Jeff Staple took the stage to discuss brand relevance and his streetwear legacy during the FN CEO Summit at The Plaza Hotel in New York City.
Staple, who’s helmed his own streetwear brand since 1997 and launched numerous viral collaborations, reminisced on his time in the streetwear world with FN’s senior news and features editor, Peter Verry, and said it’s a trajectory that’s still sinking in.
Recalling his start selling T-shirts made after breaking into the Parsons School of Design’s silkscreening lab, Staple attributed consistency to his success.
“Trust me, 25 years later, it’s unbelievable that I have a streetwear brand attracting youth culture for a quarter century,” said the cover star of FN’s August issue. “Right from the beginning, I knew I wanted to create a legacy brand. I thought, ‘Why couldn’t street culture produce a legacy brand that lasts forever?'”
This same logic was at play when Staple gave his brand its title. The designer describes it as “a raw, special element that you can’t live without,” describing his process as “just left, right, one step in front of the other for 25 years.”
Staple is a self-affirmed shoe collector, counting between 300 and 500 pairs in his own wardrobe. Though he’s heard rumors of the death of sneaker culture throughout his career, the creative confirmed his belief that “we are never going back.”
Remembering the origins of sneaker collecting becoming mainstream, Staple recalled how the standard shoe rotation of seven pairs expanded to 30-40 styles. The cause, according to him, is the “different adaptations and environments to wear different kinds of footwear” today.
Staple’s brand is undeniably youth-centric, and that’s no accident, he said. In fact, the designer stated his belief that 17-year-olds are the “most powerful [people] in the universe.” His logic stems from an understanding of younger generations, citing the age group as having “all the confidence and swag of forming an opinion about him or herself” with their own tastes.
Collaborations are a notable part of Staple’s career, as he’s released sellout launches with everyone from Nike, Puma and Reebok to Allbirds and Crocs. The designer envisions the future of his brand unions as a joint effort between a label and its community, where the community chooses the partnership, name and designs products.
“They’re actually putting their dollars in that; almost like a Kickstarter. And then they’re reverse-engineering the entire collaboration process,” said Staple.
Ultimately, the designer concluded that what makes a collaboration successful is “keeping it real, being authentic.”
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