1. Yo what’s going on man! Go ahead and introduce yourself.
- Sup everybody, names Adverse. Owner of Kings Without Crowns and bboy for Knuckleheads Cali
2. How’d you first start getting into streetwear?
- I’d say I first got into streetwear through skateboarding, a giant chunk of streetwear is taken from skateboarding. Skateboarding is by far the rawest element of streetwear, it just doesn’t get any more street than that.
3. That’s how I think a lot of us got into streetwear. Skateboarding helped me figure out a lot of these brands as well. What were some of your favorite streetwear brands growing up?
- For me I’d have to say 10 Deep and Obey, at least before it got super commercialized. I was always really into poster art and was a huge fan of Shepard Fairey, that helped me find Obey as a brand in it’s early stages.
4. Y0u ended up starting up your own brand Kings Without Crowns, explain why you wanted to start your own brand & also explain the meaning behind the name.
- When Kings Without Crowns was started becoming a brand was never the goal, it was just a name me and my homie Lester Burn Em used to hustle our bboying. Lester and I were in crew together that we both ended up both dropping due to some personal issues. Bboying was the only income we had so we continued to hustle battles and shows as solo dancers to pay the bills, but would have to make up a different bullshit name every time. We entered a crew battle with a bunch of random homies under “Kings Without Crowns” and thought that the name was too dope for a one time use. We tried to see if any of the guys wanted to keep the squad going, when that didn’t work out we kept pushing along just the two of us. From then on, every thing we did related to the hustle was done as Kings Without Crowns.
I had been into screenprinting way early on because I was super stoked on poster art and poster bombing, and because I knew how to print I was also able to make shirts for my crew. They were totally janky, but back then ANY shirt you had to rep was the tightest shit ever. It never occurred to me that I could start my own brand, in my mind screen printing was for doing posters and creating artwork. When I was around 21 – 22 I started traveling a lot with bboying, entering battles and jams across the United States to build my rep. I flew down to Austin, TX for this event BBoy City and ended up linking with this bboy based brand Panic 39 out of LA who was vending at the jam. They would hook me up with some free shirts and shit when I would see them across the country at battles, so when we connected in TX I was geeked to help them bring in and set up their tables, merch, banners, etc. I had overheard them discussing their sales at the end of the event and, to me, that kind of money at the time was just unreal. Instantly, a light went off in my head and I knew what I wanted to do.
At that time Lester had just came up on a set of turntables and was beginning his new hustle in DJing. To get his career up and moving, he was making mix CDs and I would contribute by hand painting and printing covers for them, along with printing the actual cd itself. We’d take those damn things to every fucking event we could and just hustle the shit out of em. I hustled mix CDs, I hustled battles, I hustled street shows on Michigan Ave, ANYTHING I could until I stacked up enough money to buy some decent printing equipment and my first dozen shirts. I fucked up at least half of my first batch of prints and was still able to triple my money, everything after that is history. It was legit rawest essence of street hustling and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
5. Who were some of your early supporters?
- Bboys all the way. Since day one the bboy community has been my main supporters. I’d definitely give a big shout Samo from X Fenz / Forever Fresh Funk out of New York, he was actually the first dude I ever reached out to and “sponsored” as a young brand. I also give a ton of credit to my crew, Knuckleheads Cali. Before I was even a part of the squad, they repped Kings Without Crowns HARD and took it all over the world winning major international titles while rocking brand gear. I can’t thank them enough for what they did in terms of generating international exposure for me early on in my career.
6. Over the years how have you seen your company and yourself evolve in designing?
- Coming from an art background, I see what I do as way more than just making and selling t shirts. I create each piece one by one and everytime I slang a piece, I feel like I’ve sold a painting or an art print. I went from making posters here and there for my own personal satisfaction to travelling the world selling hundreds of prints a month. As an artist I felt a HUGE sense of accomplishment, it was a bigger response to my creativity than I could have ever imagined. The larger the brand grew however, the more I realized that if I didn’t get the business side of things under control, everything could fall apart and I fucking hated it. I wanted NOTHING to do with the business of running a brand.
Learning the business behind Kings Without Crowns has probably been the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced in my life. I had zero knowledge of literally everything involved and had to start from the absolute bottom. It took the company briefly spiralling out of control, going through a gnarly stint of depression, and a huge lifestyle change to finally be able to wrap my head around exactly what it would take to turn my creative passion into an actual business. It was a long road, but I learned that the business side of managing a brand is as much an art as the creative side. It takes as much, if not more, patience, dedication, and hard work as any artistic discipline and is equally as important. Your brand can only be as strong as your business, and your business needs to be as refined as clean as your brand.
7. For those who don’t know… i’d consider you a very big breakdancer (ex crooks) now in Knuckleheads Cali… Would you say majority of your target market is dancers, or has KWOC been able to cross over as well?
- I’d definitely say that a huge part of my market is dancers, but they are not my target audience in the least. I design my collections with streetwear in mind, not necessarily “BBOY” streetwear. I feel like my Kings Without Crowns has the most potential to crossover to the streetwear market out of all the other brands in my community, however, a transition like that isn’t going to just happen overnight. My distribution is totally private, and not putting my gear up in shops makes it a much bigger challenge to push the brand to a wider audience. I’m not too worried though, the brand is constantly growing, quality speaks for itself, and sooner or later people will catch on.
