King Apparel is one of the longest-running UK streetwear brands and we here at Urban Industry have stocked them since the beginning; right back to when it was just boxer shorts! It’s been cool to see King and UI grow up together over these past 10 years and how that mutual support has helped us both over the past decade. As we are both celebrating our anniversary this year, we thought it as good a time as any to sit down with King boss man Tim Hoad:
1. Both Urban Industry and King Apparel are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year. How does it feel to be in double digits?
It has gone by so quickly. 10 years is a long time for any brand and to evolve and retain relevancy over that period I think is the toughest thing. If you can do that and still go strong as we have, I think demonstrates a maturity and heritage behind what you are doing. No one takes away heritage and that provides such a unique foundation for building and growing a credible worldwide clothing label.
2. What’s your take on the industry now as opposed to when you started out back in ‘03?
It’s completely different. Back in '03 streetwear as we know it didn't exist. You had to be producing innovative, well-made quality clothing to be taken seriously by any stores and for consumers to want to buy your product. There were some sick brands back then and there are some sick ones now. It’s important not to forget that major brands in today’s industry are all well over 10-15 years old so have been around a long time and it takes that kind of time and hard work to see your brand blow up. Streetwear is probably in its strongest position ever and its humbling and an honour to be a part of that. The only real problem I see with 'streetwear' in 2013 is that there are many fly by night brands who get a celeb to wear their stuff, their designs are shoddy, they use off the shelf poor quality products and market to customers who know no better. Fair play if that is what you're about, but there is no longevity in what they do. If anything they discredit a scene which has grown on true creativity, quality and design talent and unfortunately many of the quality brands either get thrown in the same boat whereby critics label the scene as unprofessional and poorly executed or they are unable to shine because they may not have an Instagram picture of a rapper or model wearing their hat. I think when all is said and done, the cream rises to the top and there are some very good brands out there but streetwear will eat itself if we're not careful
3. How has King Apparel grown and evolved over the years? What keeps the brand relevant?
I think primarily the fact that we live and breathe the culture and scene. This means that we are always tuned into what is happening, what the 'street' wants and also what we can do to stay one step ahead of our competition. This goes from doing the whole New Era thing back in the day before all the other brands followed suit to bringing in the black label Starter hats back in 2010, which was about two years before any of the other streetwear brands blew that up. Innovation is part of your timeline and once again no one can revise or deny these things that you do. We have always maintained the best quality we can and that always brings a loyal following and also retains any new followers you get. Couple that with evolving the design ethic every season, making sure that we appropriate new technology and ways of communicating as well as having our ears to the ground in terms of who we associate ourselves with and there is a lot in the mix to ensure that we are always at the forefront when people think about the streetwear 'scene'.
4. Any exciting plans in the works for King Apparel over the next few months that you care to divulge?
Well our SS14 season brings about 80% new designs and ranges to the table. Once again evolving what the brand is about and how we are perceived. The hats we have for AW13 and then SS14 will seriously change how people look at headwear development and what can be done with a hat. That market is so over-saturated with what can only be described as 'nonsense' thanks to big money distributors with a sole interest in money that we made a conscious effort to remove ourselves from what everyone is putting out. Some of the fabrics, materials and construction are not being used elsewhere – true story – and there are almost 100 new designs across those two seasons. I don't even think any of the US behemoths have done that?! It will be interesting! Haha
5. Any advice for new brands starting out? As a veteran of 10 years in this business of ours, surely you must have a book’s worth of knowledge!
I have a ton of advice for new brands and am actually starting to put the wheels in motion to launch a series of key note seminars for anyone interested in starting a brand or already doing so and how to go about it, what to do and what not to do. Not 'Johnny Cupcakes' advice like 'look someone in the eye when talking to them and give a firm handshake' but real world advice on all the things that you should be aware of and that no one will teach you so that you can avoid the pitfalls and issues that we faced in the last 10 years as there was no one around to give us any guidance. It’s all about giving back in my opinion and what better way than helping a new generation of brands come through in the UK. Will let you know more when things are more concrete.
Thanks Sean, Dan and everyone at UI for giving me the opportunity to say a few words. Always be honest.