MAKE A DIFFERENCE: AN INTERVIEW W/ JEFFSTAPLE
Posted on May 28 2013
(via cultedge) Jeff Staple is one of the most respected personalities in the world of streetwear and design. Staple, the company he founded, is better recognized for its culture of innovation, premium product, and more. What could better define a man and his work than the permanent wish to make a difference? In this comprehensive interview, Jeff Staple talks about his total commitment to the business, the passion for all things streetwear that grew ever since he was a kid and the exponential growth of a trade that ultimately continues to be a small world. Read below. As a kid, did you have a passion for sneakers, clothing? Yeah, I definitely did. I was always very into clothing and sneakers. I remember in Elementary School I was class-voted “Best Dressed” (I think I came in 2nd actually), and my dressing was so out there and different from the other kids in school I’d get into fights about it, because I’d get ridiculed and I had to defend my fashion honor. Many fights were started because of the way I dressed. Then sneakers really got a hold over my life in the 6th grade. I was obviously into sneakers before, but the 6th grade is when it became a problem for me. It started with the Jordan 3, and from then on I’ve been a sneakerhead ever since. I’ve hoped I’d outgrow it but even as a full grown adult it hasn’t subsided. When you started in the business what drove you the most? Creating new stuff? Making a difference? In the beginning of the business it was really more about creating things I couldn’t find in the marketplace. So I was looking for stuff I wanted to wear and some companies would come close, and others would come close, and then they’d be lacking in some other way. So I really just wanted to make clothes that I wanted to represent and wear proudly. That was the point of it in the beginning. Later on, as the culture grew, that’s where trying to make a difference and maybe lend a hand to young upstarts and entrepreneurs became more of a thing. Streetwear and the magnitude of the business surrounding it has grown in an exponential way during the last few years – yet, is it still “our small world”? I think you could look at this two ways: When we started, streetwear didn’t even have a name. It was really just a group of people. Where I grew up in New York City when I was starting, you’d go to a party or event or something, and there’d be less than 100 people there that were into this culture. If you saw some kid walking down the street wearing a brand relevant to street culture back then, you could pretty much stop and shake his hand, and have a new friend right away because you two were into the same thing. So if you look at it from that point of view, the culture has definitely grown. It’s now international, and involving millions and millions of people. Then you look at the flip side, and if you come from a world of The Gap and Old Navy, and Abercrombie & Fitch, it’s like a speck of dust sitting on the wing of a fly. That’s how small ”street culture” is. So you can kind of look at it both ways. Brand collaborations are all over the footwear and clothing business – how come other industries don’t manage to deal with that that well, in terms of really memorable product ventures? It’s interesting. I think footwear and clothing are obviously just really powerful industries. You look at collaborations happening in other industries such as Automobiles, Food & Beverage and stuff, and I think there are different issues at hand. You know, for example, with Automobiles, it’s just an expensive piece. The cheapest car is like a $20,000 purchase, you know? So it’s not like if you do a collab on a car, you’re gonna see lots and lots of them. A lot of people can’t access them. On the full opposite end of that spectrum you’ve got food, and I’ve seen limited edition drinks, collab yogurt and stuff. The problem with that is it’s so expendable, and such a commodity. You can’t put it on a shelf, you can’t like keep it under a plexiglass display in your home and people come and “ooh” and “ahh” over it. It’s like, you consume it, you throw it away, and it’s done. Clothing and footwear have this nice balance where it’s accessible, people can buy into it from a price point of view, and also it’s a memorable thing. You can put it on a shelf, you can put it on a mantle, put it behind glass, wear it over and over again. It has this lasting relevance. What could be the next step in terms of branding and product development for the game? Collaborations are all around us – could it be that mere product exclusiveness could just run out of spark for the fans? I don’t think collaborations will ever really run out of spark. I think people will always be excited when 2 or more parties come together authentically and create something really great. If on top of that it’s a limited production run I think people will always be excited about that. The challenge is: does the two companies, brands, or artists coming together, authentically make sense for them to come together? That’s number one. Number two, do they create great product? Those are two really big hurdles that a lot of times aren’t overcome. It’s usually one or other. It’s difficult – not as easy as it seems I should say, for those planets to align. I think the most important thing when creating a product first and foremost is you the creator believes in it, that you’re really proud of it, and there’s a real purpose for it somewhere. It doesn’t have to be for everyone, but there’s a purpose for it in your life. That, to me, is the most important thing. Even if it’s a product that doesn’t make sense for 99.99999% of the world, as long as it makes sense for you the creator, that’s the starting point. From there you tweak the design to make it more accessible or more forthcoming to other people, you can make it more price-conscious, you can make it more widely accessible, more widely available, there’s a couple different ways to go about that. But I do think that the first and more important thing is that you the creator believes in it. Have you ever thought about doing something different with your life? Creating a whole different business? I am involved in other businesses, and often times I’m operating behind the scenes and people don’t know about it. So I’m sort of already doing that. Staple clothing, Staple Design Studio, and Reed Space are the 3 most publically known things that I do, but I’m involved in a lot of other things a lot of people don’t know about, and I prefer to keep it that away. Staple has worked with some of the most important brands in the world. Is there a brand that you would really dig to collaborate with in terms of product? My dream collaboration would be to do a project with NASA. Is it really as fun as it appears to be? To create your own brand, design studio, and to make it one of the most important in the world? It is as fun as it appears to be. It’s actually even more fun than it appears to be. It’s more fun and more satisfying than I can portray on Instagram or Twitter or a blog post. It’s really one of the most satisfying and amazing experiences. I feel really fortunate. On the other hand it’s almost impossible to tell someone how hard you have to work, and how much you have to sacrifice in order for it to come to fruition. I think that’s the biggest hurdle that a lot of people don’t realize. A lot of young people who want to start a brand, or aspire to start their own company, see the accolades, they see all the success, but they don’t see the blood, sweat, and tears. And it’s not really their fault that they don’t see it, it’s not portrayed. A lot of press, TV shows, interviews and articles, all they do is talk about the positives and never focus on the negatives. That’s now what sells or have click through’s, nobody wants to hear bad news all the time. People just want to hear the glory. I think there’s a lot of people misunderstood in terms of how hard it really is to get to any point of success in your career, or business, or anything. So it’s definitely as fun as it appears to be, but it’s also painstakingly the most grueling thing you could ever get into in your life. So I wish everyone who wants to get into it the best of luck.