Hoodman Clothing CEO Discusses Messages Behind New Line
Our friends at Hoodman Clothing kicked off '08 with some successful projects and built a following and clientele that includes the likes of Talib Kweli and Kidz in the Hall to a regular dude at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store. In between donating part of the sales to his favorite presidential candidate Obama (who serves as the main theme for Hoodman's most successful shirt so far), posing for the new campaign, teaming up with artists, throwing parties and finishing his law exams, CEO Eddie Huang and his crew have been putting together a new line.
So far three new designs have been added to their collection. Read on as Eddie fills us in about the Summer '08: The Cake Makers Society and what else Hoodman is cooking.
BallerStatus.com: Tell me more about the new collection, Summer '08: The Cake Makers Society.
Eddie Huang: Just some background, the whole Cake Makers Society theme is a twist on Dead Poets Society. We always see these movies like "DPS," "Dangerous Minds, "Coach Carter" ... a lot of 'em are bullsh** with happy endings. But in reality, there is a huge problem with how the system caters to the middle of the road. People on the margins, whether they're non-English speakers, learning disabled, or culturally incompatible, they get left out. I think the last ditch effort for a lot of people is to come up outside/after school, whether it's football, side hustles, skating, graf, writing/MCing, etcetera. People make a name for themselves doing things outside the wall and they develop crews. I always felt I learned more just grindin' with my people outside of school.
BallerStatus.com: On the promotional poster you're baking cakes. I noticed a lot of your blogs on Hoodman.tv are also food related. Now what's up with the food addiction?
Eddie Huang: Yeah, you know, this season we're the Cake Makers gettin' money by any means. This isn't my mentality now 'cause I don't feel ends always justify means, but back a few years ago, this is how I felt. We all wanted to come up by any means. People look down on "corner hustles," but that sh** prepared me more for real life than any book or teacher I ever met. Just like now, there are a lot of situations with collecting on payment, dealing with club promoters, marketing/advertising ... They are some shady motherf***ers. They try to bill you for phony service or change terms half way through a deal, or take the money first and don't deliver on things. School doesn't ever teach you how to deal with that. Everything I do to solve these problems, I learned from all the off-beat sh** we did when we bounced from school. You see a lot of these dudes now who were real safe with it in high school and when things go wrong now, they just sit on their hands 'cause they ain't got a clue. Most successful people I meet now, a lot of them are drop outs or people who did just enough to graduate and put themselves in a position where they could put their skills from the outside to work on the inside.
BallerStatus.com: The new line includes three designs: Schools Ain't Teach Us Sh**, Babies Are The New Chihuahuas, and Uncle Kim Wants You For North Korea. Let's elaborate on these new shirts a little. First, what's your problem with the scholar system?
Eddie Huang: It (the system) just doesn't care about the people who don't fit into the cookie cutter. I stayed in detention and ended up having to go to six schools in five years, so everything about it I can't stand. Along the way, I had a handful of real dope teachers, but everything they did for me was like talking to me after class, in detention ... about getting my mind right and putting my talent to more useful things. It took a while to put it together and I'm still not where I need to be, but things they said start to make sense now. The point is though that what they did for me was on a personal level outside the curriculum as a human, not a teacher in the system. There's no time for that in school.
BallerStatus.com: The Babies Are The New Chihuahuas tee contains images of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. Babies have become the new accessories. What made you decide to use Asian babies for this concept?
Eddie Huang: Well, I went to China a few times in the last three years and one time I stayed at this hotel, the White Swan in Guangzhou, right next to the adoption centre in that province. MAD Americans from the Upper Westside or like rich Southern people were adopting Asian babies. The whole damn hotel was full of them. I swear me and my brothers were the only ones with Chinese parents, it was hilarious. I'm glad people open up their homes to Chinese kids, but it's heartbreaking at the same time to see a country that your parents/grandparents came from and it can't provide homes for its own. That shirt is definitely bittersweet for me 'cause it's funny and we're commenting on the situation, but for some people, like myself, you're hurting inside to see it.
I'm friends with a lot of adopted Asian kids and their parents are great and they definitely prefer being in America, so for them, it's all good. I just think about the parents that had to give them up cause of the one child rule and it has to be painful. No cultures better than any other, for real, but from my vantage point, it sucks for the kids that kind of miss out on the Chinese experience. I don't know how to say it without coming off weird, but I like that I grew up in a pretty traditional Chinese home with my parents 'cause it gave me a lot of perspective about America. There's also an African baby on the shirt because a lot of babies from Africa get adopted and the same issues are present there. In Africa, it's almost worse because there isn't a one child policy; people just can't care for them and want better for the kids.
BallerStatus.com: What message do you want to send out by stating "Uncle Kim Wants You For North Korea?"
