James Bond (yes, that’s his real name) co-founded Undefeated, but he usually prefers to stay out of the spotlight. That’s going to change this week, when he gives viewers a behind-the-curtain look at his Los Angeles’ boutique and his lifestyle on Esquire Networks’ “How I Rock It”. James took some time from his busy schedule to talk about Undefeated is turning into its own brand, the evolution of sneaker culture, and his favorite collaborations to work on. You can also catch him on “How I Rock It” when it airs on the Esquire Network tomorrow night.
Interview by Larry Gallagher (@Writing_Wrambler)
Now you’re going to be appearing in a segment of “How I Rock It”. You don’t always like to be out there in the public eye and you seem to prefer to be more in the background of things. With that in mind, how did the appearance on the show come about?
I’m kind of like a frustrated chef, so I was cooking at my friends restaurant and Baron Davis was there and he had an interview with a mutual friend of ours and he was like “I’d love to have you on the show”. It was pretty simple. He was into the food, so I don’t know, he was just like “Hey, I’ll put you on the show”.
What I found really interesting was a good amount of your segment is dedicated to your support of boxer Pedro “Lil Pete” Duran. You’ve definitely been there to support him and it seems that giving that support to someone who otherwise might not make it without that help is important to you. Would you say that’s a fair assumption?
Yeah, of course. You know I’ve been pretty fortunate to have a few people in my corner no matter what knuckleheaded things I had done as a youngster. So I felt that it was important that I live my life in the same way and treat people the way I had been treated. You know people looked out for me in a critical time where I really could have gone off and done nothing and that really helped me be who I am today. So with him I felt this great opportunity. Even in the beginning just meeting this amazing little kid who was so laser focused. I could never imagine being so focused at the age that he was. I was just like “I’m down to support in any way that I can”. It just grew from there, all of the respect that they gave me and I wasn’t in it for anything other than being supportive to a young man. It was kind of just building a family and it’s been a pretty amazing process. I try to do as much as I can and for Lil Pete, were always down to do as much as we can to help out.
I just feel that you’ve got to shoot straight and be honest, and that’s all you can do.
Yeah it really is crazy seeing him. I think he just turned 20 and I just can’t imagine having that type of discipline at that age. You can see it show in his work and his progress as a fighter.
Exactly. Just to have him on our team, it’s inspirational for our guys who are much older but are still like “Holy shit I can’t believe I’m still doing this” watching him doing his thing is just amazing stuff.
Now one of the other things you were saying and I think it has to do with your role as a mentor is the idea of how sheltered kids are today. For someone in your position, running a brand and having some influence on a larger level, how do you help put that idea of helping kids deal with reality into effect?
You know the name of it is escaping me, but Malcolm Gladwell has a new book that just came out and it’s just about that topic, 100 percent. It’s like, you know, okay maybe I didn’t grow up with the greatest life but I am who I am because of that. The whole flipside of that is all those things that we go through is what helps define you as who you are in your life. So as far as with running a brand, with my own employees I try to be fair and honest and not pat them on the back for mediocrity. It’s the same thing with my kids. I’m happy to support and encourage them but at the same time if I feel like it's B.S., then I’m gonna call it out for being B.S. And if I have to call them out on it then so be it. I don’t want them being out in the world thinking that everything they do is great. You know we have a lot of that in our society now. Like if you just look at social media, you have these kids who just think they need to do shit because the world needs to see it and it marginalizes real talent. It brings everything down to a scale. It’s like a bell curve getting quickly pushed up. I just feel that you’ve got to shoot straight and be honest, and that’s all you can do.
Those are always my favorite projects where everyone gets to participate.
Now as far as Undefeated goes, you’ve gone from a very underground subculture brand to something that’s well recognized and much closer to the mainstream. How do you maintain that balance of keeping your designs and what you do distinctly “your thing”, even as you grow to a much larger level?
I think part of that is my partner and I are both in our mid 40s now. So were from a different generation where we didn’t have the Internet when we started out, we didn’t have social media to promote ourselves. That tool allows you to move really fast and really kind of gauge what people like and what they won’t like. You kind of do what you do and become your own brand architect. We have a couple of things that have slipped through the cracks where were like “Oh, we probably shouldn’t have done that” but we also needed to try and reach out to other markets and other people. But for the most part I think we’ve done a good job staying true to our course and letting people come back to us and we can work with them that way. We don’t have to display our logos and do all of this other stuff. I mean I get what they’re doing, our way is a little bit of a longer road but the reward is much better. Sometimes it’s not the fastest one that’s wins the race, it’s the one with the most consistent pace.