Brand Interview: Colour Is Sound

by on Jan 13, 2017


This week we had the opportunity to dive deeper into conversations with the team behind Colour is Sound. They’re a UK based start-up t-shirt company that has a passion for quality, community and above all music-and it’s power to transform. Getting to know them has resulted in my streaming hours of tunes from the pioneer bands of the psychedelic music scene. I dig it. A husband-wife team, Steve & Kate Philliben have ditched their careers to pursue their passion in full force.

We’re still not sure what was the bravest decision, to get married or to create Colour Is Sound! 

-Steve Philliben

Although he jokes of the courage it took to dive head first into Colour Is Sound, I gather there is an underlying theme— Passions are worth pursuing.

“It’s not where you’re from, it’s where your at” – Ian Brown, singer of The Stone Roses

The questions we asked Steve & Kate:

Where is Colour is Sound based?

We form part of the gloriously creative and diverse community which makes Brighton the most unique city in the UK. Our very own San Francisco!

Where can we find your Colour is Sound online (website, social media accounts)?

Our website:
Our blog: Colour is Sound blog
Facebook: Colour is Sound Facebook
Twitter: Colour is Sound Twitter
Pinterest: Colour is Sound Pinterest
Instagram: Colour is Sound Instagram

If you could sum up your brand in a one or just a few words, what would it be?

Dare to be different.

What inspired you to start your brand?

In the past, I’ve been lucky enough to travel a fair bit and I always checked out the local record shops wherever I went. I always found the same old music Tee’s; ripped off images from official band artwork cheaply printed onto garments made in sweatshops. I wanted to create original art inspired by music. I couldn’t afford a gallery so I went for Tee’s instead!

What do you want your brand to be known for?

Ethical original T-shirt art influenced by some of the most influential music ever made.


What inspires the artwork on your T-Shirts?

Defining moments in music that changed the culture forever. For example; The 13th Floor Elevators and the creation of psychedelic rock. Lee Scratch Perry inventing Dub. P-Funk forging the blueprint for Funk. The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays redefining British guitar music. Can’s extraordinary contribution to the possible in popular music.

inspired colour is sound

What is your process of working with artists?

Deeply collaborative. I choose the artist, the LP/s. I then tease out and signify the subcultural movement aligned to the music. I then create a brief which the designer will work to deliver. Then there are a few games of art-tennis when ideas bounce back and forth until we get the design where it needs to be. The end game is being able to decode the design back to the LP that inspired it!

As a small business owner, what tools have you found most helpful?

Facebook and Twitter have been brilliant for establishing a community of people who like similar musical styles and associated movements in fashion, art and design. We are plugged into Enterprise Spark, the UK’s most successful growth accelerator. It’s a tough program to be selected for and we were lucky enough to be chosen.

Has the power of networking been beneficial to your success? Tell us how.

Absolutely. The biggest challenge was to find a way to scale the business to enable growth. Networking enabled us to meet Craig Jones and Adam Mason, two angel investors who believed in us, the brand and our vision, and who have come on board to help build the brand.

What are some of your favorite quotes?

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” – John Lennon
“It’s not where you’re from, it’s where your at” – Ian Brown, singer of The Stone Roses

What motivates you and those behind your brand?

Music, music, music. Creating new art inspired by music, art which is worthy of being associated with some of the most seminal music ever made.

Are there any books, articles, blogs, etc. you would recommend to inspiring entrepreneurs/artists?

I draw my inspiration from musicians who don’t always make the best entrepreneurs! I’m also a musician and still feel like one rather than a business person even though I work god-knows how many hours a week whilst my guitar gathers dust. If there is one book above all else, that brilliantly deals with LIFE! Then its Cosmic Trigger by Robert Anton Wilson.

How does your community influence how you do business?

A keen eye on retaining a local Brighton bias in terms of working with local partners and maintaining an ethical approach to Tee’s and environmentally sound printing processes for our silk-screen printing. Our ‘style council’ informs new collections and designs.

Tell of us a memorable event or overcome challenge from first starting out.

Giving up our jobs and going on our own was a huge gamble, it still is but it was all made worthwhile when we went to a Stone Roses show in Manchester and saw lots of our shirts being worn. I’ve been in love with the Roses since late 1988 so it was an amazing experience to see our Tee’s proudly being worn by hardcore Roses fans.



Kate and Steve Philliben: The CIS Family

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