“I can only describe myself as an average kid, average student, just plain average,” Andy Evans, founder of Doddz clothing brand, tells Elite Business. “I got put in the special needs class at primary school because my grades were terrible and got told I wouldn’t really amount to much.”
The 22-year-old recalls his humble beginnings as an only child growing up in Shirley, West Midlands with his parents. Andy struggled in school and received little support from his teachers who belittled and discouraged him, not realising he was a slow learner. It was only until he was 16-years-old that doctors diagnosed him with dyslexia. But he never let that deter him. “I found out a number of years later that I’m ‘very dyslexic but show some unique qualities’ and it’s those unique qualities I chose to focus on,” he said.
Andy had an inkling to art and decided to explore his creative side, taking up graphic design as an A-level subject. “In terms of being interested in art, no one in my family is artistic or work within a creative industry however I’d managed to get myself into college and needed to pick four subjects to study but nothing really stuck out at me,” he tells says. It was his father who suggested Andy take up graphic design, as he was unsure of what to pick as a fourth subject. “I begrudgingly picked maths, media, and ICT and couldn’t find a fourth, my dad suggested graphic design and I thought that was woodwork so I took it.”
However, the stress of it all saw Andy fail all his four A-level subjects – but he did not let the setback stop him from pushing for greatness. “I ended up failing all my A-levels but for the first time I was introduced to being creative and I knew I wanted to pursue it further.” Andy struggled to get into any university courses with his low grades, and considered working at Pizza Hut to get by. However, he did not want to miss out on university life and instead followed his gut, seeing where his passion for art would take him. “I remember thinking clearly that I wanted my life to be working within a creative world however I’m late to the game, I’ve only just discovered creativity so I need to get into university and learn as much as I can as quick as I can,” he says.
Andy set up his own graphic design company Gingerbread Graphics, compiling an admissions portfolio of work for universities in hopes he would get a place on a creative course. “Gingerbread Graphics was the answer to that problem, I thought to myself if I started freelancing I could be learning on the job and once I’d got a few jobs I could put them in a portfolio and show the university that although I don’t have the UCAS points, I am enthusiastic and passionate to learn,” he tells me. To his surprise, his work took off and started getting mass attention, and even caught the eye of TV personality James Corden who became his first celebrity client. Social media branding. “The business took off though and became so much more than simply a way of getting into university, it ended up working with the likes of the entertainer James Corden and putting on a record-breaking, sold-out exhibition.
In 2016, Andy moved to Stoke-on-Trent to attend a graphic design course in Staffordshire University, and over the next three years he became an anonymous street artist known as “Professor Pigment”. He painted inspiring messages across the towns through his fake persona, disguising his true identity. “I needed to try something new. Street art meant I can say and do exactly what I want and that was perfect,” he says. In his final year of university, Andy created a dynamic art trail called “Trail & Error”, made up of 25 street art pieces with three sold out exhibitions and a documentary about his double life, where he finally revealed his real identity to the world, switching his name to “Doddz”.
Hundreds of spectators attended the premiere and the exhibition brought mass media attention, pivoting him on to the world stage as one of UK’s most iconic street artists.
“Trail and Error was the pinnacle of a three year artist residency for me, shortly after starting uni I realised although I liked being creative, what was more important for me was having creative control, controlling what the work I was creating was saying and with graphic design things like clients and amends means it’s not really your work or message by the end of it,” Andy explains.
Andy later went viral after filming himself announcing to his parents that he had managed to pay their mortage through the money earned from Trail & Error.
I’ve also been able to give back to my parents to say thank you for all their support so I’m glad I’ve been able to show my gratitude as I think it’s important to appreciate all those people that hold you up and are with you through everything,” he says.
The 22-year-old has since been travelling the world spreading positive messages, encouraging people to “defy the oddz” and strive to achieve their dreams.
My message to the world is to Defy the Oddz, overcome obstacles and challenge convention,” he tells me. “I think it’s an important message and it’s something I will push till the day I die. I can only do that using the skills I have and that’s creativity so I make art, what I make is less important to me than the message, however, I can get the message out whether that be jackets or murals or music I will always do something that puts out that message.”
He tells me that “Defy the Oddz”, “Doddz” for short, simply means breaking barriers and having no limitations to your goals. It’s a motto that he fully embraces, saying that a positive mindset is the secret to paving one’s way to success.
“Defy the oddz is simply a positive mentality that you can, in fact, achieve anything you put your mind to, a lot of people don’t feel like they’re good enough or they could never achieve their goals and I want to let them know that they can with a positive attitude,” Andy explains. “I could spend all day writing about defy the odds because it’s something I’m very passionate about but if you really believe in yourself, remain positive, surround yourself with people who add to your life, rather take away and then try to be the hardest working person in the room then there is something nothing you can’t do and your only limit is your imagination.”
Andy decided to express his art and creativity through clothing garments. He hand-paints all his jackets, and each piece is uniquely different based on the client’s request and his own vision.
Andy created a memorial jacket for Krept, one half of London rap duo Krept & Konan. The jacket was a memorial piece for Krept’s cousin, Cadet, who was tragically killed in a road accident earlier this year, Through his unconventional spin on fashion, Andy brought the artwork of Cadet to life. With the scan of a phone, Krept could see an interactive artwork featuring Cadet’s song and a heartfelt banner message. Andy prides in the concept of “Doing something that is not being done.” He said, “The world doesn’t need me to make more jackets. It needs me to make something different.”
The idea of self-expression through clothes is something that Andy believes is an art form, explaining how putting your favourite outfit can give oneself a sense of “confidence” and “power”.
“Clothing has always been something I’ve been interested in, creatively I’ve experimented a lot since Gingerbread Graphics whether that be street art, poetry, magic, oil canvases, sculpture or animation, clothing has always been a constant since I was 16,” he says. “I enjoy the sense of power and confidence that simply comes with putting a certain T-shirt or hoodie on, I love that clothing says so much about a person and not only is it inspiring for me to see people wear Doddz clothing once they’ve adapted the defy the oddz mentality but it’s a way for me to actually have an impact on peoples life.
“It’s all very well and good me tell you to believe in yourself but what if you could put on T-shirt on that actually made you more confident.”
Andy prides his work for being different, which is why each of his jackets are hand-painted and every piece is unique to the rest.
And not only that, customers can use their mobile phones to scan their jacket and bring the art work to life.
“In my opinion, the work itself has to defy the oddz, it has to be different. If I’m just going to do what everyone else is doing then there’s no need for me to be here, in a world of fashion a hand-painted jacket is something different and a jacket that brings the art to life on your phone is very, very different.”
Andy hopes to push his “Defy the Oddz” message to the world through his heart, hoping to change mindsets and break convention.
“There’s nothing you can’t achieve, often people feel like they’re not good enough to achieve success and I’m here to say you are,” he says.
Andy hopes to encourage people not to conform to society’s rules and instead shape their own future. “It’s a shame that people are brought up in non-supportive environments and told to conform to societies norms and it’s incredible to me that just because everyone else is doing it and even if it makes you unhappy, people choose to spend their limited amount of time on planet Earth following the norm,” he tells me.
Andy will be holding a Tedx talk speaking about his inspiring message along with another exhibition on the way called “House of Doddz” early next year, but won’t be giving away the details just yet.