Freshjive's head honcho Rick Klotz certainly knows how to serve it up and dish it out! One of streetwear's forerunners, Freshjive has continually rear-ended the scene with provocative imagery and controversial statements leaving a trail of consumers frothing like Cujo. When news leaked that Freshjive were hooking in with Etnies to drop a new sneaker, we could only imagine the knuckle-duster that would be spawned. To say we were surprised by the end result is an understatement! Looking for an explanation, we went straight to the man himself, strapped on our kevlar underpants and prepared to lash tongues. As Rick says, it's just a fucking shoe!
Yo Rick, how's LA this summer? Have you paid your respects to the King of Pop?
The summer here in Los Angeles is great. The bikinis are out - all sunny, all the time. I haven't paid my respects to the King of Pop, though. I couldn't care less about him and his fucked up life. I blame the father.
Freshjive has been around for twenty years now. Are you guys planning a big fuck off party to celebrate or what?
No, we're not planning a big fuck off party. Frankly, I'm fucking tired of so many parties in my life. A celebration for me used to be a hotel room, a bottle of whiskey, pile of drugs, an exotic woman and dancing around to Ron Wood videos. It's pretty much the same now sans the booze and drugs. Besides, I'm not very celebratory.
The ‘streetwear scene' of course didn't exist when you guys kicked off in 1989. How have you kept your sanity intact? Presuming, of course, that it is intact?
No, there wasn't a streetwear clothing scene when I started. In fact, I don't even remember the term ‘streetwear' being around at that time. Yes, my sanity is intact after all these years. A lot of ups and downs, but being in business for yourself is sometimes like having dog shit on your shoe that you just can't get off, no matter how hard you try.
And are you still involved creatively in the product? Or are you all about business now?
Well running your own thing you have to be pretty much concerned with all facets of it. But my main role is still designing the clothes and designing or art directing the graphics. I'm not doing this to necessarily just to make money. I need to make a statement along the way, ruffle some feathers, and have some fun or I wouldn't be doing it still. I still am really hyped on doing what I'm doing. It can't be only about the aesthetics for me.
This could be a long bow, but personality-wise, you seem to be programmed like a New Yorker. Why have you stayed in California?
A lot of people have said I seem like I'm from New York and I can understand why. But I'm a true Angelino (Los Angeles). I grew up here in L.A. and I love it. Of course there's negative aspects of living here, but I live all the positive aspects of it. I really love New York as well for all its charm and energy - I just couldn't live there.
You once described your job as ‘bullshit', even though you've worked so hard. Surely you actually care what FJ stands for?
Yes, the whole concept of fashion and branding is bullshit. But I still do enjoy coming up with graphics and designing clothes. Do I care what FJ stands for? I'm not sure how to answer this. I guess I do, though in the end it's just a fucking company and a brand. I care more about what I stand for myself, and it comes across in the company.
Well what's more important, perseverance or being cool?
That's a no brainer. Perseverance. I mean, what the fuck is being cool? Is it having the latest gear or kicks? The typical streetwear consumer is such a brand conscious self-aware little bitch in their full on cool-kit outfit from head to toe. It seems like they care more about gear than doing something interesting in life or chasing girls.
At the moment, ‘everyone' seems keen to dress like their grandfathers. Does this strike you as rather odd? Where the hell do we go from here?
I think most grandfathers dress better than their grandsons, so I don't have a problem with that, though I'm not sure I agree with what you're pointing out. As far as where we go from here? I don't think about issues like this. I just roll along.
How have you managed to keep FJ relevant to new generations? Has the formula changed at all?
I don't know if FJ is relevant to a new generation. I don't even care. Even though I do have to put some thought to relevant styles and aesthetics, my aim is to do this while making stuff that I myself like. I've made many bad decisions throughout this career, and at times I've felt bad about trying to be ‘relevant' to some generation. So I don't give it much thought. As far as a formula, I started this company with no experience and I had to learn everything the long and hard way. I've developed a day-to-day formula for getting things done. But things are changing all the time in style and business, and you always need to be prepared to mutate your formula.
Yeah the change has been coming thick and fast lately. We've seen many brands fall by the wayside in the last year, yet you still keep grinding. How has the GFC affected Freshjive?
The GFC is affecting everyone. I'm sure everyone is on the downward this year. We just gotta roll with it, and watch the expenses. Surprisingly, in this tough economy, I'm having the most fun I've ever had with work and my personal life. So I can clearly say that money don't buy happiness.
There is some theoretical speculation that all this might actually be good for business and society at large. What's your take on that?
