Friday, February 26, 2010

Interview - Jeff Staple

Jeffrey Staple of Staple Design

Staple Design for New Balance Pigeon sneaker

Staple Design for New Balance Pigeon White sneaker

Staple Design Airwalk sneakers

If you're around this weekend in Melbourne and have an interest in streetwear culture and/or designer SNEAKERS (aka runners), Buffet is probably right up your alley.

Buffet is an industry tradeshow, public expo and trade/retail marketplace with a focus on streetwear and urban style / culture, and will also incorporate discussion forums with some incredible local and international designers over the next three days. If you're a retailer, streetwear industry hot shot or just a die-hard sneaker lover, chances are there'll be something to tickle your fancy...

Speaking of industry hot shots... it doesn't get much more impressive than NYC streetwear guru Jeffrey Staple - entrepreneur, clothing and product designer, founder of super cool New York design studio Staple Design, and owner of retail store Reed Space.

Staple Design have collaborated on some incredible projects in the last few years - designing sneakers for Nike, New Balance and Converse, and co-branding everything from Lomo cameras to a Kia car. But it was Staple's 'Pigeon' design for the classic Nike Dunk sneaker in 2005 which really got tongues wagging, and propelled Jeff Staple to a new level of design super stardom. Taking inspiration from the manky birds that fill New York City, Staple designed this limited edition shoe in brave salmon/pink, white and grey tones. This unexpected new colourway was a runaway success - and it's launch incited a now infamous ruckus in Manhattan - not to mention some pretty heavy-handed crowd control care of the NYPD. Jeepers. What is it about guys and sneakers?

Jeff Staple is currently in Melbourne, and will be leading a discussion forum tomorrow at The Factory in Melbourne's CBD! For all info and bookings, visit the Buffet website. Meantime - have a little read about him in this interview below. He also writes a hugely popular design blog. OH and he is tweeting some hilarious things since he landed in Melbourne...! ie: "2 questions for u Melbourne: 1) Do ppl have jobs? Cuz theres lots of ppl chillin outside on a thurs. 2) Where do u hide the ugly people?". Awww!! Nothing like an enthusiastic tourist. Keep the compliments coming and you'll make many friends here buddy! :)

Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to what you are doing now?

Hmmm…it’s just a long series of accidents that led to me where I am today. There was no plan. No business proposal. I just had a passion for what I believed in and worked my ass off to maintain it. And some luck of course.

You run a creative agency, a clothing line and a retail store. Oh, and and you write an excellent blog! You must be pretty busy! How do you structure your time to juggle all these projects and still stay one step ahead of the pack?

I try to be super efficient with my communications. I try to have technology work to increase my productivity. But at the same time, I am not enslaved to technology. And most importantly, I have an incredible team. Without them it would be impossible.

Reed Space retail store

After famous collaborations with incredible brand such as Nike, New Balance, and Lomo cameras, you must get so many requests these days. How do you decide who to work with, and what do you look for in a client when starting a new creative collaboration?

It’s important that I have respect for the company… and that the respect is mutual. The synergy between Staple and Company X has to be there as well. It’s actually quite difficult to articulate. It’s 51% gut feeling. 49% actual reasoning.

Staple Design's Lomo camera

Staple for Timberland

Your Pigeon design for Nike was insanely popular and set a new benchmark in limited edition streetwear – what is it with boys and sneakers!? Why do you think this particular launch was such an incredible success? Did the response surprise you?

Yes I definitely did.
 I chalk this up to simply the planets aligning. I often say if you put the same parties and elements together today, the results would not be the same. The series of events that led to the Pigeon release was really a stroke of insane occurrences. I agree with you, it was a benchmark in the era of sneaker culture. That event opened the floodgates. But to recreate it would be impossible today.

How is your business structured? – ie how many staff work with you at Staple Design, which tasks do you still handle personally, and which significant tasks do you outsource?

There are 18 people working at Staple and Reed Space. I touch almost every aspect of Staple Clothing, Staple Design and Reed Space. I think I have a good balance of touching projects and also letting my team take full accountability. I don’t over micromanage. But I am also not absent. It’s that combination of trust and guidance that I try to maintain.

What does a typical day at work involve for you? 

Wake up at 9am to hit the gym. Workout for an hour. Shower. Eat. In the office by 11. The typical workday is anything but typical. Because of all the things we do, I don’t know what's going to hit me. I spend the next 8-9 hours letting issues wash over me like a wave in the ocean. I put out fires. Massage egos. Check balances and balance checks. Not much design happens unfortunately. A lot of emailing, chatting, calling, meeting and running around. Then 8pm-9pm comes and I go have a bite. Usually out. Usually with a close friend or work colleague. Then at 10pm I go home with my laptop and its right back to work. Typically till about 3am. The midnight hours are when design work gets done. Nothing to really bother me here so I can focus on creative things. It’s also usually at this time that I assign tasks to my team; sending them these late night emails that they take care of when they come in the next day.

What would be your dream creative project?

I’ve been so blessed that I can die now and be very content. There’s nothing more I dream of. In fact, I hate dreaming. Honestly.

Kia / Staple Design collaboration

What are you looking forward to?

Retirement. We’ll see how long I can do that for.

NYC Questions

Your favourite neighbourhood in NYC and why?

The Lower East Side. It's the last neighborhood in NYC that actually feels somewhat like a “neighborhood”. It’s quiet, creative and laid back. I live here.. Staple Design Studio is here. And Reed Space is here. My whole life is with in 4 walking blocks.

What/where was the last great meal you ate in NYC?

Haha…I’m a food snob AND I live in Manhattan. Every night is a great meal. That’s how I reward myself. So tonight I went for BBQ at Georgia’s on Orchard Street. Yum!

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Having brunch at Gemma in The Bowery Hotel. Say hello to Karim, the manager and tell him Jeff sent you.

New York’s best kept secret?

New York’s best secret? We’re not actually all that cool.

Queues and campouts for the New Balance / Staple sneakers!


  1. Great interview! I love reading about designers I'm not familiar with and learning something new! Oh and he's really cute!

  2. Sounds like Jeff works very hard and is really passionate about design, which obviously pays off. Great stuff!