Bobby Hundreds was interviewed for WWD‘s recently published article “Streetwear Sees Major Comeback” along with Scott Sasso (10.Deep), Aaron Levant (Agenda), Dao-Yi Chow (Public School), Virgil Abloh (Off-White), Frank Sinatra Jr. (Stussy), Darryl “CurT@!n$” Jackson (En Noir), Nick Diamond – even a hip-hop apparel historian – and more. The article by David Yi analyzes the why’s and how’s of streetwear’s growing mainstream popularity and its appeal to the younger, age 12-17 Internet-immersed Generation Z.
Bobby on the exclusive appeal of streetwear and its steady proliferation into mainstream culture via the Internet:
“True independent streetwear was always a secret club, but the web cracked the mystery wide open. But the biggest reason why the culture and style have become so prevalent today is because of desktop publishing, the facility to print T-shirts and manufacture apparel, and the lowered barrier to entry for a newcomer to participate in the market. Just a decade or so ago, kids wanted to grow up to be rappers, baseball players, or movie stars. Today, the youth aspire to own a brand and have a streetwear label. Even the aforementioned musicians and athletes and celebrities want in. With 2 clicks of a mouse, you can have a silkscreened T-shirt and a snap-back cap to stand behind and position your place in the world.”
On definining what streetwear is…
“[My definition] sits somewhere between urban culture, skateboarding, and high fashion. The vital ingredient – what makes streetwear streetwear – is the limited distribution, the specialty factor, and the response to a blown-out, corporatized industry. Streetwear is the underground to mainstream fashion. Music has garage bands. Streetwear has garage brands. Every generation, the counter-culture rises against the hegemony and then becomes it. Rinse and repeat.”
Read the entire article here with a WWD subscription, and read below for Bobby Hundreds’ full unpublished Q&A.
WWD: Tell me about the evolution of The Hundreds, where it’s been and where it is now. Also, where do you plan to take it in the future?
BOBBY: Ben and I started The Hundreds in the summer of 2003. The idea was to build a lifestyle project, in the sense of independent streetwear fortified with robust web content. So you weren’t buying a T-shirt, you were buying into a story you could read and follow online. This was over 10 years ago, so the idea of interlacing fashion with the Internet was foreign (Not how it is today where every designer has an Instagram following or retail shops have an updated Facebook page). I grew up in the punk and hardcore culture, where there’s no boundary between singer and crowd, so I wanted to break down the walls between customer and purveyor. The streetwear designers I grew up on and admired – Shawn Stussy, Rick Klotz, Nigo – I wanted to know more about them as people and personalities. What kind of music were they listening to? What’s their political stance? Do they like Mexican food? What if a brand could be so engaged with its community that you could be a part of the everyday experience, you could have a discourse with the owners, journey with them through the trials of firing up a clothing line?
After a few years, some people knew us for our streetwear brand, others knew us for the blog and media platform. The website evolved into a morning newspaper for many in the industry and that trickled down to the consumers (Today, I find no distinction between the two – the layman is tantamount to the press, the industry, the competitor). We opened our first retail flagship in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles 4 years after our brand was born – 2007. This provided the stage to experience The Hundreds outside of the web and apparel. This was our lifestyle. It’s like getting to watch a band play live and you leave with the merch. We opened 3 more stores in the years since. The Hundreds San Francisco, The Hundreds New York in SoHo, and The Hundreds Santa Monica.
We went from 2 to 50 to 100 on staff. Our print magazine is entering its 9th issue. We’ve worked on some incredible partnership opportunities with the likes of Disney, Grateful Dead, James Jean, and DeLorean Motor Co. The future of The Hundreds lies in expanding our retail presence, our web reach, and reinforcing a timeless brand.
Streetwear has seen many influxes of interest in the past few decades. Can you speak to me about what you know about how and why streetwear catches on at particular times. What’s different about the mid-late 2000’s when you began and streetwear now. And why did streetwear become so big now—Is it, perhaps, cultural or entertainment-related influences like Kanye West who was the impetus?
Everyone has their own definition of Streetwear. Mine sits somewhere between urban culture, skateboarding, and high fashion. The vital ingredient – what makes streetwear streetwear – is the limited distribution, the specialty factor, and the response to a blown-out, corporatized industry. Streetwear is the underground to mainstream fashion. Music has garage bands. Streetwear has garage brands. Every generation, the counter-culture rises against the hegemony and then becomes it. Rinse and repeat.
Streetwear’s latest revival has been propagated by the Internet. True independent streetwear was always a secret club, but the web cracked the mystery wide open. But the biggest reason why the culture and style have become so prevalent today is because of desktop publishing, the facility to print T-shirts and manufacture apparel, and the lowered barrier to entry for a newcomer to participate in the market. Just a decade or so ago, kids wanted to grow up to be rappers, baseball players, or movie stars. Today, the youth aspire to own a brand and have a streetwear label. Even the aforementioned musicians and athletes and celebrities want in. With 2 clicks of a mouse, you can have a silkscreened T-shirt and a snap-back cap to stand behind and position your place in the world.
Why are luxury retailers and luxury brands so keen on streetwear now, in your opinion?
They’ve always been. They dig and steal from us, and vice versa. After all, Streetwear began as a luxury approach to the historical urban/skate market. From my limited knowledge of the luxury space, the designers are probably enamored with the rawness and authenticity that Street has to bring. I believe the greatest creativity comes from struggle, and you’re more apt to find that compelling story in streetwear than luxury. We had nothing when we started, no money, no resources, no background in the industry. But we had ideas and wanted to be heard. Streetwear is primal and visceral and I think that seduces luxury.
Tell me about your own business in terms of wholesale and direct to consumer. Is it 70:30 or 50:50? Is the latter becoming more lucrative and viable?
Since we’ve always been active online, our e-commerce has been an important part of our business. After we started opening retail, the direct-to-consumer model really shaped not only profitable growth, but our engagement with our supporter. I love direct-to-consumer because it gives us encompassing control of our brand and it personalizes our product sans a middleman to distort or confuse our message.
However, wholesale remains equally important to The Hundreds in that it gives us exposure in ways that traditional marketing can not. Our authorized stockists are our friends and partners, our eyes and ears, in communities we might not otherwise have access to. Those sales reps on the floor? They provide a face to the product. They represent us, educate the potential customer on who we are, and spread the gospel of The Hundreds, and for that, we are grateful!
You are the purveyor of culture and cool; where do young men and women shop these days? Is it different from milennials? For example, are they shopping and receiving inspiration directly from Instagram then buying on direct-to-consumer web sites? Or are they still shopping in malls?
It’s impossible to categorize the youth into neat, specific markets these days. It makes it very difficult for a business going after young men and women, because the youth are no longer defined or organized by any corporate pie chart. They are the ones leading and structuring how the industry operates. Many are inclined to buying online. Even if they shop in a physical store, they use it as a showcase to set up a sale through their phone, to Google price comparisons, or to wait until they’re home to buy e-commerce. I think discounts are a driving force because of that competitive pricing online, and because the value and urgency of special product have diminished. Young people still shop in malls. You have to remember that outside of sunny Southern California, most of the country spent their winter in a polar vortex. It’s unreasonable to shop on Main Street when it’s encased in ice. At the end of the day, humans are social creatures and they want to be around other people, watch them, interact with them. They may love to hide in the Internet, but they feel most alive when out in the world amongst their community and that’s where retail (mall or boutique) can seize the opportunity to build a relationship with a new customer.