Eddie Huang: That shirt is hilarious. You know, we always see Uncle Sam posters like, "Uncle Sam Wants You for U.S.A." and I think it's funny. Imagine if you put that poster up in another country. We can dress it up as much as we want, but you have a military to kick the sh** out of someone else or to defend yourself. I've said it before here, but I feel in our generation with so much communication between people in different countries and media/art exchange, that we should be a more global community. If there's a free market for trading, why are we still so defined by our nation-state boundaries which are man-made, at least in our thoughts. We categorize and stereotype people in other nations so much and there's a huge divide even just between us and Mexico or Canada, it's weird. So, I just imagined what it's like for people in other countries, maybe they have jump-offs like "Uncle Kim Wants You!"
Also, for a lot of kids in high school that don't have opportunities, they join the military. John Kerry had a quote about that where he was criticized, but he's right. The military is a fallback last option for a lot of people. Sould had a great shirt a few seasons back where they said, "Draft the Bourgeois" and put the Bush daughters on it. If you were in North Korea, you don't have a choice: you fight for Uncle Kim. There's a lot to that shirt and I can't explain it all here, but people don't get to choose their teams. We villainize people in other countries without understanding them like North Korea, Iran ... but we have to remember these people are born onto those teams. You can hate the leaders, but the people are just like us. We answer to Uncle Sam, they answer to Uncle Kim.
BallerStatus.com: A lot has happened since our last interview. The new website Hoodman.tv launched, Magic was very successful and productive for you guys, Kidz in the Hall rocked your shirts in their new videos and photo shoots, plus you threw some great parties. How do you look back on the first months of '08? What was the biggest highlight?
Eddie Huang: Man, I can't believe I'm in one piece; the beginning of '08 was crazy. I actually just finished my last law school exam this week, so I was doin' that while also working on all the Hoodman stuff. Plus, I've been designing Whoo Kid's line for SV Boutique. That project is gonna be hot, dropping in June. If you go to: Myspace.com/DJWhooKid, go into his pictures and you'll see the skateboard deck we did for him. He's got a super hero theme 'cause he's big on comic books. I also got Rotten Bananas dropping on SV Boutique and that's been in the works forever. I love that line. It's about using fruit to explore racial identity and minority culture. Not just racial, but any cultures that aren't picked up by the mainstream media/consumer. Right now it's really abstract just to get people thinking about it, but we'll start banging out the nitty gritty issues later in the year.
We also are stepping up Hoodman with a campaign for the fall, plus a new line. The highlight is kinda funny 'cause it caught me by surprise. We get requests for gear from a lot of people and they're real good about letting us know when they're gonna rock them, so we can check it out. But, one night I was just watching Flow TV in NY and the whole Ghostface/Rakim/Brother Ali tour was on. I watched "Biscuits" and I see Wigz and Trife Da God with Hoodman on for the whole damn tour. It was like 4:00 a.m., so I was like, "My ass must be really torn up." I think just bumping into people who show love on the strength of the message is what still makes it worth it. A few months back, I was in the line at Apple and a kid next to me was wearing the Lucky Cat shirt. I was looking at it and he got real tough and says, "You want it off my back or something!" It was kinda funny; I just bought my computer and bounced. I have about 40 of those shirts left in my basement (laughs).
BallerStatus.com: The Obama shirt has become legendary. You even donated part of the sales to his movement and talk about the elections and attendant circumstances on your blog. As a connoisseur, how do you estimate Obama's chances?
Eddie Huang: It's over: game, set, match, he's got it sewed up. McCain wants to keep people in Iraq for 100 years, George Bush is talking out the side of his mouth in Israel, and Hillary was trying to get Florida/Michigan reinstated, but even with those states, she lost 'cause all the super delegates are supporting Obama, plus, the people are for him too. The only one that doesn't know it was over is Hillary.
BallerStatus.com: The Obama shirt has been bootlegged by the people over at Zazzle, which must be frustrating since you put hard work into it and even donate sales to a good cause. What did you do when you find out someone had been copying the design?
Eddie Huang: Man, here's the thing. I'm all for bootlegging. Sh**, I bootleg everything; the movies I watch are Canal St. DVDs with the shaky hand camcorder in the theatre (laughs). But for me, I'm an independent business. It's not like I'm LV or Gucci rakin' it in. Our sales definitely slowed up once that shirt appeared on Zazzle because people that aren't into street wear or quality shirts, just go buy the knock-off. Plus, I donate half the proceeds, so it definitely hits my pockets. There really is a difference between hittin' up a big company for their designs and an independent like myself. I reported it to Zazzle, but I'm probably not going to sue because I know that dude is just trying to eat as well. I'm against copyright/trademark for a lot of things like transformative works or derivative works in some cases, but when you just straight copy it with no new design or anything for sales, it's kinda wack.
BallerStatus.com: We look forward to the rest of the year, with albums from Nas, Common and Lil Wayne coming up. What does Hoodman Clothing have in store for us the next six months?
Eddie Huang: I'm not gonna say too much, but we got these Obama v. The Machine shirts coming, which jump off the campaign and it builds through the fall and winter into '09. Him getting in office just sets things up for the rest of us to get to work. It's only started ... If you want to get a reminder when they come out, go to Hoodman.tv and join our mailing list.