A few weeks back, I got an email from Rick Klotz, owner/designer of some of our generation’s most iconic brands, including Freshjive, RMK, and Warriors of Radness. He had a special announcement, one that was perhaps not too far-fetched or shocking for anyone who knows Rick on a personal level. You see, Rick Klotz is a streetwear pioneer, much of what The Hundreds has established today was inspired and built off the stepping stones that he laid. But for as long as we’ve known him, he’s been disenchanted with the idea of branding. His distaste for logos and branding even went so far as to steer him away from his own line a few years back for an “extended vacation.”
So beginning Spring 2010, Rick has let it be known that he will no longer use any brand logos or names on any of the Freshjive product. Seems quite a risky business move, and if anything, intriguing. I wanted to pick his brain on the subject, and share what I learned with you…
I think this may come as big news to many, but I’m not surprised. I feel like this was a long time coming. Can you give our readers a basic breakdown of what you are trying to do, and what fueled this decision?
First off Bobby, thanks for this little interview. Besides some usual blogging by the usual suspects, you’re the first entity that’s bothered to ask me more details about this new change.
Throughout the years I’ve become uncomfortable with this business of branding and brand identity. I’m not the type of person that buys something for the brand name. I’ve also never done a very good job at creating a captivating identity to our own brand logo. Also, within the streetwear culture, the promotion of a company’s brand has become downright silly to me. What’s amusing is I still really enjoy designing gear, graphics, and even logos. But when I see kids wearing company logos it reminds of people who are trying to be a part of a “tribe” or “gang”, as if they need to be part of something, which seems to go against the idea of individualism in style.
So are you doing this to make a statement and prove a point, or are you simply following your heart? For example, are you seeking to incite change in the fashion industry, or does that not even cross your mind, and you’re making these changes for your own sanity?
I’m just following my heart, and doing what I want to do with the company, what will make me content. I never think of inciting change with this move. I don’t care what anyone else does. To each company his own. Yes, I’m making the changes for my own sanity. Plus, this business is like a popularity contest, and I don’t want to partake in that.
Do you expect, or would you like to see, other designers follow your lead?
I don’t expect other designers to follow my lead. As I said, I don’t care what others do.
Rick, maybe the first question that comes to mind really… what will you call the line now?
Well, let’s be practical. The company is still Freshjive. It’s just that none of our product will have any of our logos or even our name AT ALL. Not even in the labels. And after the turn of the year, no promotional material, nor our website will have any logos. It’s really invigorating to approach designing a line WITHOUT the constrictions of how the logo is gonna be placed or used on the garments.
Obviously, the biggest question the critics will have is, “How do you expect this to sell?” The branding and logos are systematically put in place to facilitate consumer familiarity and grease sales, so there will be some kind of effect. How would you respond to these critics, whether they be your store buyers , customers, or business partners, etc? And most importantly, do you even care?
No I don’t care. I know it’s a very punk move, but I’ve never been shy about pulling the trigger on a controversial idea. I’m only gonna rest on the laurels of our relationships with stores, customers, and the design of the actual pieces in the line. Sometimes I consider it like a big commercial experiment, but that’s exciting to me. To step in to the darkness of the future with a new idea, not knowing what the outcome is going to be.
What were some other concerns you had before venturing forward with a brand-less/logo-less line?
Well my main concern is if the people around the world that support and sell our line, salesmen, distributors, customers will get behind the idea. But everyone is very enthusiastic about this move. So I feel better.
In your mind, was there another path of reconciling your pure love for fashion design with your distaste for branding? Was this the ONLY way to solve the problem?
Well this was the only way to solve the problem without just closing down and starting a new brand. But that would be TOO easy in a sense. It’s WAY more punk to have this company running for 20 years and then dropping the name brand. I’m punk.
I can’t disagree with that! Finally, is there a possibility that you will ever incorporate branding and logos back into your design? Or is the Freshjive name forever defunct?
The Freshjive name is forever defunct. But I still design logos in the t shirt line. But the logos are single designs within the line, usually designed to communicate a certain thought provoking idea. You can’t discount the power of a logo in the market. Now I’m just dropping our own logo, and then occasionally appropriating the power of someone else’s logo to communicate a new message. So to the brand building community: Careful when building an influential logo, as I just might use that influence through some further graphic manipulation, and throw it back out into the market like a brick bashing through a window.