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St. Paul startup Headcase combines film and fashion

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Nick Barghini was in a tough spot last year. He had been working in California behind-the-scenes in film and television. Then he went broke. So the 29-year-old headed back home to St. Paul and made short films as he plotted his next move.

He had Sean Guthrie, a friend of his, draw up a design for a logo that he could put on a crew hat for his productions. The design turned out well. It dawned on him that a clothing line was possible, and would be a great way to make some stable income. From that design came Headcase Films & Fashion, a clothing line that's also a film-production company.

One may ask what's the point of combining the two, and the answer comes down to storytelling and branding. “We already had built a brand. Rather than start something new we figured we could cross over,” says Barghini.

Barghini recruited Adam Stein, a friend since high school, to help out on the business side of things. They wanted clothing that was both comfortable and stylish, so they decided to make street wear: hoodies, sweatshirts, crop-tops, and T-shirts. Prices range from $30 to $50, with a few higher-end items. 

Profits made from the clothing line help fund the company's films. Some will feature the company's clothing, and soon customers will be able to purchase straight from some of the videos.

In terms of content, that varies. It's not always about promoting the clothing line. Film is Barghini's main love, and he intends to take full advantage of it by exploring issues he cares about. He understands that certain topics are controversial, but he believes having those discussions are important.

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“So many of these things become issues because nobody talks openly and honestly about them,” he says. “There are so many things that people have underneath that they'd like to say, but are afraid to say because of the internet rage.”

That internet rage will be a focal point at Headcase Films & Fashion's inaugural show this New Year's Eve, though it will have a cheeky spin to it. The celebration will have a prison theme, with all the models being charged for a silly social crime.

“The commentary isn't necessarily from a place of rage,” Barghini. “It's more from a place of humor.”

Stein and Barghini are also aware that youth are a huge demographic in the fashion world, and it's also youth who drive a lot of the change happening right now. But rather than chase those trends, they want to tap into that potential through events such as talent shows for local, high-school-aged kids.

“I believe in constant motion and moving forward,” Barghini explains. “I think that [young people] have a lot more to say than maybe they're given credit for.”

Headcase is a clothing and film company, but there's a good chance the clothing aspect wouldn't exist without Barghini's love of telling stories through film. You could say it all started with a hat, but it actually all started with a storyteller.

“Video is probably the most effective way I've ever found to tell stories,” Barghini says. “And so that's kinda a big part of this, because it's based on a story, this whole business. So it just felt right to combine the two.”

The New Year's fashion celebration takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, December 31 at Schmidt Lofts.