I was scrolling through Twitter the other day when I came across S-Tier, a self-described lifetstyle brand selling rugs, blankets, and apparel. I had to investigate further for a couple of reasons: first, because I’m always curious about higher-end video game-inspired goods (like the Disco Elysium stuff). Second, because I’m a millennial and some days, I’m still mourning the loss of arcades. I emailed the man behind S-Tier, Christian Davis, and he filled me in on the brand, his process, and his goals for the future.
merritt k: How did you get started making arcade and fighting game-themed products?
Christian Davis: I have been writing about this idea for a couple years over various notebooks! I have a background in fashion and video games and it merges both of those things that I love. Video games are something that will never leave me and I have a deep passion for them. Fashion — menswear specifically — I learned to care for details and quality you can feel. With fashion, I got into it in my early 20s after I started working in an office. I needed to wear ties and slacks. I just wanted to find better options so I began to research and write about menswear as a consistent side hustle. That industry really solidified my appreciation for handmade products. Items with history and stories; an emphasis on technique and that quality is the most important part of longevity.
Video games are going to be a part of my life until I die. I’ve been playing for 28 years (I’m 33) and I wrote freelance for various websites in the industry and got to interview a bunch of industry folks and review games. I started writing about games in 2006 and I’ve been to every E3 since 2008. I went to college (and dropped out) for video game design. I worked as QA at Activision and through their merger with Activision Blizzard while in college as well. My primary role when I started was a sprinter and I was tasked with finding any issues with completing levels within the game, completing the game in general, etc.
The first game I ever worked on was Spider-Man: Web of Shadows and after a few months I was able to complete that game within about 3 hours. I used to have races with the other sprinter on the team with a crowd of 10-12 behind us and they would gamble on the race. I eventually was able to lead a small team of other QA testers on one or two projects as well. Both of those industries together lead to S-TIER.
mk: Why rugs and blankets specifically?
CD: I started with rugs and blankets for a few reasons. S-TIER is an overall lifestyle brand that will continue to be more encompassing as it grows. I love interior design and home goods, nice bedding, jewelry, candles and a bunch of things that the gaming space doesn’t prioritize. Outside of our gaming hardware, software and figurines, there aren’t many brands out there putting quality first for gaming-specific products that you can actually utilize in your day to day.
The products I wanted to develop can be used by both the most hardcore gamer to the most casual consumer and even your significant other who only wants to find you cool things about things you love. It allows the idea of “maybe they’ll like this cool Street Fighter blanket when they’re playing at home for Christmas” a possibility. So leading with things like the Wildest Crossover Blanket (X-Men vs Street Fighter) hits a bunch of these notes. Looks cool in the game room and is decorative if you hang it on the wall, but you can also sit on your couch and use it as a blanket, the quality makes it feel like it’s something you got from a larger commercial store and it isn’t a novelty item that you’ll end up replacing. And that goes triple for the rugs.
mk: What’s your production process like?
CD: The production process varies for each item with the rugs by far taking the longest and being the most expensive to produce. For rugs specifically, It’s more than just talking with my vendor and saying “make this logo.” Size, color count, shape, the detail present in the image, color gradients in the image, the material the rug is made of, etc. Those all come into play before any movement is made in production. After specifics are handled, I get a sample created first. A rug sample costs me anywhere from $600-$1000 not counting the international shipping. I get that produced and have photos taken and then the rug is sent to me for quality control. When all standards are met, then I’ll put out the pre-orders.
I’d eventually like to get off the pre-order model but for a one man company this has been the best for financial stability, better control over growth, and allows me to gauge what people are really attaching themselves to. For clothing, I work with a couple artists to help make that a reality. I’ll come up with the concept and do a shitty sketch or provide good references. After the concept artwork is completed, I then work with the vendor to get this onto whatever clothing product I’m looking to create. A similar discussion with the manufacturer with the rugs that goes over color count, type of shirt/pant, material it’s made out of, shirt/pant fit, etc.
mk: Do you have any kind of licensing deal with Capcom or other companies?
No, not yet! I was in conversation with one of the larger companies so I stopped producing items for a while in case certain licensing issues started coming into play but when things got quiet on their end I just continued production again. I’m just making higher quality fan made items for the time being. I spoke with one of the directors of EVO and I brought up the licensing issue and I was told not to worry about it.
My first in person convention will be at EVO 2022 where I’ll have a booth with a selection of my products.The dream is to meet these individuals responsible for licensing and build a relationship now that they’ve seen what I have to offer in person.