When Jay-Z is talking to buyers in a glass Rocawear enclosure, Lupe Fiasco is checking out next year’s LRG collection and Nick Cannon is rocking a DJ set for PNB a few booths down the line, you know you can only be at Magic, the country’s biggest trade show for fashion and apparel. Filling the gigantic Las Vegas convention center twice a year, Magic brings out hordes of buyers, sellers, celebrities, and assorted power players from the industry to set the scene for the coming season.
After taking a quick lap of the women’s clothing section to stare at models, Ballerstatus bee-lined for the “Streetwear” area to find out who will be doing it big on the urban scene in 2007. Given that this year’s Magic show overlapped with NBA All-Star Weekend and Chinese New Year, the hip-hop world was out in full force to show love and show out.
To get an insider’s view of the moves being made at Magic and the current state of the streetwear game, Ballerstatus caught up with sneaker aficionado, Internet celebrity, and host of the “Weekly Drop” podcast (WeeklyDrop.com), Mr. Rob Heppler. When he’s not chopping it up with Bun B, partying with streetwear legends, or adding a little Massachusetts flavor to DUB magazine, you can find Heppler holding court at New England’s illest sneaker spot — CONCEPTS in Cambridge, Mass.
Ballerstatus.com: Let’s pop things off with a little info about the “Weekly Drop.” How did it start and what are the intentions of the podcast?
Rob Heppler: It started early November 2005, I had been writing for various sneaker magazines and blogging. I had met Jeff Carvalho at the Sneaker Pimps tour in 2004 and we kept in touch. One day he came to me and said, “Let’s do a podcast!” I had no clue what that was, but he said he had all the equipment, all I had to do was talk. He showed up at my apartment in Pepperell, Mass. with some mics, a laptop, and a case of Corona and there you go. I think the initial intention was to record the conversations Jeff and I were having about sneakers, but it grew from there with the explosion of the streetwear scene.
Ballerstatus.com: What does Magic mean to streetwear?
Rob Heppler: Magic seems like a high school reunion of brands where all the coolness comes together. No money is wasted on luxurious booths; the clothes and personalities behind them speak for themselves. Magic also provides a forum for all the other “mainstream brands” to copy and bite from our small community.
Ballerstatus.com: Most people get into streetwear via skate or hip-hop culture, and it seems in current trends the lines are blurring into what some are labeling “skurban.” How do you feel about the duality of the streetwear scene?
Rob Heppler: I love it. It really has no rules. Ten years ago, a dude with more than one pair of kicks could be called a fag. Streetwear is like everyday high fashion, and for now — depending on where you live (and your internet connection) — you may only see one other kid at the mall with an all-over print hoodie. I think as soon as it’s fully mainstream, it will morph into something else. Hip-hop, skate, you see John Mayer up on Honyee… this scene is a melting pot of genres.
Ballerstatus.com: Obviously many kids live a blurred lifestyle, yet not one always captured by the clothing market. Sedgwick & Cedar had the all-over print hoody with the old school glasses, which is kind of funny because we all know Pharrell has been flipping the all-over print stuff for a while now, so it seems to have come full circle from a hip-hop/skate influenced world brand, to a company trying to rep for the roots of hip-hop. You have any thoughts on the growth of the market, your own version of streetwear history?
Rob Heppler: Yeah, it is nothing new. Louis Vuitton made the all-over print over a 100 years ago, and whenever someone bites that, it’s an instant winner. Look at the pajamas you wore as a kid. All-over print. Kanye acts like he invented vintage polo, when all he did was not throw out the sweater that was gay 20 years back!
Ballerstatus.com: Bun B is a good friend of the “Weekly Drop,” which is somewhat surprising to be honest. How did you guys get involved in interviewing Bun and supporting UGK, and vice versa? Is he attracted to the almost Dapper Dan stylings of the new breed of American streetwear?
Rob Heppler: Bun is awesome at life. He straight up called us one day and left a message on our listener line! We called him back and in one week, we were up in Brattle studio in NYC interviewing him while he finished recording the new UGK album. Bun has transcended generations being in the game for over 20 years. Why do you think Jay-z pays him homage?! He is the real deal and is on top of his fashion game, as well as being the most humble dude with a quarter mil on his neck.
Ballerstatus.com: Where do you think the future of streetwear is going?
Rob Heppler: I think its going to Macys. The people who say that they ain’t in it for the money already have money, and it’s easy to say you want to stay small when you’re on a yacht in the Mediterranean. First time Mark Ecko offers to write a check, these dudes will take it and run to the next screen printing gig.
Ballerstatus.com: There is a lot of nostalgia-based design, especially in American streetwear. Do you see this continuing? Do you feel this is detrimental to contemporary culture, sort of suggesting that “we have had a golden era” and your sh– just doesn’t compare?
Rob Heppler: I think it’s the “remember these” disease. Movies, clothes, video games… it’s a contest to see who can pull off the most obscure reference (Jolt Cola).
Ballerstatus.com: But do you think there is a lack of creativity in the urban design game now with a lot of brands flipping classic commercial designs? Who impressed you at Magic in terms of bringing something new to the table?
Rob Heppler: Undercrown had quality…like their clothes, sneakers, and furniture. For once, it wasn’t the same t-shirt, hoodie and New Era. Addict was sick, and of course, The Hundreds, Crooks, Mighty Healthy, King Stampede, and the cult classic Greedy Genius.
Ballerstatus.com: Who had the hottest models at Magic? We thought Avirex…
Rob Heppler: [laughs] Dude, I was sooo f—ing busy… and hung over. Kimora Simmons was pretty hot, and Hustler always throws together a decent booth.
Ballerstatus.com: What are your thoughts on “Hype?”
Rob Heppler: I love it. Hype got me, then I tried to get to the roots of it. Now I’m learning how to make hype.
Ballerstatus.com: In many ways, it’s pretty basic, and almost brilliant, underground marketing. How did you get involved with HypeBeast.com? How does “Weekly Drop” play a role in helping brands build a following?
Rob Heppler: I was checking HB since day one, and I would email Kev things I thought were good enough to post. He would tell me to just post it in the forum and if it was sick enough, it would make the front page. So every day I would post and I made friends with the other kids in the forums. I also made a lot of enemies! Then Kev starting letting me post on the front page and gave me the blog.
Ballerstatus.com: What do you think the Internet has done for the streetwear game? Is it inauthentic that a lot of gear that grows up organically from a particular scene is being rocked by a bunch of dudes whose only real scene is in online blogs and message boards, or is it a good thing that a kid from Des Moines can see what’s going on in Shibuya and want to be a part of it?
Rob Heppler: The Internet is so important to streetwear. We should be calling this sh– Internet wear! Or Web gear! I think more kids are wearing this sh– in their house and reselling, than are getting champagne poured on them in clubs!
Ballerstatus.com: Other than John Varvato’s chucks, what kicks are popping of in 2007?
Rob Heppler: Loving the animal print AM95 and AM87. Jordans, Jordans, and more Jordans.
Ballerstatus.com: What’s next for Weekly Drop and Rob Heppler?
Rob Heppler: We want to be on Sirius satellite radio, maybe get our own show. Everyone says that, but then I’d have to move. I’d like to start stacking chips, Drive an M6… So, whatever I have to do to get there, I hope I’m on the right path.