Email from a student in my underground fandom club:
AHHHHH MRS. [REDACTED]: YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS VIDEO! PREPARE TO FANGIRL! [Link to a YT video related to her favorite ship] ALSO I WROTE A NEW CHAPTER IN MY FIC! WILL YOU READ IT PLZ?
How did Nike come about?
Nike came about after ‘04. A very good friend of mine, Gemo Wong, who is now a design director at Nike, opened up that door for me. I was working with Kanye at Roc-a-fella and Roca Wear. You know, this is “College Drop Out” days. He’s on tour, pink polos, backpacks, and I was just making product for him. Dame (Damon Dash) just had me on the tour with him, making Kanye whatever he wanted to make. I was on the tour bus with a laptop. All the “College Drop Out” Bear logo tees etc. This was early '04. Then Gemo was like “Man you gotta come out to Beaverton. It’s a big deal out here and there’s a opening”. I was like “sure”. It’s an extensive interview process. They hired me and I started in mid '04. And one of the first things I did when I got there was bring in 'Ye (Kanye West). You’ve told me you were instrumental in bringing him there. Tell me about that?
You know, Kanye is a Nike head, a sneaker fiend. He had his models that he loved. One of them was the Air Max 180. So we flipped it. We went back and forth and he was like “tweak this, change that, throw some leopard print in here”. Um, my guy, who was the Urban Footwear PLM, Sheldon…who is a legend himself was like, “Yea, let’s make the damn thing”. So we sampled a few and that was kind of the introduction to the Yeezy. Kanye was relentless, like he always is, and he got that lane.
Would you say the Yeezy's happened because of you?
Pretty much. (Laughs) Yea…pretty much. It was definitely a group effort. And you know, Kanye being Kanye, he’s always going to take it to the next level. But I opened up that door for him, and he’s a good brotha. We’re friends to this day still. We’ve been working together on Donda stuff with Virgil (Virgil Abloh) and the guys. Whenever they need my help it’s…you know.
Now you’re Creative Director of Billionaire Boys Club? How'd you land that gig?
Backstage. Watch The Throne. Izod Center. Um, awesome show. I was backstage with 'Ye and the gang. Jay (Jay-Z) was back there. I heard rumblings that Jay was gonna get behind Pharrell and BBC (Billionaire Boys Club). I still had a lot of love from just being at the Roc in '03 and '04. I just maintained my relationships. I told my friend, Lauren that I had rapped with Jay and she said I should come in and talk. I was like, “I would love to”. I had never met Pharrel before or his team. But you know, growing up as a skateboarder, and loving music, and fashion. Pharrell was always at the forefront of that. You know, It just felt right. I going to support that brotha, and see if I can take my skill set and take it to another level. That’s really how it came together. So now I’m working close with Pharrell and his team and growing BBC as a brand. And maintaining that DNA of the brand and getting it better and stronger.
It seems like Pharrell is somewhat opinionated individual. It is hard to have creative control working with someone that has such a vision…and in most cases the accurate one?
Pharrell's got this amazing ability…I don’t know how he does it man. He can see the future…it’s fucking weird. He’s just got that in him. He’s just a creative person. He can see it in color, he can see it in 3D, and he knows how to articulate it. He’s a music guy, so he sees music…it’s a gift. And on top of being a good person…
Yea he’s really personable…
Easy. Real easy. You know, I come with my designs and we pitch it. Sometimes he’s with it and sometimes he’s not. But as you know, that’s a part of it. Just getting to know him better and what he’s looking for. You and I, we’re about the culture. This is our life, you know. It’s not a movie, we live it. He just feels that much more comfortable to be like, “You know this one, go with that”. He’s not micro-managing anybody, and it’s a great place to be, and to support a brotha like that. What is it like sitting across from Mark Mcnairy. Did it take a while to create a synergy?
Mark is eccentric. And he has a very quirky approach to design. And I love the humor that he infuses in it. He has shown me quite a bit. You know, just his process, and how he puts fabrics together, and color and pattern. It’s very unorthodox. It’s great to see and be a part of. But I like to think that I’ve showed him some things too. Right now I’m teaching him how to smile more (laughs). It’s a lot of fun sitting across from that guy. Mark is a good dude. He is always quick to share resources. Most dudes keep their cards close to their chest. He’s an open book and I really like to bounce ideas off of him.
What’s next for Billionaire Boys Club and yourself?
The brand is continuing to grow. Growing Ice Cream. We have a skate team. We’re on the cover of CCS magazine which is really cool. Just continue to push the brand in a colorful, playful place that it’s always been. Reaching more kids, and doing more in the community. Pharrell is very adamant about that. That is why he signed amateur skaters from around the way. We don’t have any big name skateboarders. Pharrell's all about giving back to the community. We’re looking to grow the black label and the Bee Line. Doing more smart collaborations. We did Despicable Me 2, which was a lot of fun. We have Sponge Bob on deck. That’s going to be a fun collab…during fashion week, you’ll see that. The whole store is going to be decked out in Sponge Bob. That's Pharrell's favorite cartoon character. Growing the brand smart and steady…not trying to pimp the shit out. Keep the quality and integrity.
And for myself, just continue to grow as a creative person and not limiting myself. I have a budding atelier (cbatelier.com) of creative people working together to solve problem.