For Kyle Leslie, a brush with struggle was the best motivation for following his dreams.
The 23-year-old Dallas resident is the owner and artist behind Nuclearbane clothing, a brand of streetwear that begins in his home studio and is catching on locally.
Born in Colorado, Leslie “moved around a lot” during his childhood. He was interested in the arts early, but visual art was not his first calling.
“It’s funny. I wanted to be an actor when I was a kid,” Leslie said. “I went to a talent school in Langhorne, Pa. and I panicked, because I realized I just wanted to draw.”
Attending fourth grade in Ridgewood, N.J., Leslie got his first taste of clothing design.
“I drew on a T-shirt that said ‘non-smoking,’ ” Leslie said. “The feeling you get when you do that and people really notice it, you can’t compare.”
Leslie moved to Harveys Lake at the age of 12 and attended school in Lake-Lehman School District, where, he said, he wasn’t a model student but, by his high school years, caught the attention of a graphic art teacher who saw potential in him.
“He would make me work on projects for him,” Leslie said. “I even designed a logo for his custom motorcycle shop. He helped me, and I began to make shirts for friends.”
It wasn’t until nearly three years ago, however, that Leslie began to look at clothing design as a viable career path.
“Basically, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Leslie said. “I would bounce around from job to job. Three years ago, I was like ‘I want to build an empire.’”
Leslie’s desire to become autonomous in employment got Nuclearbane started, but a move back to his native state swayed his focus.
“Honestly, I almost gave it up … because I was offered a really good position for the company I work for now,” Leslie said.
Driven to keep his passion alive, Leslie returned to NEPA, hoping to live more affordably and allocate more resources to Nuclearbane, although a dispute with a landlord ultimately made him find the perspective he needed.
“In October, I completely hit rock bottom,” he said. “We were almost evicted, and I promised myself I was never going to give up on (Nuclearbane) again.”
Since October, Leslie’s clothing, which carries his “toxic” punk-rock brand of illustration, is carried in two area stores, Cloudz Vapor in Kingston and Analog Culture in Scranton.
“Things couldn’t be going better with the brand,” Leslie said.
Leslie calls his artistic style “retro graffiti,” which his business partners transpose onto hats, socks and stickers in addition to T-shirts.
“It reminds people of the ’80s, and I love the graffiti style, so it blends together there,” Leslie said.
A recent work, depicting a melting pink whale among the clouds, appears to be at home at the intersection of animation and Dali-esque surrealism.
“I love realistic things, but my capability … I can’t draw realistic stuff,” Leslie said. “I morph it in my own way. What I’ve learned in the clothing industry is uniqueness and being off the wall, with something no one has ever see before, works.”
The key provider for his family, Leslie also works a full-time job in addition to producing Nuclearbane clothing, but that’s not stopping him from trying to expand the business.
“Right now we’re looking into creating events and getting into events,” Leslie said. “As a brand, we’d like to get into Agenda. It’s a huge clothing expo, one of the biggest in the world.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.comments powered by Disqus