At what point in time did you start getting really interested in brands?
I got interested in brand building through my friend Darren Romanelli. He taught me a lot when I was 21, and he introduced me to the world of fashion. At this time, I was really into films, and I saw so many similarities to film making and brand building. It’s all just storytelling.
What are your thoughts on the process of building a brand?
Creating a brand is like making a movie. You need to build a world that seems real and authentic. You need to create characters, a soundtrack, a visual language, and a strong storyline to your brand. Just like a movie, if the world you create doesn’t capture your attention then it will fail.
How much of it is art versus science?
I think it depends on what your end result is. The science of brand building usually is essential when you are trying to make a business. I sometimes think when you go too artful; you are taking a risk because for the most part your not looking to settle with just creating a product that sells. The science comes in handy when you are looking at numbers, and using techniques of other successful brands and incorporating it in yours.
Brain Dead is your latest foray into creating a brand. How would you describe its rise?
Brain Dead has grown in a real organic fashion. I am pleased with the way it’s rolling out. My partner Ed Davis and I created it with the idea that it could be a sandbox where we could create and explore ideas in all facets of culture. I think the fact that we are not trying to go the conventional fashion route, we can capture the attention of some great retailers and customers.
You’ve launched brands such as Farm Tactics and AXS Folk Technology in the past. Why do you see Brain Dead as being more popular than the previous two?
With Farm Tactics and AXS, it was dealing with more the idea of “fashion and clothing.” Brain Dead to me is not really a clothing brand. Yes, we make clothing, but we are not looking to compete or play in the traditional clothing confines. I was getting frustrated with the fashion industry. I hated the idea of “seasons,” and I felt like I had to make certain designs cater to the “market.” With my other brands, I worried too much about whether or not I should make X amount of pants, or are people going to wear slub tees next season. I think Brain Dead is more popular because it deals less with fashion and more with lifestyle and culture. It has a strong identity, and I think when you are connected to the culture you always have an upper hand.
‘Sometimes people buy into the hype and just keep spoon feeding the world the same s#it.’
Given the pace of the Internet and how things are largely out of your control when it hits online, how can brands grow at a healthy rate?
Our approach is just to make the stuff we want. If you get to caught up on “hype” or what the Internet is saying is “cool” you will get stuck in the vortex! All the trends on the Internet come and go, but the brands that believe in what they do and organically evolve will stay.
What are some common missteps you see brands taking?
I think the main problem with most brands is not creating a strong foundation or identity for their brand. You must really look at what you’re trying to create and where it should live. So many brands start up, and they just try to emulate the trend. I think it’s finding a way to incorporate trend into your design, but I don’t think you should let the trend dictate your brand.
How has consulting for corporates such as UO or Reebok shaped your own views on running and creating a strong brand?
Working with larger, more established brands has really taught me a lot about the industry. Brands like UO have stayed relevant for a reason. These companies really try to understand their consumer, and create product that fits that consumer’s lifestyle. I also learned a lot of business sense from my experiences.
What steps do you take with Brain Dead to ensure longevity over unsustainable hype and burnout?
I think the first step is not to buy into any hype that people give you. At the end of the day, it’s important to not get too comfortable and think you have “made it.” Always have higher and higher goals. Sometimes people buy into the hype and just keep spoon feeding the world the same s#it. Brands need to evolve, and grow.
Is it harder to build that maintains relevance now relative to the past?
I think it’s easier than ever to create a brand and because of the Internet you are seeing so many brands out there. But that doesn’t mean they are going to last. The best brands will always rise to the top. I don’t think it really ever changed, you’re just seeing the rise and fall in a more public manner.
via Slam Jam Social-ism