What's up man? What time is it and where are you?
12:59 pm, 8680 Melrose Place..Buscemi HQ
More important - what did you have for breakfast?
I cooked egg omelettes with brie and arugula for the fam paired with a few everything bagels from Sam's. Stumptown cold brew mandatory morning jump off.
I think we only did this like once - for A-Ron - what is the sound track to this interview?
The soundtrack or running musical commentary on the daily is a mix of Wu, Large Pro, De La, Mobb etc with a drop of Big Mouth (Smiths) and Neil Diamond or Billy Joel. If this particular interview was scored professionally, like in Hollywood, I would have to choose any There Will Be Blood track. Especially "Proven Lands" an original orchestral score by Jonny Greenwood. Or some Ennio Morricone on some Once Upon A Time shit.
When we were chatting on the phone you were talking about your early years in business stuff - like in 3rd grade. What was your first foray into this lifestyle/streetwear stuff?
1984 was a big year for me when it came to style/ fashion whatever etc etc....The competition in Uniondale, NY where I'm from, style wise, was not a game. Dudes were getting fucked up walking home for looking craze. I wasn't playing that game. Plus we all danced and my crew took heavy influence from Beat Street. Beat St. spawned a whole movement in the burbs for us. To make a long story short, we all went down to Shoppers Village in Hempstead and start buying flocked letters and blank tees. We went to my boy Ryan's crib and started designing shit. Other kids parents would try and buy our shit. Fast forward a few years the crew was doing all the airbrush characters and crewneck sweatshirts and pinned Lee's etc. It was literally 3-4 of us, we are 11 years old at this point and we are running a make shift factory out of a my boys basement. It's hysterical to even write. Then being introduced to the Jamiaca Ave scene. Eddie's Gold, Camella from Triple5...Those were the true inspirations.....
You were an investment banker for a minute - compare to the streetwear/lifestyle world you live in? Did you wear ventless double-breasted suits?
I went from St. John's University to the investment banking scene in a very short period of time but looking back nothing really changed but the day uniform. The daily kit was a mix of 75% off Pal Zileri suits from Syms and when we made some commissions a custom Italian number from Clappers® at Roosevelt Field.
Also - you've been in around this streetwear stuff way, way before the Internet made it what it is today - like before Supreme, etc. Maybe in one sentence: those days vs. these days?
To reference from the above time period, in 1993 when this transition happened, from street to Wall Street, it was smack dab in the middle of the Polo movement and early streetwear. Side note though, we were wearing Stüssy, Ghettowear, Blind, SMA, Jive, FUCT, Triple5, etc in 90'. But in 91'-92', it was all about Polo and the low and high end street brands that were emerging. It was a mix. Day kit could be head to toe Polo. I think at one point I was buying Polo golf tees and wearing them as tooth picks. In the following years it was the PNB and Phat Farm head to toe and the discovery of Tents and Trails, EMS and hiking brands etc. One day it would be fully Phat Farm bubble jacket over a Phat Farm sweatsuit with Beef and Broccoli Timbs and the next day it would be a Marmot waterproof rain suit with Dolomites. The high end European streetwear brands made appearances in the night kit and the club scene. We skated and did whatever but at night we took out the gold fronts and Coogi and ICEBERG for a few months anyway. Those days were a discovery, now a days it an item driven biz. Head to toe in a brand doesnt work anymore, well maybe thats coming back...
How long were you doing brand direction at Oliver Peoples? And interested, how do you compare the high-end/lifestyle sneaker buyer to the high-end/lifestyle eyewear buyer? Like actual customers, not store buyers.
In 2006 I took a job at Oliver Peoples as Brand Director and worked very closely with the CEO and Founder David Schulte and Larry Leight respectively. I was head of the Mosley Tribes brand, a diffusion of OP, and spearheaded special project partnerships including the fabled Nom de Guerre collaboration. The NDG-1 is still to this day, 5 yrs later a top seller for the brand. Luxury eyewear consumers and luxury shoe consumers must have a lot in common. Especially when it comes to high quality brands like Oliver Peoples. Oliver Peoples actually, even though owned by Luxxotica, makes hand crafted acetate and top level metals in Japan as they did from inception. In comparison to sneakers brands like mine, including Chanel, Tod's, Golden Goose, Common Projects to name a few, high quality and unmatched craftsmanship is the key factor. But where most luxury brands that make shit eyewear usually are solid in the footwear zone.
