Popular Demand: “Inspired By Risk Takers” [Interview]
Los Angeles, CA – Seated inside their Studio City, CA offices, the Popular Demand staff peer into their Macbooks, all sporting assorted pieces from their current summer collection. Under the 20 ft. ceilings of this four-story work/live loft is where they lay the groundwork for one of LA’s most exciting new street wear brands. Popular Demand functions like a brand well beyond its years. Only launched six months ago, their tanks, tees and hats can already be found in over 100 stores in the U.S. and on the backs of notables like Tristan Wilds (The Wire, 90210), Shay (N.E.R.D.) and Sean Kingston, as well as Canadian artists like Tory Lanez and Blake Carrington.
It’s hard to go anywhere in LA without seeing one of their signature cheetah print American flag tees or Native American chief prints. For a brand less than a year old, their traction is impressive and a product of their mission to be “disrupters.” The product line offers several iconic symbols of Americana (Native American Chief, American Flag) with a twist (cheetah patterns, eccentric colors, snake skin prints). When you see Popular Demand, you know its them. And it’s this distinct attitude, which owner Blake Ricciardi says is “inspired by and created in Los Angeles,” that gets the people not only wearing the brand, but talking about it.
While in Los Angeles, HipHopCanada’s Central Regional Editor, Jonathon “Bizz” Brown, sat down with Blake Ricciardi to talk about being a “disrupter,” the brand’s backstory and their plans for future releases.
HipHopCanada: Popular Demand seems to be doing very well for such a young brand, how did you achieve this?
Blake: I had a brand before and so I took everything I was doing with that and figured out the little stuff I was doing right and the other stuff I was doing wrong and tried to do it differently. And just try to learn from that experience
HipHopCanada: What was something you were doing wrong that you learned from?
Blake: I think we were trying sometimes to do too much. We weren’t staying focused. Its hard. There’s a million brands out there. Nobody needs Popular Demand. Now do people need Diamond and Hundreds at this point? To a degree, yeah. They don’t need them, but they are established. A kid walks into a store and asks for that.
We’re a new brand. Nobody needs you yet. You have to be a disrupter. You have to get people to pay attention to you for some reason.
So for us, one of the biggest things I’d say was a mistake we were making was the brand was just in the middle too much. It wasn’t compelling enough. I wanted to create something you had to pay attention to.
“So for us I’m always thinking about ‘ok can we turn the volume up a little bit more. Is there something we can do to set ourselves apart with that?’”
And those are the types of things that makes the kid walk in and ask for that product because he remembers that, he’s thinking about that. And when people see it they feel like they need to have it.
Rosa Acosta & K Rose wearing Popular Demand
HipHopCanada: I like what you said earlier about being a disrupter, can you expand on that?
Blake: Ya I think its with anything in life nowadays. There’s sensory overload on everything. There are very few things out there that can immediately come out and capture your attention and if they do, they were disrupters. There are very few things that can just be launched and work. Nike can put out that new wristband they have, but they have millions and millions of dollars so they don’t have to be a disrupter in anyway because you know when they put it out, like when Apple puts out a product everybody is going to write about it, there’s no need to shock anybody. But with a lot of things out there. If you have an indie movie or some other kind of product, you have to find a way. Even myself, when I’ve had businesses in the past, you assume because its your life people are going to pay attention to it, like its going to just happen. As much work as you put into it its not going to just happen. They have to stop.
We were out to lunch today and these two kids stopped and were like ‘that shirts crazy, you guys work for them?’ We need that to happen. That’s what we’re talking about. The brand is about being noticed. We talk about that a lot in meetings. What are we going to do to be a disrupter out here?
HipHopCanada: How do you stand out though? It’s one thing to say you want to be different, but how does Popular Demand execute that?
Blake: Now, anybody could make something that looks different these days. You could just make something utterly ridiculous but it doesn’t mean somebody is going to wear it. So how do you stick with what’s popular but also put your stamp on things? I think we’ve kind of found that niche.
We’ve only been doing it six months. It’s with anything, there’s a lot of luck and things that happen. So when I was first developing graphics and came up with the cheetah print graphic I was fortunate that people really latched onto that. So from that, listening to what people liked about it I kind of developed the concept of the brand around that. I was like, “ok that’s the center of it.” If you ask me about almost any of our shirts I can tell you how it ties back into that graphic.
Mod Sun & DJ Choz show off their Popular Demand gear
HipHopCanada: What is the concept behind your brand? What’s the backstory?
Blake: I think there are some brands where their backstory is really obvious and they make it known what they are. And there are other brands that when you discover what the backstory is, its cool. Its like when you see those easter eggs on DVDs and its like a cool thing you find out and you feel closer to the brand.
