“I don’t know what the secret to success is, but I do know what the secret to failure is, and it’s trying to please everyone.” –Bill Cosby
“In the words of Nike,” jeffstaple advised on starting a business, “‘Just Do It’ already!” adding the ‘already’ for emphasis. Last week a bevy of local creatives descended on the Halekulani Hotel to hear just how the New York entrepreneur got his start.
The founder and owner of Staple Design, Staple Clothing and Reed Space, Jeff is a graphic, web and clothing designer, artist, DJ, writer and entrepreneur. Staying very firmly grounded to the values in which the Staple brand was created – sticking to the basic necessities needed in life – Staple Design has also created work for Burton Snowboards, Converse, The Gap, HBO, Housing Works, Levi’s, LVMH, New Balance, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Nike, NYC&Co., Puma, Timberland, Uniqlo and more. A few thoughts he had to share…
I always like to think that anyone who is in the creative arts should imagine themselves in front of a microphone. You’re constantly, in whatever work you create, talking to a large group of people. Right now I’m talking to a crowd, but as a designer, you’re actually talking to thousands and thousands of people, and today with the Internet, within a matter of minutes, you can communicate with millions of people. And with that power comes responsibility, sorry to quote Spider Man. Basically you’re standing on a platform, and what you say has a lot of influence as a designer. So make sure things are meaningful, have resonance. Because what you say really has an effect.
Have your elevator pitch ready. If you’re in the elevator and someone asks, “What do you do?” You have the elevator to tell that person what you do. Our tagline, what we’re about is a Positive Social Contagion. This has been our motto for over 10 years now. Positive, that means a measure of moving forward, a direction of increase or progress, and living life in the way that makes you happy. Social, basically means people. Then the last word, Contagion, which is a ready transmission or spread of an idea or emotion. So if you have all these positive feelings, positive-moving people spreading the word, then you have a Positive Social Contagion, and that’s everything that we’re about.
I wanted to figure out a means of communication where I could take ideas and spread them to my friends. I was in my second year at Parsons in New York taking a silk screening class. Me and a friend, what we started to do was leave the window of our silk screen class unlocked. Then at night we would take T-shirts in, and we’d have our little sweatshop silk screening shirts. Just to make 12 good T-shirts, like 10 would be destroyed. One night I got a call from a gentleman in Tokyo, and he’s like, “I reeery rike your T-shirts.” I’m like, “How many would you like?” And he’s like, “Ahh, I’d rike one tsaousand.” Ahhhhh. So immediately my mind is like, ok that means we need, like 2,000 shirts. We gotta get them through the window somehow… I knew I really needed to think if we’re going to be serious about this.
It always helps to work with a client that you’re passionate about. I’m not saying you can only do projects you’re passionate about because you will go broke, but you can see a marked difference between projects that you’re passionate about and projects that you’re doing just for the money, really. Fader was a magazine that started as a music mag, but went on to become a lifestyle with fashion, music, culture, art, all sorts of things. They called me looking for someone to redesign the whole magazine – a designer’s dream. I was like, “When do you need it by” Three days. I’m like, “Wow. How much money do you have?” Zero. And I was like, “Wow, that’s perfect.” So I basically didn’t sleep for 72 hours and redesigned the whole magazine. They loved it and hired me full-time as their art director.
Working with Oakley for their 30 year anniversary, two things that I said that got a lot of pushback was one, I want the entire sunglass to feel like a tennis ball – like, fuzzy. They were like, “Well that’s not possible, cuz it’s made out of plastic and plastic can’t be fuzzy.” I said, “We’ll figure out a way.” The other thing I said I wanted were these tennis-striped lenses. And Oakley says, “But then people can’t see out the lens.” I say to them, “People are not gonna buy these sunglasses so they can go and win Wimbledon. They’re gonna buy them and floss at the club. So vision is not really that key.” So it takes a leap of faith sometimes.
Reed Space is a store that really represents designers. It’s multi-faceted, multi genres. We have fashion, publishing, books, music, jewelry, art shows. It’s really all-encompassing. I named it Reed Space after my high school art teacher, whose name was Michael Reed. He was the first teacher that taught me that art was a viable career. Before that I thought art was an impossibility. He taught me that art is a possibility. At the store, we also have full bio and breakdown of who the designer is and what their concept was. We also include full contact information, which in retail is a major taboo. By doing that we’ve also become a really popular place for stylists, magazine editors, writers, people who want to do photoshoots in our space because we’re always wanting to share information.
This comes down to what Bill Cosby said: “I don’t know what the secret to success is, but I do know what the secret to failure is, and it’s trying to please everyone.” I remember one of the first stores I wanted to get my shirts in. There was this really cool store in the East Village owned by this gentleman named Babito Garcia, who’s like a hip-hop legend. I went into the store, and he says, “No I’m not feeling it.” And I was crushed because I idolized this guy. I think a lot of people would’ve walked away from that and thought screw it. Instead I stuck with it and went back to him the following season with a new collection, and then he says, “Yeah, I’m feeling this now,” and we started working together. So not everything you do can make everyone happy. First make something you can be content with yourself, and yes people may not like this, but you can’t impress people all the time.
ABOUT REED SPACE HNL
The inspiration behind Reed Space HNL is a desire to see a return of independent bookshops in Honolulu featuring thoughtfully selected titles to nurture the intellect and creative capital of this community. Renowned graphic designer and brand developer jeffstaple will curate the bookstore’s selection of art, architecture and design books.
For more info visit: stapledesign.com
Reed Space HNL runs until August 8, 2010 at the Waikiki Parc Hotel.
Reed Space HNL is brought to you by Interisland Terminal:
Interisland Terminal was founded in January 2009 out of a vested interest in the cultural and socio-economic life of Honolulu. Our mission is to cultivate innovation and creative capital through on-going exhibition and authentic experiences of contemporary art, film and design, thus paving the way for the creative approaches needed to address the civic and social challenges facing Hawaii.