Gourmet Shoes - people can google old interviews and get the details of its growth - but I have to ask - is it hard to leave a project you were part of for so long?
Leaving Gourmet was the hardest decision, bar none, that me and my family ever had to make. But it has also been the best decision. I created Gourmet in an office at DC shoes in 2005. It was and is my child. It was a napkin idea, and idea that Greg and Greg helped come to life. My dream since 3rd grade, my dream still today. The hardest part about resigning or being fired from your own brand, which ever it is, is the personal relationships that get tilted. It's just business logically but emotionally it gets personal.
Speaking of Gourmet, side-bar, before we really even met you would mail me your brand marinara sauce every Christmas. Thanks for that - tender moment in the interview, ha.
Funny shit. The Brillance was on my daily blog stroll in 04' etc. It was and I always tell this to people, my favorite blog. Because that was exactly what it was/ is. A web log. Like, reading. Like, interesting. Glad it's back and the tomato sauce will not stop coming.....
Pine trees or palm trees? Pine Light gray or dark gray? #yolo or #weouthere? Lollapalooza or SXSW? Paddle-shift or stick? Gucci or OJ Da Juiceman?
Light. Y.O.L.O. Lolla, I like Chicago better than Austin. Stick. Quarter brick, half a brick, whole brick AAAY....
Onto the next - BUSCEMI - your new brand. Shoes, leather goods, and ??? Is there like a 2-3 sentence intro/explanation you can give?
Obnoxiously high quality consumer products. A woven/ deerskin dog leash with 18k gold hardware or dead-stock bouclé yarn M-65. That pretty much sums up the movement.
It's a bit wild to go into business under your actual name - I think it makes you think more intensely about the products you create and how they'll age, no?
I'm a self centered ego maniacal motherfucker with a heart of gold so none of that shit applies. But seriously, yes and no. I'm one of those dudes that has a notebook next to the bed on the night stand at all times. This is just making those dozens of pages of product ideas, Blackberry® note files, old folders of tears on my desktop etc from the past 10-12 years coming to the physical. And the addition of the eponymous branding adds a bit of extra stress but it's healthy I think.
And then just dreaming a bit - it's like 5 years from now - where is BUSCEMI the brand and you as a person?
Buscemi, "the brand" is a funny thing to me. Like stated above I'm making high quality products but it is for selfish reasons. I truly am making shit that I think is missing from my personal wardrobe or home or car etc... I dont really look it as a brand per say. But in 5 yrs I would still love to be selling the products to a handful of my favorite stores around the world.
Ultimately - who is your customer? When you envision selling any of the products you dream up.
My peers first and foremost. Other brand owners and people Iook up to in the industry. Getting your friends off on things you create is always the biggest reward and seeing a compadrè walking down the street in your shoes or whatever, it the best feeling. Family members as well. I have a big family and to have the opportunity to reate things they can use in there daily lives and rep there last name, it's motivating. Cousin Steve has been holding down the family in Hollywood for mad years now we can rock some gear.
You just switched from Audi to BMW - what the hell man?
Fuck. I've been Audi since 2000. The S4 Avant jumped it off. The 750i is special. It kills the A8 and i need a big whip right now. Hey, I made up for it though I just bought a 1987 GTI in show quality. I'm still part of the fam fam.
One piece of art, cost isn't the issue, what would it be?
Rothko White Center or a Koons metal blow up dog, size XXL. 1st 2 things that popped into the brain.
Who's doing it well? Like, who are the next new kids to define this space?
Raif Adelberg is back at it, killing. Isaora is a favorite for sure right now. Footwear wise always interested in seeing what Yuketen, McNasty, Visvim and NSW are up to. Shinola watches is fun to watch. Interested to see where Palace and Pigalle goes with it. Present in London the old Duffer of St. George guys are coming with some new shit.
Anything we missed? You can just ramble on about whatever here.
Thank you for bringing The Brill back. I've Been Brill.
Actually, do that Jon Buscemi thing you do were you just use a bunch of words like activation, life styling, production, alert, etc, etc - but describe THE BRILLIANCE. Lol.
The Brillance delivers integrated and ostentatiously compelling stories that harness opinion making-based initiatives that generates global intrigue.
There you go...