Interview: Making It In America With Karmaloop CEO Greg Selkoe

Interview: Making It In America With Karmaloop CEO Greg Selkoe

What’s it like working with Pharrell so closely, and what kind of stuff do you guys learn from each other, you being in the fashion business and him being in both music and fashion?

Obviously there’s a lot to learn from Pharrell, he’s a very smart, interesting, multi-faceted guy and I think we have a similar outlook on the world. His new record label is “i am Other,” meaning when people are filling out census forms and the last box under race is “Other.” The idea is that we kind of look at the world from a colorblind perspective. Not looking at background and what country people are from, but what they’re about, and share ideas, and he believes in that too and so do I.

In terms of creatively working with Pharrell in terms of developing content and stuff like that, it’s been great. He’s a super smart guy. Obviously, he’s busy with other projects; I try to give input on other things he’s doing when were talking and catching up and stuff. We did a big party in Vegas on with Pharrell, BBC, and Karmaloop. We’re investors together on Brooklyn Machine Works, which is a bike company. But anything he’s doing, I’m always down to be involved in.

You guys are based in Boston. Is that advantageous to your company? What kind of things have you learned from being based there as opposed to like New York?

 

There’s always been a certain subculture that is more creative and cares about how they dress. We’re just a continuum.

 

I’d say it’s been a mixed thing. I would say there are a lot of disadvantages but there are also a lot of advantages. New York is the center of the universe, especially for our world. I come here all the time; we have an office with 60 people in New York now, so I consider New York my second home. 

Some of the advantages to being in Boston though: first of all there’s a huge college population, so we got tons of interns. There’s not a lot of other fashion businesses — there’s a few like Puma, Converse, stuff like that. And the kids coming out of these schools — they’re geniuses, so there’s not as much competition in Boston to get really, really high-level people who are still in college. And I think the other thing too is that in New York we would be one of many. I’d argue we’re the biggest and best for what we do with streetwear online, but in Boston there’s nothing even close to it, so a lot of people get excited about it, people get behind us more: it’s like the hometown thing.

And, I’m from Boston, so it was important to keep it there because I’ve seen so many companies like Facebook start in Boston and just leave. I think if we were in Cleveland it would’ve been difficult, but because of the proximity to New York, it’s so close, I can literally sometimes get here in like 2 hours if I time it right with the shuttle. It would be cool if I could put the two of them an hour apart; that would be even better.

Karmaloop carries not only brands like 10.DEEP and RockSmith, what people would call “streetwear,” but you guys have also branched out into a little bit of Americana with Schott, Pendleton, Naked & Famous, and similar brands.

I have Naked & Famous on. These are like my jeans man.

What kind of factors went into stocking stuff like this in addition to graphic tees, snapbacks, and fitteds?

What I’m happy about is the graphic tee is back, and like the streetwear look is coming back in. I liked the whole preppy thing too, that was good. Everything goes in cycles: if jeans are really tight, you can be sure they’ll be really baggy next. Being in the industry now for 12 years I see how these things go, but the reality is our audience wanted different types of clothing.

They want to mix and match; they want a variety of looks. We don’t consider ourselves necessarily a streetwear site even though we have the largest selection of streetwear, because we don’t want to be pigeonholed. Things evolve and if that term goes away, were still here. It’s a certain mindset; it’s a certain cultural group.

Before there was the word “streetwear” this group existed and they’ll exist afterwards. Even before, in the 80s, the 70s, the 60s, if you were a Beatnik in the 60s or whatever the fuck you were, there’s always been a certain subculture that is more creative, cares about how they dress, and so it’s like, we’re just a continuum of all this throughout history.

As styles change we want to be up on it and plus we want to put people onto stuff that we think is cool so we find a lot of brands that are small. Obviously that’s the case with Kazbah — which is like all up and coming, really small brands. We’re kind of about that.

If you look at some of the parties we have and certain acts we book, we seamlessly blend, indie rock, hip-hop, house music, techno, electro, dubstep, whatever. Our musical taste and our fashion taste is very eclectic and we don’t wanna be defined by anything. We just thought some of that stuff was cool and would sell.

Tags: greg-selkoe, karmaloop, boylston-trading-co, streetwear, style, interview
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