Building a brand can be really tough. Especially if you don't have a background in the field that you're operating in. In the world of street wear, this can be exceedingly difficult - where value is created by means of creating a sub-culture. We sat down and had a chat with Tim Hoad, co-founder of London-based street wear brand King Apparel. Founded in 2003, King Apparel started in east London, with ambitions to stand among the best street wear brands globally. Still going strong, the brand now stocks in 17 different countries across the globe (with 35 stockists in USA alone) and boasts collaborations with heavyweights, such as, Starter and New Era. Below Tim's 5 best pieces of advice, and the full video interview at the end of this post.
Advice #1: Heritage and Culture
Be sure to represent your culture and heritage (where you're from). London and East London stand central to the designs and identity of King Apparel. From using terms, such as, 'hard graft' to the crowbar-and-scissors logo that both refer to the docking and manual industries that they grew up with - King Apparel continually 'throws back' to their experience of London.
Starting with the basics though - they initially built momentum through collaborating with the Grime scene (East London is the birthplace of the genre), before they took it one step further to include the City of London as part of their identity. Reinforce what you want to represent, and then use that momentum to accelerate your identity further. They embraced their city with pride by treating the brand of the city of London as a flag of their brand (when American cities were more respected on clothing than European cities). By making their city present in their designs, they allowed their consumers to rock a London cap with the same pride as they would wear a New York (Yankees) one.
Advice #2: Carve Your Identity
It's no secret that the fashion industry is over-saturated with new brands popping-up every day. This can easily be translated to the street wear industry as well - new "me-too" brands trying to ride a hype of current fashion. This overpopulation makes it difficult to stand out and carve out your own identity. Instead of following the heard, King Apparel did a great job at collaborating (when it wasn't very possible or easy) with some established names, like Starter and New Era. And no, this didn't happen when they were big - they relentlessly called these offices in the US until they got the job done.
And now that their reputation and sales have lifted, they keep their designs simple while separating themselves from the heard by creating new cuts and fabrics. Starting "off-the-shelf" brands weren't able to replicate these new things, allowing King Apparel to do separate themselves from their competitors. In essence, as soon as they could, they used their growth to keep the designs the same, while focusing more on the fabrics, cuts, etc.
Advice #3: Do It Yourself
King Apparel was built by two people that had no background in fashion. They never knew how to go about building the brand that they wrote down on paper. Know what you like, and what you want to do. That's always the starting-point. Once you're that far - take it on a day-by-day basis. Don't be in a rush to get going or getting things made. It took them 3 years. Start looking into what's necessary and then start understanding what's required for you to deliver what you want. Learn the craft, before practicing it.
Advice #4: Walk the Walk
Once you've decided to 'go for it', put in the hours. Rome wasn't built in a day. Tim and his co-founder moved back in with their parents, didn't go out drinking and worked really shitty part-time jobs for as long as 3 years before they could pay themselves. Social standing was sacrificed to survive (pay rent, etc.), while juggling these decisions with running and growing a business - "the process was long, but worth it".
Advice #5: Stay In Your Own Lane
Have aspirations, but don't look too much at what other brands or your neighbors are doing. Focus on your own dream, not other's. "A few t-shirts and a hat doesn't make you a street wear brand - it makes you someone that's producing some product on the side". Take your identity and brand - keep growing it. Your time will come..
FULL VIDEO INTERVIEW:
WHATSGOOD. IN LONDON WITH KING APPAREL