We are fully enamored by a sword’s lure as it is able to uncover the truth with one swift swing. We believe that those who don the sword understand the meaning of honor, bravery and justice.
– Dueling Clothing Company
When I interview merchants who accept Bitcoin, I typically begin by asking about their company – how it all began, what their role is, and so on. Gradually, I transition into more questions related to cryptocurrency. But when I met James Galitsis at Sweetleaf Coffee in Williamsburg, he started talking about Bitcoin as soon as I sat down, before I even had a chance to ask any questions. “Do you mind repeating all of that?” I asked. “I didn’t have a chance to record anything yet, but I’d love to include what you’re saying in the article.”
His eagerness to begin was a clear demonstration of his passion for all things Bitcoin, and I soon learned that Galitsis brought that passion to his business as well. Galitsis is the founder of Dueling Clothing and Accessories Company, a dueling-focused fashion line. “For me, this is what I want to do until the day that I die,” said Galitsis. “I love what I do.”
From t-shirts proclaiming “Challenge Accepted” to bracelets engraved with “All Is Fair In Love and War”, all of the company’s products draw inspiration from the history of the sword. The website includes an extensive history of dueling, and many of the items come with printed material to further educate the customer.
I spoke to Galitsis about how the company began, where he’s planning on heading, and how Bitcoin ties into his overall vision.
James Galitsis: I started reading about Bitcoin, and I saw the potential that it could have. And I feel like people who use Bitcoin are out-of-the-box thinkers, not necessarily the “average Joe”. Most of the people who support Bitcoin are independent thinkers; they’re very free spirited. I feel like that matches very well with my line, so I had to put two & two together, and I haven’t looked back. I integrated Bitcoin into my site [as a payment method] about two months ago.
Emily Braun: Have you made any Bitcoin sales so far?
Galitsis: A few. I’m kind of active on some of the Bitcoin forums, so I go and post my stuff on them, and as a result, I’ve had a few sales through Bitcoin. It’s cool, because it’s different than currency – it’s a little more mysterious. I like that about the whole Bitcoin community.
Braun: Have you ever used Bitcoin to buy something yourself?
Galitsis: Not as of yet, because I’m so new. The first Bitcoin I bought was back in October. But I see the potential for what Bitcoin can be. To me, Bitcoin is potentially greater than any fiat currency, because of the fact that there’s a finite amount of 21 million. If it catches on, meaning that everyone accepts Bitcoin twenty or thirty years from now, investing at this point makes sense. Because once there’s a demand for it, the price is going to go up.
Fiat currency, right now, is more regulated, so people feel they can trust it a little bit more. But within the last ten years, we’ve seen the explosion of e-commerce. I mean, I sell at retail locations and on an ecommerce platform, and this year especially, my ecommerce sales outweighed my retail sales. It’s the first time this has happened, and I just feel like it’s the way of the future.
Braun: Do you accept Bitcoin for both retail sales and ecommerce sales?
Galitsis: Of course! I haven’t done it yet [for retail], but when I do, I have it set up on my phone. I’m looking forward to it. I was previously in another marketplace in Queens that had different clientele, but [now that I’m at Artist and Fleas in Williamsburg], I feel like this area has a strong influence of not only artists but intellects. And I think there’s more possibility for those types of people to start using Bitcoin.
Braun: What do you think needs to happen to drive Bitcoin awareness & adoption further?
Galitsis: The problem with Bitcoin is that a lot of people still don’t trust it. A lot of people make money by speculating on Bitcoin, and it’s very volatile. I mean, back in mid-November, it was about $310 [for one Bitcoin], and now it’s about $430*. And I think the volatility, for traders or for speculators, is amazing. But for people who own Bitcoin, I feel like they use it and then they change it to fiat, in order to pay bills and everything else.
