Caps and kicks go together like popcorn and cola, but what would happen if you were to combine the two? From the Hawaiian island of Kauai comes LACER Headwear – caps inspired by sneaker culture laced with true originality. After devising the concept in his garage in 2006, it took founder and designer Steven Fountain five years of groundwork to make his vision a reality. We reached out across the Pacific to find out more.
Tell us about LACER Headwear. Who, what, where, when and why?
There really isn’t one answer for each question, but the ‘who’ is really people like our team, who live to inspire the world around them. I guess the ‘what’ is the original design of our hats, which combines the traditional baseball cap with any sneaker to be a perfect companion accessory for any pair of kicks. I’m proud to say that the ‘where’ didn’t take place in a corporate boardroom in some major city but right here on the island of Kauai, where everything is rooted from core culture. ‘When’ was too long ago but in 2006 is when I created the concept. ‘Why’ is more of a loaded question, because the ‘why’ kept changing and growing. I initially came up with the design to create something that has never been done before. But after showing my partners in New York and in LA, I found that the design also represented other raw cultures living outside of Hawaii.
Speaking of Hawaii, how do you guys get anything done when you could be surfing or eating pineapples?
Haha! Good question! It’s waking up with that passion and drive to follow your dream. I told myself that I would try my best to get every person to at least have heard of LACER or to know what one looks like. Even if they can’t relate to the design, it’s the hustle and dream that I want them to respect. This is not an easy industry to break through, and I have the most respect for the brands that have done it. Don’t worry though, I definitely find time to get my paradise on.
Good to hear. How does being isolated from the US street wear scene affect Lacer?
It’s definitely been a challenge for me. Not being able to interact with the rest of the industry makes it hard to build relationships and get the brand out there. But being on the island has its benefits. Teaches you humbleness, respect, patience, and keeps you rooted without all the negatives out there. It also helps keep you original. My team and I have diverse networks, which has helped get LACER to where it is today. For myself, I used to organize concerts. The connections I’ve made through that industry have proven to be priceless.
I guess there are a million flip-flops in Hawaii. How is the sneaker scene?
That’s true! The scene out here is alive. Not so much on the island I come from, but on the city island for sure. They’re camping out for releases just like anywhere else, and they’re a community that follows everything else going on in the scene. That’s where the inspiration came from to create the design. I come from a country island, where there are no ‘scenes’ or fashion. But when I moved to Oahu, the city island, I learned about the street wear scene and got hooked. I listened to a lot of hip hop growing up so I could understand the culture, but when I was actually exposed to the lifestyle and fashion in the city, it opened my mind to combine two of what I thought were the most obvious urban fashion accessories, hats and sneakers. And obviously with the Internet, you can see everything going on beyond just Hawaii. No need to travel for inspiration, which is kind of sad, but that’s reality. There are a handful of dope brands out here making some good stuff, combining Hawaii’s lifestyle and culture into that street wear vibe.
Ok, we gotta ask about the laced up hats. Whose idea was that?
Well, I came up with the design concept in my garage back in 2006. Took me a while to figure out what to do with it. Showed it to a bunch of people and the design spoke to so many different cultures. From hip hop heads to skaters, dancers to athletes, I realized I could reach a large audience around the world, not just locally. I had to get it patented, trademarked, and sourced. I had the hardest time finding the right manufacturing and direction. Tried to work with other brands locally but it was hard to find Aloha in my own backyard, I had to reach out to LA and NYC. How’s that?? We finally released the product and brand in 2011. The growth has been amazing.
Ok, here are a couple of quickie questions. This week I have been listing to…
Rootz Underground / Movement
This week I have been wearing…
No shoes, no shirt, a Kamanu Composites trucker hat and surf shorts. Island style brah. Shaka!
Living the dream! This week I have been doing…
Recovering from a bodysurfing accident. Dislocated the shoulder so I’m stuck at home for a while. But getting a lot done for our Summer 2013 releases.
Ouch, that sounds painful! Final question. Tell us about the future!
Very excited for 2013. Got a bunch of great colabs in the works with artists and athletes. Working on a sports licensing deal. We will launch LACER Elite, a range that will feature designs directly tied back to materials and fabrics that sneakers are made of. I’m looking forward to working hard and growing the brand. Laced up and ready for the future!