The words “the purpose of this game is to tell you the world my name” projected itself onto the wall of Kaka’ako. Pow!Wow!Hawaii! brought together two distinguished pioneers in the world of streetwear design and urban art for a 1-2-1 discussion about the industry: Jeff Staple and Kevin Lyons.
They shared their experience in getting their foot in the game and how they’ve seen this art community change from then to now. They repeatedly brought up how streetwear’s popularity and support for urban art would have been unimaginable 15 years ago. “You can design today, print the shirts tomorrow, then sell a thousand that day,” Lyons said while explaining how creating is much more accessible today than before.
But as exciting it is that the streetwear culture is a more prominent voice, it does have its downfalls. The slide switched to “I used to knockoff logos and call it design. Now I knockoff design and call it art.” Because of today’s seamless accessibility to everything, “kids these days” are knocking off big name designs and calling it their own. Both Lyons and Staple emphasized the importance of owning your design; own your look and own what represents you so that no one can take your work away from you. You told the world your name and the world will recognize your voice when they see it (and if someone’s trying to bite it off of you.) I.e. Lyons’ monsters and Staple’s pigeons.
Despite the offers Lyons and Staple receive left and right in the design world, they discussed how “creatives got to be selective” because, even if Nike gives you the biggest deal, you don’t want to lose yourself. Pick your wins but still be mindful that you have to “feed your kids.” They even went on how Pharrell probably doesn’t want to perform “Happy” anymore regardless of how many requests he gets because he is onto the next creative path for himself. (Staple even joked how Pharrell would shoot himself before he performed the song again but would be protected by the forcefield of all his money.)
My personal favorite of the 1-2-1 had to be the ending advice the two powerhouses shared with the room full of streetwear enthusiasts. Lyon told the crowd, “You can be as big as you want to be” but keep in mind, “how much do you cherish [your brand]?… If it’s what makes you happy, don’t grow it too fast! Don’t make it so big that you can’t handle it. Cherish it.”
Thank you Pow!Wow!Hawaii! for not only bringing art together in honolulu but creating a learning environment too.
P.s. As if Christopher and I weren’t fan-girling enough with Jeff Staple and Kevin Lyons in the room, we squealed even more upon seeing who else attended the 1-2-1: Ja Tecson and Sophia Chang. We were beyond honored to finally meet these two! They’re influencing today’s streetwear through photography and design so be sure to check their work out here and here!