The9elements.com - recently got the opportunity to sit down with Ray G of 8&9 Clothing Co. He talked about the concept behind the name "8and9", how he lost everything after 9/11 and the grind of trying to build a fashion line back up, how he feels about celebrity endorsements and more. Check out the interview after the jump.
the9elements: Jumping right in tell our readers how you came up w/ the concept for 8and9 Clothing.
Ray G: Founded in 2001. Our first cut-and-sew production was in Pakistan right before September 11th happened. Needless to say, I ended up losing everything and having to regroup over the next couple years. As an independent company it took a while and I re-launched in 2008.
T9E: How long has 8and9 Clothing Co. been around?
Ray G: Founded in 2001. Our first cut-and-sew production was in Pakistan right before September 11th happened. Needless to say, I ended up losing everything and having to regroup over the next couple years. As an independent company it took a while and 8and9 re-launched in 2008.
T9E: How would you define 8and9 fashion?
Ray G: We’re a street lifestyle brand. Inspired by experience be it skateboarding, sneaker collecting, hip hop, crime, drugs, takes on politics and pop culture even movies. Our graphics usually have a deeper meaning than some see on the surface. But we always have that edge with a hint of our conscious perspectives.
T9E: What were your initial struggles with launching 8and9 Clothing Co. and how did you overcome them?
Ray G: Resources. I started out with no training, experience or contacts. Everything comes from relationships, reliable production, better printing, more retailers, broader distribution, etc. As you grow you can produce higher numbers attracting more skilled manufacturers and climb your way up the food chain. The ongoing struggle is still gaining more resources to develop new products and partners to attack new markets.
T9E: There are a lot of fads out today when it comes to urban apparel, what sets 8and9 Clothing Co. apart?
Ray G: Urban is known for trends. Just like urban music, the market thrives on oversaturation. You can’t look at an 8&9 tee and date it or say “oh that was from 2009 or 10.” In other words, we didn’t print skulls on our shirts 3 years ago and we’re not printing sneakers all over them today. Simply put it’s our concepts and approach to design setting us apart from other companies.
T9E: What do you believe makes a quality article of clothing?
money. When you buy from 8&9 in a store you see the quality vs other rising companies. If you shop from our site you see the time we put into presentation and packaging. I’m pretty sure our quality standard is apparent.
T9E: How important is social media for your brand? How do you best utilize it in today’s fast pace world?
Ray G: Social media is huge for any brand. People consume information so quickly now-a-days and easily share what they like. They can also expose garbage product or poor service very easily. I’ve really embraced instagram and followers know we’ll answer customer service questions via facebook and twitter. For us it’s not a one way street of pushing content at them, it’s about realizing how the new generations want to communicate and making our brand accessible and approachable in those channels.
T9E: There are quite a few notable celebrities wearing 8and9 Clothing, do you feel this solidifies the brand?
Ray G: There are. We’ve been blessed to get a lot of looks from people with big names and people who I’ve looked up to or respect. I don’t think celebs solidify the brand but some people view it as validation. It’s dope when people that have so many choices, who can wear just about anything, get free stuff thrown at them every day make a conscious decision to buy and wear your product. To me that’s a good bench mark for some level of success.
T9E: What are your thoughts on celebrity endorsements?
paid for any placement, photoshoot or project we’ve done with any artist, athlete or celebrity. I can’t say that isn’t good for others but our strategy is to work with people we respect and it goes both ways. Ultimately, it’s about making dope clothes, working with the right retailers and expanding the reach of our brand so more people including celebs can find the stuff they like and buy it.
T9E: Do you come up w/ the designs and concepts for the signature t-shirts and fits yourself?
Ray G: Yes, my role in that sense is creative director. I come up with the concept and work through it with the designers. They’re the ones bringing the vision to life in photoshop or illustrator. Without an amazing design team to execute that vision we couldn’t have dropped over 200 shirts in the first half of 2012.
T9E: Did you know about fashion design and manufacturing before launching 8and9 Clothing Co.?
Ray G: Definitely not. I was just a hard working kid with a vision to make a universal brand. I never had a mentor; practically everything was done on my own. There were pro’s and con’s to that process. It forced me to work harder but I took some losses along the way. Hey "all’s well that ends well."
T9E: What comes first when picking the perfect outfit, the kicks or the shirt?
Ray G: It’s almost an unfair question, I’m a Sneaker Head w/over 15 years in the game so I’m always going with the shoes first! Everything else comes together from there.
T9E: What’s the difference between a Sneaker Head and someone who just buys kicks?
Ray G: These days everyone calls themselves a sneaker head. You have sneaker heads, hypebeasts, and every day guys who might own a lot of shoes. A sneaker head is definitely not someone who buys with the primary goal of reselling. That’s a halfway hustler. This debate is kind of like the one about real hip hop but I usually say a real sneaker head knows what he likes and will buy a pair even if there’s no hype around it. A hypebeast will camp for a week because he hasn’t been around long enough to get any solid connects. And the other guy if he buys a lot of shoes probably isn’t a sneaker head because he’s just fashion conscious. That guy probably cares equally about his jeans, shirt and watch as he does his shoes. As long as guy 1 and 3 are buying 8&9 they’re cool with us. Hypebeasts, not so much. We can spot them coming.
T9E: It’s been a pleasure talking with you, before we go where can readers buy 8&9 Clothing?
Ray G: If you’re in a major city there is probably someone carrying 8&9. The best place is always www.8and9.com because we have a huge selection. Shipping is fast and it’s free. Bonus! People can follow us on twitter @8and9 and 8and9 on instagram for discount codes as well.
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