For us, we’re new, we’re still where people see our graphics and learn what its all about. I’m not really stuck up about people wearing our brand. I just want people to wear it and feel good about themselves. Keep it real simple. I think there’s other brands that want you to know the whole story behind it. I don’t really care. I just want the kid to match it to his Jordan’s and when that kid goes out he feels more dope than he did before because he’s rocking our shit.
HipHopCanada: But there is a story behind it right?
Blake: Really it’s about leadership, doing it your own way, being successful in your own way.
One of our tag lines is “Inspired by and created in Los Angeles” and its really true because I’m from Boston. And before I moved out here 3 ½ years ago, I couldn’t have created this brand because I didn’t have the experiences. I don’t even mean from a business standpoint. I mean what really inspired me to build this brand was the lifestyle out here and really the people. I think a lot of people miss what LA is all about and the types of people that are here. I think the fact that people have the balls to pick up and come to a place and try to make it. There are some people that have no talent and do it, but that’s alright I respect the fact that they’re going out here and trying to make it. That mentality of trying ot make it, that risk they’re taking, you feel it out here. There’s that type of mentality out here.
And the other thing for me is the people that are out here. The majority of the people we meet, nobody really walks in here in a suit and tie. Everybody that walks in here is eclectic and that’s the thing you get in LA. You don’t get that in the rest of the country. Its hard to be successful if you dress a certain way or you have tattoos.
“Out here, people do it that way. For us that’s the concept of a lot of the brand. Its about leading, being successful but doing it in your own way. So that’s where us flipping some of those iconic images, a lot of it comes back to that.”
HipHopCanada: It sounds like you’re inspired by risk.
Blake: Inspired by the risk takers,’ is another tag line of ours. Somebody that is willing to put all the chips in and just go for it.
If you look at the logo. We talk about working hard and playing hard a lot and obviously that’s a little cliché because there’s a Wiz song about it, but its still the concept of it is cool. With the logo it’s the same way. The popular portion of it is fun. Straight up, the word ‘popular’ is a fun thing. The script is more of a fun graphic of ours. And the demand portion is stronger is more bold. And the word demand is a very strong word. As much as the word ‘popular’ is fun word, the word demand is strong. So for us you see that balance in the logo. That’s why I like the flags and things like that.
HipHopCanada: Yes! Can you explain all the flag patterns?
Blake: Flags by nature are not wild, they are very geometric but we’re adding something fun to it so that’s the popular portion of it. But like I said, I don’t expect a kid to figure that out, that’s just what inspires us to make the product. If they figure it out that’s cool. We have a bio out there that talks about that stuff but its not that important. The important part is whoever is wearing it is feeling good. They’re taking pictues of it, they’re instagramming pictures of it. We want to create product that when you’re walking down the street, somebody asks you where you got that shirt. If we’re not doing that, we don’t have a good product.
Kent Money & Quincy rocking Popular Demand
HipHopCanada: How do you decide what to roll out and when?
Blake: We’re new. I want you to understand the same thing over and over and over. So for us, we’re not going to go away from our graphics anytime soon. We’re going to develop the line and its going to be really tight. And when you see it, you’ll know its Popular Demand and you’ll get that. We have this shirt coming out and its a silouhette of America with a cheetah flag in it, but its with snake skin. And when you tell someone about it, it sounds stupid, but when you see it, you’re like ‘thats dope and its Popular Demand because nobody else could put that out.‘ In a short time we’ve created a look that if another brand put that out, it wouldn’t make sense but for us it all works. I like combining patterns and looks and things that don’t seem like they’d work well together and putting them together in a way that hopefully comes across well.
HipHopCanada: Can anyone wear Popular Demand?
Blake: There are tons of people who have no desire for anyone to notice what they’re wearing. They just want to look ok and fit in and that’s fine, but they will never buy our product. But there’s also people out there that are standing in line for those Jordans and they’re reading whatever magazine they’re reading and they’re paying attention or maybe they just want to look a certain way when they go out. And so we want to accommodate those kind of people. We just want to be loud. And its really more about being compelling than being loud. It could be a black and white photo shoot but there’s something about it that stands out. What people forget is: nobody cares. They can just go out and buy the Hundreds shirt and be happy because they know it. They don’t need you. You have to make them need you. We have to make ourselves matter.
Tory Lanez & DJ Tay James decked out in Popular Demand
Written by Jonathon “Bizz” Brown for HipHopCanada
Popular Demand – August 2012 Lookbook
Be sure to visit Popular Demand online at PopularDemandBrand.com.