Interview: Making It In America With Karmaloop CEO Greg Selkoe

Interview: Making It In America With Karmaloop CEO Greg Selkoe

Do you think the “How to Make It In America” notion that going from making to selvedge jeans is still a reality? Or do you think the demand of the market has changed from that?

 

A lot of brands do the same fucking thing over and over again. Unless you’re the first, you’re generally not going to be known for it.

 

Everything’s a reality. There’s not a lot of Karmaloops either. We had a lot of competition in the beginning, but they went out of business so… most people aren’t going to be successful. It’s just the nature, 90% of businesses go out of business in the first year, so can some people do that still? Of course, I’m sure there will be many examples of that. Are there other ways to do it? Definitely. There are people like Flud Watches for instance — he just wanted to make watches, so he focused on that.

That doesn’t mean you have to start with T-shirts, it just means if you have no money it’s the best way to do it because it’s the easiest thing to make yourself. But if you can raise money, you can start a denim line. I think there’s lots of stories like the “Crisp” story,” brands like Mishka started just a couple of kids in Brooklyn making T-shirts and then they developed it into something. So yeah, I think that’s just the nature of any business. You have to start at the bottom. And its all about raising awareness, whether you’re making T-shirts, having the best parties, or you got some celebrity to wear your hat with your logo on it. Those are the things you need to get started.

In terms of building a good brand, do you think the story or the product is more important, and how do you balance the two out?

A lot of brands do the same fucking thing over and over again. Unless you’re the first one to do something, you’re generally not going to be known for it. A lot of brands do a knock off of the “Polo” look — not really a knock off, more like homage, and that’s cool, that’s something that’s classic, but you’re just following.

So many Kazbah brands that hit me with stuff and it’s like: “that looks like this, this, this, and this brand.” The brands that gain traction are the ones that do something different and new. You change the game a little bit, even if it’s just a little bit.

Can you give us a recent example of something that blew your mind?

I’ll give you a not recent example. When Bape came out they did stuff that was very different, a lot of the all over stuff that was popular in 2005, 2006. They originated a lot of things that a lot of brands emulate. That’s a good example of how a brand shocked people by how it was so different.  Price points were different; everything they did was different. It made it unique.

And there’s a lot of examples nowadays, BLVCK SCVLE for instance. They’ve brought the graphic tee in a new direction. The black with white print on it, symbols, screenprinting on different parts of the shirt — they’ve really created a kind of genre. 

Karmaloop is in its 12th year of business. In that time, you’ve seen a lot of new trends, and you’ve seen where a lot of the money is going. Where do you see the future of style as it is?

Even in Karmaloop there’s many different subgenres. I think the modern world that we live in allows people to find exactly what they want which is a cool thing. Every freaky pervert can find the porn that they need, and so with clothes you’re going to find more people.

The music industry’s been kind of changed completely because anyone with Serato can make good music now. Music is cheap in one sense that it doesn’t cost a lot to do, but in the other sense its kind of democratized, a lot more people can do it. And I think your going to see that with clothing. 

As more robots are building clothing, there are less human hands, and there will be the backlash where people will make more handmade stuff, which is cool too. But we’ll get to a point someday in 20-25 years where you can almost design your whole wardrobe yourself; it’ll just come out of a printer or something like that. You’ve seen those material printers, but that stuff is so primitive right now compared to where it’s going to go. 

You’re going to have machines that can make cloth, and change the molecular structure of cloth, so it’s like: they can take a base and make it into cotton. At some point you’ll be able to say: “I want a shirt that feels like this,” and you’ll be able to make it. It’s going to be a long time, but probably in our lifetime.

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