THE BRILLIANCE! > Jest, what's good? How's life lately?
JEST! > What's up team, life is good. Lot's of focused energy going on at the moment.
TB! > Fill everyone in on all the things your known for, the Alife stuff, Kubrick, graffiti... All that.
J! > What I'm known for huh, you might know of me as an Alife player, you might know of me as a guy that made a couple of toys or you might know of me from the graffiti scene here in NY.
TB! > Before we get started... How's your day going? What did you have for breakfast? Anything worth mention?
J! > My days have been pretty hectic as of lately, trying to get a couple of new Alife shops opened within the next month or so. Breakfast today was an egg and cheese on a roll, coffee and cigarette.
TB! > With Alife, how long have you been in business?
J! > Alife opened in 1999.
TB! > When did you guys merge locations and close the Orchard street location? What was the reason behind that?
J! > Alife didn't merge any locations; the lease on the Orchard street shop ran out so we were faced with the decision of staying or going. We chose to open up in another area outside of Orchard. We closed the doors o0f Alife on Orchard 5 years to the day that we opened. Orchard Street was going to shit with the landlords just trying to jack rents up beyond belief. The neighborhood has quite some time before it gets to where they think it is on the rent tip. We decided to find a much longer lease and move forward from there.
TB! > You guys have all the exclusives, the overall best selection, all the hype, good service, all that... How do you maintain that? How do you stay tagged as 'the best'?
J! > I don't know if we are tagged as the best, but thank you for the compliment. We try to focus on things that we believe in. Things and people that we respect, and products that are relevant to us. We try to give the best with whatever we have available as resources. To us, we view Alife as a seal of approval on finished goods or projects that we are part of.
TB! > The interior of your store is beautiful and a perfect juxtaposition compared to the products you carry... Any specific inspiration behind the design?
J! > The idea behind the Rivington Club was just that; put sneakers, which are relatively inexpensive product, in a setting that makes you feel like you're an exclusive shopper. The product is half of the story; the shopping experience is the other half. We like to make the consumer feel as if they are stepping into another world with the retail spaces that we have designed.
TB! > What about the Alife brand itself, the shoes, the clothing, the collaborations, etc... How long have you been doing that? Where do you guys want to take that in the next few years, growth wise?
J! > The Alife brand started shortly after we opened in 99. The collaborations were part of our workings with the many artists that we did back then. Any time that we had an exhibition with an artist, we made some kind of collaborative product to go along with the exhibition. The collabs have grown to not just artists but large, scary corporations. It is always a little nervous when you are messing with companies that have been in the business for years. In the future we would like to collaborate with the brands that we feel are at the top of their game, anyone from Mercedes Benz to Miramax.
TB! > Speaking of collaborations, let's talk about that wild Levis 501 collaboration you guys did. How did that come about? And that store?! Beautiful... How did all that come together?
J! > This collaboration started from relationships with people from Levi's. We had worked on other projects that they would come to us looking for new and fresh talent on the art side of things. A lot of these relationships came about from companies looking for specific artists or styles of work.
The idea was that we would work together with Levi's as long as Alife was to come off, as we wanted. By this I mean that we did not want to do something that was a Levi's concept and we were just carrying out some execution type of shit. We wanted to have branded goods that we would be able to sell. One of a kind 501's that would have both of our brands on the label. This took a long time to lock down, but in the end it was worth it. For us we received product, for them, they generated press. It all comes down to the press that is generated from these types of projects.
This event was planned out to be our last exhibit that we would have at the Orchard street location.
TB! > With all the exclusives and all the hype for limited edition... What makes a brand really standout as something that Alife needs carry?
J! > I think it comes down more to relevance in the marketplace. If there is a product that is really something new to the genre, say a Nike air woven, at the time of it's release, I think this is the type of product that we are interested in carrying. When the air woven dropped, it was the beginning of the sneaker craze, as most know it now. They had a product that was something really different and at the same time could be worn by people that liked sneakers.
Other brands that we carry are us showing respect for what these people are doing and the commitment that goes into their product.
TB! > Any personal favorite brands/labels right now? If so, what are they doing right?
J! > My personal favorites are very bland or almost no frills but here they are anyway:
I like Levi's jeans, not the fancy selvedge, antique joints, just the regular 501's. I would say that I have about twenty pairs of jeans that all look the same.
