Speaking of Kazbah , how did that concept come about?
People pitch me on brands all the time, kids were hitting me up all the time, sometimes like 20, 30 people a week. Some of the stuff was really dope and I was like “how do we figure out how to carry this?” If we bring in 10.DEEP, Crooks & Castles, or any of those brands, we bring in huge quantities — millions of dollars of their stuff. It’s almost as much work to bring in 20 T-shirts as it is to bring in 2,000 because you have to go through the whole ordering process.
The marketplace model was out there, when Karmaloop first started I used something similar to a Yahoo store. We wanted to create something like that for our niche, and this year we’re going to expand it big time. Were making Kazbah its own URL; we’re going to add new components to it, so it’s going to be something you can get to from Karmaloop, but you can also just go right to Kazbah as well.
What went into the establishment Boylston Trading Company? What kind of guy is the Karmaloop guy and what kind of guy is the Boylston guy? And how do you differentiate the two when there’s a little bit of overlap in their aesthetic?
The best thing if you’re starting out: make some banging ass T-shirts, get them up on Kazbah, and sell them.
For instance, if you have black chucks on Karmaloop, they can be on Boylston, they can be on Brick Harbor, which is our new skate site. Those are much more universally worn, but then there are other pieces that can only live in that one environment.
The thinking with Boylston was that a lot of people in Karmaloop had tastes that veered towards the higher end. I would say some of it is like boutique-line streetwear — some of it’s just boutique-y stuff, but we didn’t have the money to buy it. We’ve been more successful, and so I think it’s a sort of mix and match thing. I think you can shop at both places, obviously Boylston has a lot of collabs, limited edition, and it’s expensive, but there are certain people who want that stuff.
We had people hit us up about it, and understandably some of the brands were like “we don’t want to be on Karmaloop because we consider ourselves a very expensive high-end brand…we want to be in a very small, different environment,” and we were like “well, these are some brands we want to fuck with so let’s create that environment for them.”
Frank the Butcher runs it. He’s been the homie for a while, and he was leaving his job at Concepts anyways, so we were talking about this idea and we wanted someone to come in and run it, and he was the perfect guy to do it. In a lot of ways it’s his baby. Obviously I have input, the initial concept of doing a higher-end site was my idea but the name Boylston Trading Company, they came up with it. They do everything with a lot of detail and care. We couldn’t afford to do what we do with Boylston with every fucking product because they do an editorial for each one. So it’s the premium. A lot of the collabs we might’ve had on Karmaloop before, we put on Boylston, like a Mitchell & Ness cap. We have Mitchell & Ness on Karmaloop, but we did one special for Boylston because we wanted to put it in that environment.
Do you think the desire for well-edited stores and high-quality products are going to go away? Or do you think that’s where the future is?
Nah, the reason why that cant be the future, 100%, is it’s really expensive. Most people can’t afford that. You either have to be like: “I’m going to spend a lot of my disposable income ‘cause fashion’s really important to me. It speaks to who I am,” or you have to have a lot of money.
It’s not like Karmaloop is cheap, but were talking boots for $700-$800 dollars a pair. There’s always been a market for higher-end, more premium handmade type stuff. I don’t think it’s going to go away, but I don’t think it’s going to take over either. I think there is a movement for people wanting smaller labels, more handcrafted stuff, made in the USA when they can. I think there’s definitely going to be room for that.
What advice would you have for new brands that want to tap into the Karmaloop market, or the Boylston market? You’re seeing the kinds of products that sell, so what stuff do you see a demand for?
Well, I think that it’s fun to put out cut-and-sew, denim, and stuff like that, and that’s what everyone aspires to do, but you don’t want to put the cart before the horse. The best thing in my opinion, if you’re starting out: make some banging ass T-shirts, get them up on Kazbah, and sell them.
To start off on Boylston, with those being higher cost and a lot of cut-and-sew, you’d have to raise some money to do that. I don’t see a lot of brands from Kazbah going to Boylston, they’re not those kinds of brands. Boylston is going to be very selective, so I think you have to make a name for yourself first. But yeah, I think for Karmaloop we’ve moved over a lot of brands like IMKING, started off as Kazbah brands.