The man currently responsible for Kr3w's continued success is Jack Toledo, whose vision has helped the brand make a name for itself outside of skateboarding circles. As we prepare to stockpile a load of Kr3w goodies from the new Niagara collection for a lucky group of you guys and girls, we speak to Jack about his inspirations, the future of skate brands and Drake rocking a Palace tee.
How would you describe Kr3w as a brand?
Kr3w has been a staple in the core skate market since its inception in 2003. We are credited with introducing the first skate jean for men with spandex in the fabric. This came from Andrew Reynolds having to wear women’s jeans in order to get the slim fit denim he was looking for with the comfort of stretch. Through the years we have seamlessly integrated elements of fashion, lifestyle and a darker aesthetic which are all part of our brand's DNA. We continue to be rider focused while drawing inspiration from art, music and the unique culture we surround ourselves with. The perception of KR3W as a denim and bottoms mainstay comes with the desire and drive for us to remain the best at what we do.
All photos by Amanda Fordyce
How do you think the brand's evolved over the years?
Let’s state the obvious first, we are a skate brand at our core so we fall under the ‘action sports’ umbrella. With that said the action sports arena targets a younger audience so there was a conscious effort to age the brand up with the autumn 2014 collection. We know we are recognised as an authentic core skate brand but wanted to broaden our reach outside of that market segment and create a product that felt a bit more mature, lifestyle driven and premium. We've found that if you don’t take the proper steps to subtly reinvent yourself or make cool shit that is unique and fresh, you get left behind
Where did you draw inspiration from for the no. 11 collection?
The No.11 collection is a great opportunity for me as a designer to showcase our capabilities as an aspirational brand. This is us showcasing a premium tier through fabrications with elevated detailing, minimal branding and a desire to appeal outside of the skate culture. It’s a lifestyle segment if you will. My inspiration comes from the re-emergence of counter culture, music, travel, contemporary fashion, art and anything else cool that may be going on out there.
I noticed the new collection shares some similarities to brands like Dickies and Carhartt. Why has 'workwear' suddenly become so popular?
I see you’ve picked up on that haha. The great thing about heritage brands like Carhartt, Dickies, Schott, Belstaff, Pendleton etc etc… is that they are timeless staples. With the re-lauch of the brand direction for FALL 2014 I revolved it around the ideology of ‘Modern Heritage’. I wanted to take that timeless/minimal approach and modernise it. There are brands out there among our competition - and even outside of it - which are knocking off these brands 1 for 1 and simply changing labels. We aren’t about that.
Can you tell us about the artists you collaborated with in the past for Kr3w?
We worked with two amazing artists in 2014. For Q3/Fall 2014 we were lucky enough to work with an artist by the name of Niagara. She's from the Detroit area and better known as the front woman for the band Destroy All Monsters. She does a spin on tongue and cheek pop art. We are proud of the product that stemmed from working with her and think it has the perfect balance of a pissed off attitude while remaining wearable. For Q4/Winter 2014 we worked with a former professional skateboarder and icon in the west coast skate scene by the name of Eric Dressen. Eric is a true O.G. In the game and has recently made a name for himself as a tattoo artist. The collection we made with him is one of my favourites.
Is there a stand out piece in the collection, if so why?
The team at Kr3w wear a ton of the product we make, which speaks volumes about what we're doing. You can’t claim to stand behind what you're making and then not actually wear it. Although living in California only allows for a few solid months of jacket weather, one of my favorite pieces from the FALL 2014 collection is the Nicholson Jacket. It’s the perfect cross between a heritage inspired silhouette and dark attitude. I’m a sample size so I’ve been wearing mine for a while now but since the season has now dropped in stores you can all grab one as well, don’t sleep on it!
Back in the 90s/early 2000s skate brands weren't exactly influential in fashion circles. Now guys like Drake are snapped wearing Palace tees. Why do you think this change has come about?
Great question. I’m happy to offer my thoughts here. I feel that right now it’s an interesting time with the whole 90’s movement coming back so heavy. You’re seeing grunge come back with people wrapping long sleeved flannels around their wastes, muscle beach elastic waistband pants, dudes in over sized/ill fittings t’s and denim overalls, 5 panels and bucket hats, white new balance orthopedic trainers on hipsters, stuff like that. Things started to get too streamlined and safe and kids are wanting to rebel against it. It’s great to me because you are starting to see people not give a fuck and just do them. For better or worse it starts a movement and becomes cool to defy what is considered to be ‘cool’ at the time. Skateboarding has always been looked at in a negative context by the masses in terms of attitude, destruction and a sport for the punks.
That aesthetic and lifestyle then becomes a trend and on the complete opposite end of the spectrum you are seeing brands like Rag and Bone using Emile Hirsch skateboarding in their campaigns. To bring it all full circle, 90’s street wear brands like Supreme have a tremendous amount of commercial success because they do such a good job of seeding their product to the right musicians, athletes, artists, so kids want to be cool by association. They become influential by keeping their distribution tight, making their product harder to get and hence driving demand for it. If they wear the same thing as their favorite rapper a la A$AP, go to his show, and see him wearing the same hat on stage that they have on their head, they become equals for a second and a connection is made.
Lastly, do you reckon skate or action sports brands are becoming bigger than the skaters themselves?
Another good question. I think that in the late 90’s and early 2000’s kids were reacting to signature rider collections because the sport was still relatively new and you had so many unique personalities out there. Nowadays it’s becoming harder and harder to sell anything with an actual name on it. You have to have the right team riders on board with what you are doing because they are your ambassadors out there. Signature product might well be a thing of the past but kids still know who and what are cool so you can’t fake relevancy. Consumers have a lot of options these days so if you aren’t conveying an identity or perceived value as to why they should buy your product over your competitors you’re losing.
Stay tuned for the competition and visit the Kr3w website here.