Yeah, that's correct as far as I'm concerned. Conspicuous consumption has been out of control. After all these years of rampant consumerism, the public has been lead to believe that they need to buy more and more. The world's GDP keeps rising and rising. But what this does is just makes us slaves to consumerism and buying things. It's a strange dichotomy coming from a person who makes and sells stuff. But I think that people don't need to be buying so much shit. Frankly, I'm fine having my company attain a certain amount of sales and being happy with it. It's not about more and more and more - at least not for me. I'm attracted to interesting products as much as anyone else. But it's important to keep it under control. I've lead a very conspicuous consuming life in the past, but a few years ago I decided to start simplifying and selling off anything I don't need. Outside of work, I live a pretty simple life as far as what I own. I want to spend my time LIVING as opposed to BUYING or HAVING. My self worth is my experiences in life.
I'm sure you've also had a good vantage point to witness the whole sneaker-hypefest first hand. What are your observations on the past five years in this regard?
Well I've never been into the whole sneaker thing at all. I think it's a big joke and the only people making out are the top brass at companies like Nike. They ‘own' a part of all their followers' incomes, kind of like Scientology. I can't help but think of those fucking dorks lined up outside of a store to get the latest kicks even though they have closets full of useless leather and rubber.
Does it seem weird to you that kids fetishise and pay fortunes for shit that companies make rather cheaply?
Oh yeah, totally. I'm sure some kids are so caught up with their shoe fetish that they probably line the insides of them with Cellophane, lube up their little willies, and nut one out right on the insoles. But they're probably such nerds that they ain't got any game with the ladies cause they've spent too much time with shoes and video games.
Speaking of sneakers, have any other brands approached you before Etnies about doing a shoe together?
No. I don't bother with collaborations.
Well, to be honest, we were surprised when we saw your Freshjive collab. I guess we were expecting something low-fi but probably not so restrained in texture or message. We don't have a press release or a soundbite from anyone - what's the story?
To tell you the truth, I'm not interested in collaborations, especially within the ‘market'. I did this because of a very good friend who's been working at Etnies named Jannio Hidalgo. He used to work for me and he's a really great guy. I did it because he asked. And the owner, Pierre, is a really cool dude as well. It was an easy process - they asked, showed me what to work from, and I thought that I could design a pair of kicks that I'd wear from what I had to work with. I'm really stoked on the clean design, and it's a shoe that I'm stocking up to wear for years to come.
With all-black uppers, there's not a lot we can really say about your shoes. I think it's safe to say that the model is fairly generic as well. Is there some kind of message we're missing?
It's just a shoe. It's really just all about the aesthetics. There's not much to say about it. It's just the subtlety of a very clean design. I hate shit that's over-designed.
I guess we had an idea that since you're so outspoken (in a thoughtful way) that the shoes would also speak loudly. Why did you design a shoe that is devoid of classic FJ statements, political or otherwise? I'd have thought this was a great opportunity to let rip?
I'm outspoken in unthoughtful ways as well. I don't think that the design of a shoe is the arena for political statements or cultural statements. At least not for me. I would wear a t-shirt with a statement, but I don't want my shoe to make such a statement. IT'S JUST A SHOE.
Fair enough, but surely there will be a bangin' media campaign to go along with the release?
A media campaign? It's just a fucking shoe! We are having a party to celebrate ‘just a fucking shoe'. It will be at the end of August at my store here in L.A, Reserve. It's actually just a reason to throw an exhibit of the photos of Herman Leonard, one of the most important photographers of the jazz age. And we're having Joey Altruda and a quartet he put together play the night of the party. Joey hosts Vinyl Meltdown, a radio show on Reserve Radio (on our website). He's an important figure in the Los Angeles music scene, having been playing and composing music for close to 30 years. He also owns the longest running recording studio in Los Angeles called Joey's Place, originally opened in 1936 under the name Electrovox Studios.
What about an update on Chicken & Waffles? That had us laughing hard...
Yeah, that was a fun video. Have you seen the I.L.B.T video we did recently? It stands for I Love Big Tits. It's an obscure Joe Walsh track from around 1980. It's on our website. It was too risque to post on YouTube.
Have you also embraced the limited edition, one-of-one hype bullshitometer with the shoes?
No, I've not embraced that. It's funny though, anyone can call anything ‘limited edition'. In fact, I could say almost everything in our line is ‘limited edition' since we only run an item usually once and never again. But I'm guilty of using that term with certain items.
What's the distribution matrix? Only through your own store?
I don't know. Ask Jannio Hidalgo. My store's gonna get it first for sure.
Ok, let's finish off with a nice easy one. FJ is 20. Can you make it to dirty 30?
Oh, I'll make it to 30 for sure. And believe me it's only gonna get dirtier. Youngsters got nothing on me. Hardcore to the end my friend!