The dictionary states that a “concept” is an idea or invention to help sell or publicize a commodity, and for the last ten years, Concepts Boston has done just that. Originally set up in part of Cambridge’s infamous Tannery, they recently set up their own store situated in the heart of the city. Stepping foot inside this slice of sneaker heaven you will instantaneously be hit with an obvious influence to skate culture with most of their shop fits and ceiling designs jacked straight from the plywood of a skateboard. It all seems to then make sense that Nike SB had been eyeing off the store in order to collaborate on a sneaker, first hooking up with Weekly Drop’s Rob Heppler and the team at Concepts, then finalising samples with the infamous Frank The Butcher. If you don’t know Frank, you obviously don’t know street culture. This man epitomises the scene, from his 24/7 grind, to maintaining a store, a family, music production, blogging, magazine writing and contributing on Weekly Drop amongst a sea of other jobs. Without time to spare to get any shut-eye, we hit Frank with an interview and being such a legend, he sent us some exclusive shots of the Nike “Lobster Dunk” SB launch party to boot.
Hey Frank, what’s crackin in Beantown with Concepts these days?
Things are great. We just opened our new location around the corner from our world famous Tannery location. Great new brand list, fantastic build out and lower level membership lounge are bringing Concepts into the future.
I have to ask, where does your name arise from, for anyone out there unfamiliar with your infamy?
Infamy! That’s powerful. It seems to be worth more when people wonder where the name came from. Let’s just say I don’t cut meat for a living! The name stuck so I used it for my music, writing, designing and radio. I can say people never forget my name.
Your store is obviously a benchmark for creating Concepts, where did the name for the store arise and tell us a bit about the Concepts family.
Concepts started in 1996 as a “store inside of a store” in the back of the Tannery in Cambridge. Before it was normal to combine sneakers, action sports, outerwear and denim, Concepts took a chance by creating something new. A “Concept”. That “Concept” eventually became the blueprint or the norm for today's boutiques. The owner, Tarek Hassan, has been a staple in men’s fashion and the shoe business for 20 something years. If anybody can lead us to the promise land, it’s him. At Concepts I have a great support team. Deon (manager / buyer), Jimmy (skate manager), Chris (assistant manager) and the rest of the crew help me as a brand manager to develop the Concepts brand and shop. That’s the crew!
You guys just dropped the highly anticipated Lobster Dunk pack with Nike SB, how did you catch that colab hook line and sinker?
People might not realize that Concepts was one of the first skate shops to support the Nike SB program. When the opportunity was presented, we felt like it was perfect timing and a great opportunity to bring attention to our new shop and Boston in general.
Have you guys worked with Nike before? And what was the decision to drop an SB shoe?
We have a great relationship with Nike and the SB department but have never worked with Nike to create something. Timing is everything and we are grateful that the opportunity came when it did. We have a rich skate history with many of our favourite pros, one time or another, being a part of the Concepts lineage. This SB is dedicated to our skate roots.
It seems we may be exhausting our efforts with coming up with themes these days as so many peeps are bringing out collaborations. We like the fact that great minds think alike as we both went for the deep sea theme. Sneaker Freaker, with our Puma Shark “Blaze of Glory” and Concepts with the Nike “Lobster Dunk” SB. Give us some background information into how you came up with the “concept” and how you got it off the ground.
Great minds do think alike! Boston is known for certain things, Irish cops, the Sox, Celts and Pats, famous universities and seafood! You’re right, it’s hard to come up with something that is significant and that will be memorable among a sea of collaborative shoe projects. The preliminary shoe design was put in motion before I joined Concepts by Rob Heppler and the team who worked at the shop at the time. After a design was submitted and Nike’s creative tweaks and final design was put into play, we received the final sample. We liked it and moved forward with creating a campaign that would excite not only our local customer but all sneaker enthusiasts. We brought the “lobster” to life.
The accessories pack makes us want to buy the shoe even more! How much thought went into getting the right packaging and pieces to make up the incredible set? Tell our readers what they can expect to cop with the shoe, if they are lucky enough to get their claws on a pair of the SB’s?
We didn’t just want to put this shoe on the shelf so we decided to take the lobster and seafood inspiration to create packaging and extras that would fit the theme of the project. We created the “Concepts Fishing Co” as the main theme of the project and just had fun with it. We worked with an incredible creative firm out of Boston called Pilot that took time off from creating packaging for Lucas Films to hang out and talk seafood! Expect all the normal lobster eating utensils, bib, wet nap and some surprises.
You held your launch this past Saturday, how was the turnout?
The turnout was amazing! We had kids lining up three days early with tents and lawn chairs. I was real impressed by the class these kids had. They respected each other and the neighborhood. We had people that traveled from as far as L.A, Chicago and NY to be a part of the event.
What went down during the day and did it meet all your expectations?
We had 200+ people, music, food, and an energetic vibe. We delivered our first 50 limited crate sets in a legitimate Boston Lobster truck. The crowd lost their mind! It was more than we imagined and we truly appreciated the love.
Any people of note that rocked up that you weren’t expecting there?
We had visits by legends Stash and Futura, owner of Rival in NYC, Vinnie Ponte and a lot of our friends that we haven’t seen in a while. It was a blessed day!
How do you find being located in a University state, does that help drive sales when there a lot of younger people living in the area? Is there much competition for Concepts or are you pretty much running things in Cambridge?
We have a diverse customer base because of the schools in the area, especially Harvard University. We benefit from the influx of students and families that come in and out of the city on the regular. It keep things interesting because we have customers that are very familiar with our products and others that are genuinely intrigued by what we carry and love learning about our brands. In a way, we are also a university!
You have your claw in so many ponds, with music production, running a store, blogging, being part of the infamous Weekly Drop podcast and generally being the one and only Frank The Butcher. How do you cater to every aspect of your life?
I’m just having fun. I love having the opportunity to be creative and earn a living doing something I like. I can’t lie, I’m very busy because I also have a family, but the blessings this industry has given me are worth the sweat.
You’ve hooked up with Melbourne’s own Com Raid for the Edo G tee a couple of months back (peep the newsflash here). How did you come to know Anthony Costa of the Com Raid brand?
First off, Com Raid is one of my favourite brands and Anthony Costa (owner of Com Raid) is extremely talented. I reached out to Anthony because I wanted to write a piece on the brand in Vapors magazine and our relationship continued from there. His Nelson Mandela tee graphic sparked the idea of creating a t shirt that focused on someone that inspired us in Boston. Edo G is a hip-hop legend and a definite inspiration.
Any other collaborations in the pipeline? What’s next for Frank The Butcher and Concepts?
Concepts has many projects in the works including a Red Wing, Clarks and Canada Goose collaborations. We are going to continue to partner with great brands to bring something new to our customer. As far as me, I am going to continue to contribute to the culture, through Concepts, design, music and writing.
Launch photos courtesy of Chris Lee
Images courtesy highsnobiety