Back Issue__ Jeff Staple: Things You Didn’t Know
March 28, 2010
Photos: John Roman Interview: Hana May Jeff Staple, or as he prefers it, jeffstaple, is an internationally known, universally respected graphic designer and entrepreneur. Equally handy with his left brain as his right brain, Jeff designed a sticker exclusively for hearty to correspond with this release. The hearty magazine x Jeff Staple "This is not a T-Shirt" sticker is finally available. Pick up one up at Jeff’s store Reed Space in LES, NY. Or get one online here. When one of Jeff Staple's Twitter followers regretfully informed him he had hit a pigeon with his car, Jeff had something to say on the matter. “Thats ok. Hell isnt as bad as they say,” Jeff said via Twitter. He was joking (we hope) but Jeff has an undeniably strong connection with his feathered friends—pigeons seem to exist somewhere between muse and mascot for Jeff. So he’s put pigeons on various shoes, cameras, hats, and even a mini fridge. The same way Ralph Lauren has polo ponies, Jeff has pigeons. Jeff got into the streetwear business the same way a lot of people did. Working as a designer, he made a couple shirts, someone saw them, loved them and things exploded. But Jeff honed his career in a different direction than most. Yes, he still designs Staple apparel including graphic tees and cut and sew collections, but Jeff is also very involved in the business of retail. He runs the Reed Space in the Lower East side of New York, which includes the neighboring Reed Space Annex--host to a variety of pop-up shops, most recently the Mighty Healthy pop-up shop; he also runs Reed Space in Japan (currently being relocated), as well as an upcoming temporary Reed Space shop on a warm island (Think getting lei’d!). As well, Jeff has fostered a variety of fruitful relationships, such as coordinating Timberland for Supreme collaboration. To top it all off, Jeff still offers design and creative services. Designer meets businessman. Not surprisingly, many have wanted to know how Jeff has become successful--what it takes and who the man is behind all of it. In our interview with Jeff we talk about “maintaining” your left and right brain, the over usage of this x this culture, and the popularity of clean aesthetics. A native New Yorker, Jeff comments that, “Everyone looks like a lumberjack and every store has taxidermy in it now. This is NYC. Someone needs to get jacked to remind people this ain’t Amish Country.” And yes, we talk about the pigeons. So even though, there have been countless of interviews with Jeff Staple, there are still some things you don’t know about Jeff. (So much that we got him to list an additional 10 little-unknown facts about himself.) You may know the release of his Nike Pigeon Dunks caused a huge commotion outside of Reed Space in New York, including the cops showing up (no one was hurt), you may know that he is a very well read individual, that he values education, that he’s known worldwide, but you may not know that his last name is actually not Staple. Do you think most people know Staple is not your last name? No. Most people are confused at why an Asian man has a last name like Staple. It’s not my last name. My last name is “Ng.” I make no bones about hiding it. It’s right on my business card. But people like Jeff Staple. I prefer “jeffstaple”—all lower case, no spaces. The saying is, people are either good with their left brain or right brain. Being a designer and a businessman, you seem to have conquered both. How do you do this? Does it cause problems for you? [Laughs.] Conquering is a funny term for it and I completely disagree. It’s more like “barely maintaining some semblance of order.” I admit, I’m more business-oriented than most designers. And I’m much more creative than most business people. I can’t think of any problems it causes. It’s mostly a blessing. Do you have to neglect one side or the other at certain times? Yes, well timed neglect is key. At certain meetings, its important to put a gag ball inside the mouth of the creative. And other times, it’s not about the numbers adding up. Sometimes, it just has to be done. Collaborations are starting to gain a presence in mainstream culture. Is it being overdone? Do you think people are starting to get sick of collaborations? It’s totally overdone. I don’t think people are sick of good collaborations. So it’s important that the collaboration has to make sense for both parties involved. Looks have been trimmed down to a more basic and clean aesthetic. Where do you think it will go after this? Or is this clean simple aesthetic here to stay permanently? I can almost guarantee it's not here to stay. Personally, I’m already going back to a more relaxed, um, ‘urban’ look. Everyone looks like a lumberjack and every store has taxidermy in it now. This is NYC. Someone needs to get jacked to remind people this ain’t Amish Country. Do you ever get sick of talking about pigeons? I don’t know, does Ralph get sick of talking about horses? The popularity of collecting sneakers isn’t what it once was. Do you think sneaker collections will always have worth? Worth, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A sneaker, will have worth to someone. Somewhere. Maybe the frenzy of sneaker culture will subside, but there was a core subculture before and there will be one later. And likely, it’ll be a little bigger than it was before. Owning a store you see firsthand what products sell. Who are some female brands that do streetwear well? Hellz Bellz, Mademe, Bijules, Rabbit on the Run. Where do you see the female industry going? Upward and growing steadily. I think it’s very exciting. At the end of the day, ladies look a lot better in streetwear than dudes do. Or at least I think so. What are some of your favorite female brands? I love what Hellz is doing. They are doing major things as a brand—not as a female brand. But just as a brand in general. The fact that they are a female brand makes it that much cooler. Why do you think most of the culture continues to be a big “guy fest”? Isn’t the whole world a big guy fest? Government, Politics, Sports, Religion, Food. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s the unfortunate truth. Why would street culture be different?