Timberland construction boots. I wear these for the cold half of the year, for the summer months, I am pretty much white on white AF1's. Tee shirts and sweatshirts, mostly from friends or other brands that send us stuff. That is my daily outfit probably for the past 10 years.
I think that these brands are staples in the fashion world, I am not buying the limited versions of these brands, I go for the pieces that got them were they are today.
TB! > What about some brands/labels or trends that you think are real played right now? Anything you can't stand?
J! > I think it is real played to open up a sneaker store right now.
I think it is real played to have an art opening in your store right now.
I think it is played when Hip Hop artists dress the same down to the kicks and watch.
I am just tired of the same tired shit that everyone is tired of and seeing in every magazine that you open. It's like reality TV also, how out of control is all that shit?
TB! > Just because you have seen all the hype for years, I have to ask this question... What are your thoughts on A Bathing Ape right now? I hear a lot of disdain for the brand lately, especially after the SoHo store... How do you feel about the brand and Nigo's path?
J! > I have like a love/hate relationship about Bape. I love that Nigo is GGGing off with his product. I love that he can bite an AF1 and Nike can't or won't do shit. I love how if he wants to make a record with Biz on it he can throw $25,000 cash like it aint a thing. I think he has a good sense of design and quality, even though most of the product is jacked from shit that NYC makes hot. I give respect to the fact that every shop looks hot. I give respect that they have infiltrated the Hip Hop scene here in the states. I give props that they have been in business for the amount of time that they have, because I know how hard this shit is. People hate because his brand works, to me it is inspirational and I hope that someday Alife will cause as much controversy that Nigo has caused with Bape.
TB! > Let's talk about the Kubrick project you did... How did that come about? What was the inspiration behind that?
J! > The Kubrick hook came from Kaws. Before it was hot to design toys, I was doing a lot of art that was stitched or sewn goods. Many times the stuff that I would produce was in the form of dolls. The Kubrick was actually a rendition of the first doll that I had ever sewn. I must admit that Alife as a business has taken most of my focus away from anything that I was doing in the past. A big inspiration to me was the artist named Klaus Oldenburg, if you are not familiar with his work, go peep it.
TB! > Any plans for another vinyl toy in the future?
J! > I would love to produce more objects in vinyl or many other materials.
TB! > With the graffiti scene... Are you still pretty active? Still involved with it?
J! > I am active in the fact that at 34 years old I don't leave home without a marker. My days of doing my graffiti thing were from 89 until the late 90's. These were the days that I was killing the highways of NY. I do stay heavily involved in the graffiti scene, as it is a part of my life. I work with lots of writers old and new.
TB! > Alright, some fun questions... You can pick 5 bands/groups/musicians/etc to perform for some ultimate concert type thing... Dead or alive. Who would they be?
J! > WU TANG
TB! > Best website?
J! > splay
TB! > Your preferred alcoholic beverage?
J! > Jack on the rocks or Jamison on the rocks
TB! > Favorite Friday/Saturday night activity?
J! > Staying home with my lady and watching all the idiots that get wasted out of my window.
TB! > Favorite basketball player?
J! > Don't care, boxing is my thing. Arturo Gotti, Lou "Honeyboy" DeValle, Iron Mike...
TB! > We ask this to everyone... What are your thoughts on THE BRILLIANCE?
J! > The Brilliance is relatively new to my list of news type of websites. You had an interview on your site about Henry Lee. He is a close friend of mine and it made me happy that he had an interview on your site. He probably never did an interview before, but he is the one person that I wanted to read about what he had to say. I think you should search out these types of people that no one has a clue as to who they are.
TB! > That's all we've got... Any closing thoughts, remarks? Anything random you need to air out?
J! > Closing thoughts would have to be a big thank you to anyone that has contributed to the Alife saga, whether it be a customer, an editor, or an intern. Thanks for the love.
SHOUT OUTS: Married to the Mob, SPLAY, aNYthing, SSUR, 13th Witness, Priceless, Retail Mafia, Supreme, 360 Toy Group, Medicom, IRAK, Red Tops, Frank151, Ricky Powell, Nubile, RTFT, Bape, Kostas Assassin, Kaws, Remurder, The Beats, SiSe, Dreddy Kruger, RZA, TS, etc, etc....
Thank you Brilliance for the opportunity to talk shit...