LONDON, United Kingdom — Welcome to Drive, BoF’s podcast series featuring fashion’s most dynamic entrepreneurs discussing the special kind of resilience it takes to build a global fashion business, delivered by DHL.
Back in 2003, Bobby Kim and his law school classmate Ben Shenassafar launched The Hundreds. Spawning from a blog penned by Kim at college, the duo began their business with limited runs of printed t-shirts which reflected their own lens on the LA skate and street culture they had grown up with. “When I look back on our early stuff, it was really poorly designed. We chose to print on really bad T-shirts. But we didn’t see any of that. All we saw was, ‘We have a story to tell. We believe that we — our community — are important.’”
From the start, Kim pioneered what has become a now widely adopted and much emulated business model built on commerce and community. “I just thought, when I design something, I’m going to talk about it on my blog. This was in 2003 and that type of interaction and engagement with our customer base was revolutionary, not just in streetwear, but in greater fashion,” he says. “At that time, my website had more views than Gucci, more than any other fashion company in the world. We were the biggest fashion website, and [The Hundreds] was an unknown t-shirt brand started by two kids in LA.”
“A lot of people start businesses with this idea of what success is and it starts with billions,” says Kim. “The wonderful thing about streetwear designers, especially when we started, was that none of us got into this to make money because there was nothing to aspire to. There was no streetwear designer that was making billions.”
Today, however, streetwear and skate-inflected aesthetics are big business. Kim believes the growing significance of the streetwear and skating communities is rooted in their authenticity. “I think this idea of authenticity and branding is what everyone’s latching onto today. Early streetwear already captured that essence, and that’s why it was successful,” he explains. “To me, the essence of best branding is saying ‘no’. Streetwear kids, streetwear designers, streetwear brands, have no problem saying no, especially when you wave money in front of their face.”
Indeed, it is that ability to say “no” and stay focused, as well as a special kind of passion, resilience and discipline, that create a sustainable global enterprise. Something we call Drive.
We hope you enjoy Episode 3!
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