“Are you still having fun?”
I had some friends over the other afternoon, and one of them asked me this while I was combing over my history with The Hundreds. Maybe it was in earnest, or just to make party conversation, but it stopped me. Of course I’m still having fun.
In Streetwear, we live and work in this backwards universe where Time is our greatest threat. Unlike a traditional business where the longer you stick around, the more experience you gain, and the more your consumer trusts your brand, nobody is as hot as the label or designer who started today; so with every season that passes, you’re a little less shiny. It’s almost like you’re forever trying to get back to the origin. Like swimming towards shore while a rip tide pulls you further out to sea.
And so, things change. It becomes less about riding on the coattails of hype and novelty and more about managing an efficient business. Once you accept that you’ll never be the new kid on the block again, the next step is sharpening the brand’s vision, staying innovative, and most of all, learning how to lead. Maybe you’ll never be the coolest, but at least you can be the best.
We set a few goals for 2014. The first was to define not only what we do, but why we do it. The Hundreds is not just an apparel or media company. We are a storytelling company. Accordingly, we rely on our community to share The Hundreds lifestyle, educate and enrich the culture, and spread that message through writing, photography, art, food, and design. People over product.
So we re-imagined our website and the social media surrounding it. Now, thehundreds.com exists as a cultural hub, where everything Cool begins, from all corners of the world. Most of all, it declares that we’re bigger than T-shirts and blogs. We’re a way of life. Outside the web, The Hundreds Street Meet and Eat Meet gatherings evidenced that. From San Francisco to Chicago, we pulled you away from screens and brought you together – not to buy clothing, but to create and build.
Our next job was to continue advancing our product. Better construction and materials, smarter fits, timelessness. Our aim was to make clothing that’s less concerned with trends and will look as good in ten years as it did ten years ago. So we recalled the earliest seasons of our cut n’ sew apparel, concentrating on details, quality, and wearability. We stepped back, considered the entire presentation and made a statement. More than ever, we designed clothing and T-shirts that we were proud of, regardless of sales and trends, a rapper’s endorsement, or a blog headline.
A question that often gets asked is how we maintain relevance as the company grows. Truthfully, I don’t know. What I can say is that we never stressed about relevance to begin with. We were always clear that we weren’t that cool; merely fans and dreamers like our audience. In fact, The Hundreds was drafted as a counter to popular culture. If anything, we wanted to be irrelevant.
It’s more important that we be personal, honest, and communicative with our customers and readers. We aren’t another automatized corporation chained to spreadsheets and trend forecasts, formulaic, and predictable. We’re people with complicated lives and opinions, which is why we draw outside the lines with left-field collaborations like Tapatio Hot Sauce and Modernica furniture, an artist project with skate illustrator Todd Bratrud, a charity project for Haiti, a heritage co-brand with Ebbets. Even when we stay within our lane with sneaker collabs like Reebok and adidas, we do them our way. The Hundreds way.
So, to answer my friend’s question, hell yes. 2014 was the most fun I’ve had since we embarked on this ridiculous idea. We traveled everywhere and brought you with us. Put an Abercrombie on Fairfax. Invaded China. Confused everyone as to why we’d go this far to tell a joke. Launched our first real series, Hanksy’s Surplus Candy. 2014 was about laying the right foundation for the next ten years of The Hundreds. We literally tore down the past and readied for the future; and now that the dust has settled, it’s time to build sandcastles. Because when all is said and done, it’s not about who was the coolest. Maybe it’s not even who did it best.
It’s about who had the most fun, and what they were wearing while doing it.