Johnny Cupcakes Coming to Somerville to Talk About Clothing and Branding

The T-shirt mogul known for his fake-bakery shops and apparel will tell his story to a limited audience.

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Those that usually wait in the long lines outside of the faux-bakery on Newbury Street, where Johnny Cupcakes’ T-shirts and apparel are sold, may want to start lining up at the Somerville Public Library.

On May 10 at 4 p.m., the SPL will welcome entrepreneur Johnny Earle, better known as Johnny Cupcakes, as he talks to attendees about his business, and how he went from selling T-shirts with custom designs out of the back of his old, rusty car to owning a multi-million dollar brand that attracts swarms of devoted fans to his stores in four Massachusetts locations, California, and London.

The event, hosted by the Friends of the Somerville Public Library, with include a pop-up shop featuring Johnny Cupcakes clothing, and will include some free items for those who get in the doors. Tickets are also free, but are limited to 60, and can be picked up in advance at the library’s front desk, according to event organizers. His appearance is the fifth in a larger series of design talks at the library branch on Highland Avenue in Somerville.

On the day of the talk, Johnny Cupcakes will delve into how he made his desire to become a household name in the fashion industry come to life, allowing him to get brand recognition on an international level, something other local t-shirt brands who are forging their own paths think will be beneficial.  “Johnny has always been a huge inspiration to me,” says Regan Smith Clarke, owner of his self-titled, Boston-based clothing label. “He set the standard for maintaining high visibility with customers and letting them in ‘behind the scenes.’ Adopting a similar approach has been key to my own success in a crowded marketplace.”

According to the event organizers, those success secrets are part of the appearance:

In this session, Johnny will piece together how his success reinforces the power of details, experience and loyalty. Through his inspiring, and certainly unpredictable journey, Johnny exudes the fundamental connection between the person and the brand. His presentation provides comprehensive blueprints for getting any small company, passion or idea off the ground.

James Fox, president of the Friends of Somerville Public Library, which helps raise money for the library’s branches to bring programs to the area, says the rare appearance will let those interested in launching their own business pick the brain of the clothing entrepreneur. “It will look at the importance of branding—he has a whole dog and pony show he does—and he is going to wheel that out. It’s a bit about his life and career path so far and how he does what he does,” he says.

Fox worked with teachers from the design and business programs at the Somerville High School to make sure they get a chance to sit in on the presentation. Fox says the opportunity will show why Johnny Cupcakes’ brand was able to become successful without the backing of a major corporation. “I think he really tapped into something…I think he has tapped into a certain demographic that maybe looks for other non-traditional [outlets]. It’s slightly on the edge, and not part of the ‘mall culture.’ It’s definitely a street wear thing, too —it has to do with collecting, the limited edition part of it is a huge thing, and just also being really accessible and honest about who he is,” Fox says of Johnny Cupcakes. “He talks about this quite a bit in his lectures, going the extra mile in the branding and the packaging to show you care. Whether you really like his stuff or not, the lecture itself will be great for anyone looking at marketing and branding.”