May 19, 2010
We managed to catch up with Jeff Staple recently to talk music, fashion, design and more importantly about him and his vision.
Hey Jeff … how ya doin? How has New York been treatin’ ya today?
Hello! I’m pretty good. Been travelling way too much this year so far…but that means it’s busy and busy is good when you run a business—that’s why both start with B-U-S. With all the travel, I am enjoying NYC like it’s some exotic location. I look forward to just staying home and chillin.
That’s great… we know that you love travelling, exploring and meeting new people so where was the last city you visited and what did you take away from it?
I am actually answering this from LA right now. Been spending a lot of time here. Lots of things happening and brewing here, none of which I can speak about of course. Haha. What did I take away from here? Great question.
1st: There are people you will meet in your industry that you will interact with because you HAVE to. And then there are people in your industry that you will interact with because you WANT to. Cherish the latter. They’re called friends.
2nd: Pay respect to everyone that helped you get to where you are. You’d be nothing without them. The people you see going up the ladder are the same people you see coming down. And trust me…everyone goes down eventually.
What does being a perfectionist mean to you?
An impossible state to achieve. And if you think you did achieve it—you fucked up.
For those who are unaware of what you do… could you please briefly touch on this subject?
I am the founder and creative director of Staple Design and Reed Space.
Staple Design is a creative / design agency as well as a men’s clothing collection.
Reed Space is our retail store and gallery space. We also publish a print magazine called Reed Pages.
A lot of people know you as an ‘innovator’ or ’leader’ in the design, fashion, or retail industry, how do you feel being given that honour?
Quite funny, but humbling at the same time. I don’t consider myself an innovator. I did what was true to myself. And maybe that notion in itself is innovative. But I think if more people stayed true to themselves, they would find similar results.
Running several businesses is not easy let alone pushing it to the ‘next level’, how do you maintain each facet of your business, whilst developing its growth simultaneously? What is your recipe for success?
An awesome team! There is no other way.
Part of my job is just making sure the team players can do what they need to do. I basically clear the way for them to do what they need to do. If they can’t do it, then someone else can step in. But I never want to be in a situation where I am preventing someone from doing their job to their fullest. That would be the worst thing I could do.
I’m sure you’d agree, we never stop learning and experiencing new things in our lives no matter how old we get. What are some key things you’ve learned along your journey since starting Staple back in 97’?
I think one of the most important things I learned early on was respect for everyone I cross paths with.
I personally think that the Airwalk collaboration project is a very bold move from your company and I really admire and respect that decision, but not everyone agrees to that. What’s your take on the project and your shoes being sold at Payless?
I think its ground-breaking. I don’t use that word that often. In a few years we’re gonna start seeing “street culture company X” at Kmart, “street culture company X” at Walmart, “street culture company X” at Target…and it was because this Stpl x Airwalk deal made it ok. Not to say, I made it OK, like, on some you now have permission type shit. But my peers will look at it and say, “This didn’t kill Staple. It just brought more exposure and more eyeballs (and more duckets of course). We should seriously look at doing this.”
I mean, of course, each project must be handled on a case by case basis. I knew the risks going into this deal and I determined the gains were worth the risk and I felt confident in my partner that we could do something special. And I think we did. (And continue to do so…)
Being the multi talented and busy man you are, I’m sure there are plenty of projects in the pipe line at the moment, are there any of which you can reveal to all Staple fans out there?
Tell us a little bit about the 1-2-1 projects/interviews that you’ve executed with Bobbito Garcia, Marc Ecko and the likes… are you working on another one and what have you taken away from the people you have interviewed?
My major at NYU was Journalism. So I always have this bug to do interviews and profiles. I felt like because I was sort of on the same side as the stage as some of the people I wanted to interview, it would lend a different perspective than if just a normal journalist were to do the interview. I wanted to offer the viewers a sort of “fly-on-the-wall” view of a conversation happening between 2 peers—hence the name “1-2-1”. Yes a new one is dropping very soon and I hope you enjoy it. I’m very proud of it.
In your opinion, what is the one fashion label that has made a big impact in the industry as far as innovation is concern? And how have they achieved it?
Uniqlo. They are a game changer. Japanese selvedge denim for $40. Cashmere Sweaters for $70. Awesome graphic tees with the best artists. Interiors by Katayama-Wonderwall. Ad campaigns shot by Terry Richardson. They are bring quality and design to the masses for prices almost everyone can afford. It really makes designers like myself almost want to give up. But actually, it just pushes us to be more unique and more interesting. It’s an interesting cat and mouse game.
Fashion and retail live and breathe the same air… in your opinion, how has retail transformed over the past 10 years? What are some of the trends that have caused this shift? And where do you think it will shift?
Retail has become more experiential. I think the term is “lifestyle boutique”. Early retailers like Reed Space, Colette, Opening Ceremony and others realized that people coming to our shops didn’t just like one thing (fashion). They were interested in many different things (music, art, design, publications, etc). And they appreciated our curatorial eye…so it made sense to say to them, if you like this shirt we picked, you might like this CD we listen to or this magazine we read. What’s happening now is that even big chain stores are getting into the act. So it’s not strange to see a clothing giant have a little book or music section. But I think they are missing that “curated” feeling. That’s something we will always have that the big guys will find difficult to replicate.
If you were given the chance to swap industries, would you do it? And if so what industry would you be in and why?
No…I love my job. But if I had to stop doing what I do now, I would just be a teacher full-time. I am constantly turning down offers from NYU, FIT, Parsons, Columbia University…and it makes me sad because I love to teach. But I feel at this time, I can teach MORE people by doing what I do now. With traditional teaching, you’re only touch maybe 30 kids in a classroom. With Staple, I am touch thousands at a time. But I look forward to my retirement years in a classroom.
Everyone has a life motto, what is yours?
“You have 2 choices in life: Get busy living. Or get busy dying.”
On a lighter topic… If you were a 70’s porn star, what would you alias be?
Haha…hmmm…how about, “Chow Yun Phat.”
What is your favourite cartoon series while growing up in the 70s and 80s and why?
Tom and Jerry.
I watched some episodes recently and they are genius. They appeal to me now that I’m 35 the same way they did back when I was a kid.
What are you currently pumping on your stereo?
A mix…some Common, some Badu. Broken Bells. Hiroshi Fujiwara’s trio called IDF. Been dusting off some oldies too like Rolling Stones, The Fugees, The Soundtrack to Crooklyn, The Roots, DJ Shadow, Platinum Pied Pipers, Ghostface, Chairman Mao mix CDs, DJ Soul mix CDs, Corrine Bailey Rae…
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us today Jeff and sharing your thoughts with everyone. We at Fat Kids wish you much success in the many years to come and hope to see you in Australia soon.
Oy! No problem. Keep the culture moving forward ya crazy cunts.
(To the non Aussie readers…I swear! They talk like this down there! It’s nuts!)
words by Benny Teh