8. Describe your designing process from thumbnails to printing… and where do you draw your inspiration from?
- I do most of my designing in my head while I’m printing, that shit is straight up meditation for me. The work is mad repetitive, so it totally puts me in the zone and I’m usually able to go from concept, to composition, to graphic without ever being in front of a computer. I work at a print shop full time during the day then get home and print in my shop til I’m ready to pass out, so I have plenty of time behind a press to refine a concept before I do any drafting. If I can’t get a design to work for me as soon as I get cracking on it, it’s usually not ready yet and I’ll get back behind a press and figure out where it needs to be fixed.
As far as inspiration, I listen to music almost nonstop everyday, so I’m always hearing lyrics and phrasings that inspire graphics pretty much instantly. I’ve been able to travel quite a bit as a bboy, those adventures and all the antics I’ve experienced with my different crews over the years have given me an infinite amount of stories and inspiration to create from. For more “physical” inspiration, I go back to old album art, signage, and poster work, the artists behind the artists behind that kind of shit absolutely are masters of composition.
9. Did you read Bobby Hundreds article on Streetwear in 2015? He went on to say some comments like, “if you’re into streetwear today, it’s because everyone else is into it”. How do you feel about that?
- I feel like that dude is a notorious hater, but there’s definitely weight behind his statement. I just feel like this generation of kids doesn’t really know what they’re actually into since it’s so easy to be a “follower” now-a-days. How are you supposed to develop your own genuine interests when you’re always so busy finding out what everyone else is on? You need to start somewhere though. Most of these kids will probably fall off in the next 6 months, but who knows, maybe the ones that actually stick around will end up changing the game in the future for the rest of us!
10. You made a shirt some years back that had the message “Blood Sweat and Tears… It was actually the first shirt I bought from you… Explain the meaning behind that shirt
- That was actually my 2nd year as a brand. During that time I had a couple original concepts that I was hella stoked on, but sales were slow. I was still brand new and didn’t really have an audience that was down for them. Then I put out the “Just Do You” Nike spoof graphic. I wasn’t really feeling it at all, but that shit turned out to be GOLD. I went up to Madison, WI to slang tees at what was the largest bboy event in the Midwest called “Breaking The Law” and brought my new secret weapon with me. Knowing this could be my big break, I put every single dollar I had into my brand and printed as many “Just Do You” tees as I could in multiple color options. As soon as the doors to the event opened, people straight up FLOODED my table and by the end of the weekend I had sold all but 5 out of a couple hundred tees that I brought with me. It was the most money I had ever had at one time in my entire life and I knew that this was my chance to do so some damage. I’d be able to make some moves that could put my company on the map, so of course, I went out to celebrate. Once we wrapped up at the after party, I got back to my truck and find out that the bag that had all the money from the event was stolen. I was never able to explain how it happened, or who did it, but at that point every dollar that I had to my name was gone.
I was totally devastated after that shit, for a while I didn’t even want to keep the brand alive. Starting all over from scratch just didn’t seem realistic, but I couldn’t help but think that if I could do it once, I could do it again. The phrase “Blood Sweat Tears” haunted me because that was exactly what it would take to get my company back on track, so I used that as inspiration to develop a design that would capture what I wanted Kings Without Crowns to eventually be. I hit the streets and hustled my bboying, stacked up some bread, and brought the idea to life. It was my first attempt at building a solid brand image and style and it’s stayed with me ever since. I would say that my “Blood Sweat Tears” design was the first OFFICIAL start of Kings Without Crowns as a brand and I’m still super proud of it.
11. God damn man… That was one of the most uplifting… powerful things i’ve ever heard in my life. So what’s next for you in 2016?
- Japan is a major focus for me. I’ve been mainlining product to my partner Hideki in Tokyo for about two years and we’ve been operating a dedicated Japanese online store for the last year. We’re really working hard to tighten up our business out and make our mark on the Japanese scene. I have a similar system for California in the works, so I’m excited to get started with that.
I’m finally ready to break into headwear this year and have a few other manufacturing projects up my sleeve. It’s been a slow moving battle for me with this stuff because I’m so damn obsessed with the details. If everything doesn’t seem exactly right, I just can’t convince myself to move forward.
2015 was the first year that I ever published a lookbook or used models for any kind of photography, period. The lookbooks really breathe life into my creations and they’ve become a whole new vision I look forward to conceptualizing when I’m working on new pieces. I’ve been collaborating with some crazy talented photographers and can’t wait to see what we come up with in 2016.
- As cliche as it sounds, just do you. No one can do you as good as you can. Don’t make shit that you think everyone else will like, make shit that YOU genuinely like and do it the best you can. Don’t cut corners, don’t slack, and don’t give in to what everyone else thinks is “cool”. If you’re not making something that you’re personally proud of, you might be in this game for the wrong reasons.
13. Any last shoutouts you’d like to give?
- MAJOR shoutout to my dad for sure, I would have gone down in flames a long time ago if it wasn’t for him. He’s my #1 supporter by far and a big part of my drive is being able to show him that all this shit going to work in the end. My homie Berto who went to hell and back with me during the earlier years of the brand, couldn’t have done it without that fool. My crew Knuckleheads Cali, those guys have my back harder than anyone else and are constantly inspiring me to try harder. My girl Lynette for keeping my head on straight when I’m about to lose my shit. All the cats who have ever lent me a hand from carrying luggage at events, to flipping tees in my shop. I wouldn’t be able to do all this without the boost that gives me. The help is definitely appreciated.
Kings Without Crowns