is also set to expand beyond T-shirts to offer customers a variety of products, giving Nonprasit more creative freedom.
“We have baseball shirts and water bottles coming out because I have smart stuff I want to put in there,” he said. “We made fanny packs and bags last summer, which sold like crazy.”
“We will be looking at products along the lines of lighters and ashtrays,” Dye-Nonprasit added, noting the new business opportunities created by the legalization of recreational marijuana in Missouri. “Because it’s something we strongly support.”
The Wasteland Society duo also hope to travel outside Kansas City in 2023 to connect with strangers across the country, Dye-Nonprasit said.
“We’re trying to make this producer really big [festival] called Renegade in Chicago,” Dye-Nonprasit said. “It’s important to us that we continue to get our name out there and continue to spread our message.”
For those who meet the Wasteland Society at pop-up events, the pair encourage them to stop by for a conversation about music, movies or the meaning of life, they said.
“We are the people who were sitting on the couch playing video games 20 minutes ago,” Nonprasit said with a laugh. “We just want to make genuine connections with people who want to talk to us.”
This story was originally published in Startland News, a member of the KC Media Collective.