I feel like the finance systems in places like the Scandinavian countries are perfect for accepting Bitcoin as another currency. I went there about five years ago, for instance, and I went into a bar and bought two drinks. It was about $20, so I went in my pocket to take out cash, and the bartender says, “I only take credit cards.” So that blew my mind, because here in New York, cash is king. Because with cash, you don’t have to disclose all of the money you make; it’s not traceable, and it’s not like credit cards, where there are records.
I think Bitcoin adoption starts slow and starts small. I feel like there has to be a certain industry that will monopolize it first, and then everything else will follow.
Braun: What industry do you think will do that?
Galitsis: Well, there has been an industry that did it, but that’s all illicit goods. The finance industry would be perfect, except there’s going to be a lot of speculation. And when you have speculation, there’s going to be volatility. For example, the United States Dollar to the Canadian Dollar – not as volatile. But with Bitcoin, there are huge ups and downs. I think the only way it could stabilize is if we had a sizable community base that specifically only deals with Bitcoin. They’re not changing it to fiat. Maybe the industry could be small merchants. A place like this coffee shop would be cool.
It’s also hard because no one is thinking, “This costs 3.2 bitcoins.” They’re doing the conversions in their head to fiat. Once people start thinking in terms of Bitcoin and once Bitcoin kind of stabilizes where the market wants it to be, I think there’s going to be a lot more people using it.
Braun: On the topic of small merchants, can you tell me a little bit about your company and how it started?
Galitsis: Sure! The abridged version or the long version?
Braun: As long as you want!
Galitsis: To tell you a little about myself, I have my master’s degree in political science and my BA in history. My love in life was always history. You know, most people like to go out, but you could just lock me up in a library with books, and I would read until I passed out.
About four years ago, my friend from Sweden was visiting, and we went down to the Trinity Church. Alexander Hamilton is buried in the cemetery at the Trinity Church. Hamilton is on the $10 bill, and talking about finance, he was the main financier, the first Secretary of Treasury. And Hamilton is the most famous victim of a duel, the duel that took place on July 11, 1804 between himself and Aaron Burr. There was a wing in the Trinity Church devoted to his life, and I saw this sketch image of the duel that really made an impression on me. And it just hit me to put that image and a quote on a t-shirt.
What I conceived in my head as a history-based line has kind of switched gears and become a very sword-based line. People are very into swords, very into dueling. I started off with just the tees, and then I expanded to tees, hoodies, zip-ups… and now, I also have my own accessories company as well.
Braun: Do you design everything yourself?
Galitsis: All concepts come from here (points to head). From design to branding to marketing to PR, I do everything. I have a backer who is putting in some money, but it’s just me. And I love what I do. It really completes me. I work all the time. Even when I’m home by myself, I’m constantly working – posting on Instagram, fixing something on Twitter, coming up with new ideas, new designs. I’ll get a graphic designer to design stuff that I can’t. My jewelry partner is my good friend; I come up with the ideas, and he creates the molds. It’s a lot of fun.
I had my own store downtown for about a year and four months, and that’s where I kind of grew. I closed back in February, so I could pursue more of a wholesale business. Now, I have a wholesale business, and I sell online & at a retail location. After 2016 and beyond, I want to be the premier sword brand. If you see a sword, you think of Dueling.
That’s my main goal, that I want people to get in touch with the sword. The sword is cool. It’s a very international symbol that represents justice, the last line of defense, honor, respect… And my entire line engulfs that.
Braun: What were some challenges about starting your own business?
Galitsis: The question isn’t, “What are some challenges?” I mean, everything is a challenge! There’s one thing I’ve heard that’s very cliche, but it’s also very true. Ideas are powerful. Anyone can have an idea. The idea for this place was powerful: “I want to create a nice coffee shop.” But often, there’s a lack of execution. A lot of people come up with really great ideas, but they don’t execute properly. It’s not because they don’t have what it takes. Everyone has what it takes. If you have the will to eat, to drink, to clothe yourself, to have a house… you have survival instincts. The question remains, how long are you going to be willing to keep trying?
