In a scene bombarded with bombast, originality rarely reigns supreme. Stampd’ LA is here to change all of that. After an incredible year that defied any economic crisis, Chris (Stampd’ LA’s mastermind) took his customising business to new levels creating his first fully fledged footwear line, launching this month. Surrounded by a bevy of confidants well-versed in the fashion industry, Chris hustled around the clock in order to create a brand that would reach a wider demographic. Can anyone say E!News? Read on to find out why this new brand gets our ‘stamp’ of approval!
Hey Chris, you have said you started Stampd' LA at a time when customising was just coming to the forefront of the sneaker scene. What was the decision to delve into this arena on a more mass-produced level?
I started a few years back doing the whole custom thing, developing my design style and testing the market as to what people like. Things got to a point with my custom shoes that didn’t allow for growth. There was only so much the small group of artists and myself could handle. We were getting bigger and bigger orders and figured it was time to step it up.
Did it take long for the Stampd’ LA name to get noticed around town?
Stampd’ LA was accepted quickly around here. Six months after I started doing customs we had a small community following the line, and we were in Conveyor at Fred Segal, which helped us get good brand recognition. Stampd’ LA ‘Customs’ was developed in about two years and towards the end of it we were getting worldwide exposure.
How did you initially market your idea to a wider audience?
A lot of the brand was pushed online through our website, blog, MySpace and also through select accounts in LA and Japan. I tried working with different artists that covered a wide array of demographics allowing us to be seen within their circles. We did shoes with A-Trak, N.E.R.D, Aoki, Afrobots, J Davey, Dj Jus Ske, all of which have a strong following and fan base. This got our brand and product out to a huge audience, something that we probably wouldn’t have been able to do alone.
How many shoes were you having to personally customise at the website’s peak? In hindsight, was this always going to be overwhelming?
Online is the future; people want to shop from home. It helped in the beginning because we were able to adhere to a broader customer; we were selling shoes in Australia, Japan, LA, and Germany throughout the life of the custom site. At one point we were featured on E! News and it drove online sales through the roof. I think the first night the piece aired we had 30 orders (in about an hour) which, given our relatively small operation, was a big deal and a big production problem. That was overwhelming, but exciting. At that point I was like, ok, we have something here.
With the upper designs, how did you decide on what was going to sell the best, as it could be said that anyone could try their hand at drawing/painting on a shoe, so your selling point and creations had to be very strong, true?
Yeah, for sure. In the custom shoe days, I set up my online customiser so that it was fairly easy to upload new designs on the daily. If something was up there for about a month and we weren’t getting any action from it I’d take it down and try something else. In those days I didn’t even have to paint the design before I tested them. I would design everything from my computer, put it on the customiser, see if anyone would bite at it, if we started to get orders from it, I would paint a bunch of them and put them in all of my accounts around LA. It was a good way to lower the risk, given I was using student loans to buy blank Converse to paint on.
Had you had any design experience in the past?
I studied graphic design in college and have been involved in and around art from an early age. Growing up, my Mom designed handbags and luggage for Guess, which sparked my interest in the design field. My first job in the fashion industry was at UNIF Clothing where I was able to learn a lot of the mechanics behind apparel design. I was working at UNIF during the day, then I would come home and design sneakers for Stampd’ LA till about one or two am, go to sleep, then do it all over again. After about a year of this I was comfortable moving Stampd’ LA from a small ‘custom’ business to a footwear line, taking on the design reigns fulltime.
You must be incredibly excited about this new venture! How difficult has the process been in creating and designing your own sneakers from scratch?
I get to design shoes as a job, it’s surreal, and I still have to check myself sometimes. With my prior experience doing the customs and through working at UNIF the transition hasn’t been that bad. I’ve been more excited than anything and with the experience behind me everything has been going well. I get to my office with an open mind and try and learn new things everyday. My partner Tom has been in the fashion industry for about 12 years, and has taught me a lot about dealing with our production facilities in China. The language barrier sucks, I need to learn Chinese and Japanese quick.
Were there any cats in the scene that inspired you or are you completely self-motivated?
Inspiration is what got me to this point, and the majority of that comes from my friends. Luckily I work in an environment where I’m surrounded by my friends all the time. Eric at UNIF started his clothing line a few years back and I was able to learn a lot from him, also Will from DURK threw in a couple one liners here and there. I’ve always been pretty self-motivated too; if I’m not working I’m not excited. I like staying busy, creating new things, making the most of my time, that’s when I’m having the most fun.
What can we expect from the new collection and what statement are we making when we rock a Stampd' LA shoe?
The Spring Collection is fresh, it’s clean, it’s a modern look on graphic footwear. We’re doing six styles, and with the Numberd’ style we’re releasing it in numbers 0-9 with about 50 pairs of each number coming out. The line will be exciting to watch and become a part of. When you rock one of our shoes, you’re looking for something dope, something that the dude next to you doesn’t have. It’s about having fun, looking good, and setting yourself apart. Don’t be too serious, it’s only shoes.
What has been your vision for the brand since day one and where do you want to see the brand’s direction go as it grows?
From the beginning I wanted Stampd’ LA to be more than a footwear line. I wanted it to encompass everything that my friends and I go through and are a part of. We’ll be doing things in the later part of ‘09 that include luggage, and eyewear. I’m putting together a lifestyle magazine that will hit stores simultaneously with the first collection of shoes. As we grow I don’t really see us putting a limit on anything, as long as the economy allows us to grow we’ll putting out dope/fun stuff until I get old and weird.
Where can peeps cop Stampd' LA sneakers from and when will your website be relaunching?
Come January you can grab our kicks at Joyrich in LA, True in SF, Classic Kicks in NY, Roden Gray (Vancouver), American Rag CIE (Japan), Beams (Japan), and Height (Tokyo). Look for our entire account lists with the launch of our new site, I just named a few. If you don’t see anything that’s in your hood we’ll have an online shop as well. That will be launching the later part of December; we’ll have a media section with a bunch of random footage, pics and a newly designed blog. It’s going to be dope, make sure to check it.
For more information on Stampd' LA check out here
Check out Coutie for an exclusive limited drop of Stampd' LA sneakers.