I mean, I conceived this to be a history line, to teach people history through fashion. And though people love the history aspect, I saw more potential in the sword aspect. So you have to know when to pivot and go a different… a slightly different direction. It doesn’t have to be a 180; it might just be a 45 degree angle.
And like I said, there’s a challenge for everything. For example, it’s challenging to work with people. When you have an idea and you’re not able to execute it, you have to hire someone else to execute it. And he’s not you or she’s not you, so for you to mesh together and have synergy, that takes time. With some people, you get it automatically, and with others, you don’t. But that’s a challenge.
Another challenge is yourself. I mean, take all of the external challenges and forget about those; put them on the side. You might have an idea, and then you fail once – how many times can you get up? If you fail once and you quit, you didn’t really give it a good go. I feel like I failed so many times, but I’ve also succeeded so many times. It’s through failure that you truly understand how to succeed in business. And that comes from inside. Everyone’s built differently, but there’s a survival instinct. And for me, this is what I want to do until the day that I die. I love what I do. I wake up early in the morning and work until nine or ten at night. I might work out, I might have a bite to eat, but this is always on my mind.
So the biggest challenge is really the internal challenge to overcome your own fears. Fear is perceived as external, but it’s truly internal. There is no fear, other than the fear of death. It’s the only fear that keeps us all here. That’s how I see it. And once you overcome the internal, the external can be overcome. If you need money, you can find money. If you need people, you can find people. There’s way of cutting costs, there’s ways of expanding, there’s ways of meeting different people…
Who you know is very big. For instance, I had a friend who was dating a reality TV star, and her reach is very large online. I asked her to wear a piece of jewelry, she took a photo, she tagged me, and I made money off of that. In business, you’ve got to constantly look. I have a product-based business, and that’s a little tougher than a service-based business. When you create a brand or product, it takes a little more time. But once people see you in a few places, they’re like, “This is a cool brand! I like this.” That’s the whole thing right there.
Braun: If someone came to you and told you they were thinking about accepting Bitcoin for their business, what would you tell them?
Galitsis: I’d say do it! What do you have to lose? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Worse case, you don’t like it, and you can switch it into fiat. I feel like everyone should accept Bitcoin. I understand it’s scary, especially with the volatility. But volatility is also opportunity. Like I said, over time, I feel like Bitcoin got a really bad rep from the Mt. Gox situation. But I feel like eventually, it’s going to even out. It all depends on if people believe in it. Right now, the United States dollar is very strong. Everyone wants the United States dollar; it’s just the hottest thing right now. Five, six years ago, that wasn’t the case. People were selling the United States dollar for other currencies. So it’s all cyclical.
There has be a faith, even just one person. And it started with Satoshi Nakamoto. We don’t even know who he is, but he had the idea. Once the ’08 crash happened and people saw how scary the world can be when finances are in absolute ruins, this idea of cryptocurrency came into play. Like alright, we might be good right now with fiat currency, but tomorrow, that might not be the case. So Satoshi came up with the formula, which is basically to keep a log of all transactions – and at the same time, they’re all anonymous, and they only have an account number.
I just think it’s really cool. I really like the concept. I think it has the real chance, because it cuts out transaction costs. Because if you live in Europe or South America, and I want to send you $500, there’s going to be transaction costs for me and for you if I go to Western Union. But if I send you bitcoins, you get that exact amount, and you can change it to whatever currency you want.
I just think it takes time, because it’s a very novel concept. I feel the best way to get into Bitcoin is just buying into the concept first. Buy and sell, and just get involved. And once you get involved, there’s a community, and that’s what’s beautiful about it. I’ve talked it over with people who don’t understand the concept, but the more you read into it, the more you understand the power behind it. You just have to believe in it. Because it’s a way of being anonymous while, at the same time, belonging to a community.
– Emily Braun
To check out more of the cool products offered by Dueling Clothing and Accessories Company, click here!
All photos in this post are credited to Dueling Clothing and Accessories Company.
*At the time of the interview