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A Conversation with Mikey Trapstar

To learn more about the product offerings of vitaminwater’s #shinebright collection, we caught up with Mikey Trapstar to find out more about his label and also the chance to join him at an upcoming pop-up store in London. Like many designers who are aspiring, Mikey got his start with a pop-up shop that he co-created and is now looking to offer a talented designer the opportunity show off their talents by presenting the unique task.

In addition to Mikey’s challenge five additional challenges have been established, including the opportunity to collaborate with Susie to capture fashion’s best close-ups during London Fashion Week. Six mentors: Mikey Trapstar Susie Bubble, Theo Gosselin, Jenny Grettve, Lisa Gachet and Trine Kjaer, were selected to represent #shinebright, based on their distinct style and character which reflects six of the many minerals and vitamins offered by vitaminwater.

Check out the video below for our interview about the London native, and then click here to view the challenges that were set by the #shinebright creators.

Was you involved in fashion prior to starting Trapstar?

Yes I was involved in the fashion industry at the bottom. I didn’t go to any fashion school and I walked out immediately after school and worked for a clothing shop that was selling the very first collection from Moschino as well as D&G at the time they first came into the United States. My boss was at the time the former manager of Versace located on Bond Street. It’s where my majority of experience in fashion came from.

I began as an intern, a sales assistant kind of thing. After that, he brought me to wholesale meetings. I was selected for the store . I was learning a about the retail aspect of the business. So after I left, I was basically his right-hand man. He allowed me to buy inventory to sell, and therefore there were instances that I’d invest my money into Moschino or Gucci loafers. Then I discovered the art of earning money from selling clothing you own.

Do you remember what attracted you to streetwear and fashion at first?

From the age of 14 I would walk to school. I was raised on an estate, or what might call it an investment and my neighbours had all been wearing Jordans. I wanted to emulate the more mature kids, so their style inspired me. As I grew older, I would use my lunch money and purchase clothes. It was my habit to walk rather than take a bus, and I would shop for clothes. I’ve always been involved in the fashion industry that manner, whether it was streetwear or perhaps more modern or high-end. At the age of 14 I used to swap out clothes. We’d swap clothes just like we swap sneakers today and that’s what my money was going to.

Later in my life seven months ago, my husband and I launched Trapstar. I was looking for a T-shirt, and we would visit an online store that was custom-made and request a custom T-shirt. We would shell out a significant amount of money for them since they were airbrushed and created by two graffiti artists. However, we demanded every designer’s content, and they would then sell it in their stores. The T-shirts we purchased, were reprinted by people, and therefore we always had a an impact on the fashion world by the setting of the trends. Always wanted to have something unique that nobody else would be able to duplicate, and that’s the secret ingredient for Trapstar. Trapstar brand. We were looking for something that nobody else would be able to ruin, and we didn’t want it to be out everywhere, we wanted exclusive items. Around seven years ago, I was looking for an Scarface shirt and I would not let my friends get the t-shirts. I would design them, create them, and then sell them until the person making the T-shirts thought “you are making some money from them,” and I said, “what money?” It clicked. Oh how could we not turn into a business? Then demand came in and we were forced to create the brand.

This is where the first concept of Trapstar was born, from having success by your own ideas?

It was a result of creating T-shirts that everyone wanted. One of my friends mentioned to me that If I didn’t offer his t-shirt I was going to copy my designs. Then I turned it into a business , and was able to learn step-by-step. The only thing I possess is passion. No skills or knowledge, just enthusiasm.

Since then, the brand has really grown. What can you do to keep the original goal of remaining an undiscovered brand with this sort of growth?

I am in love with my clothes, and we continue to improve ourselves. My first principle is: if you’ll never wear something, not create it. When I started making clothes , I thought, “okay this is what I’m going to make and this is the thing that’s closest to me that connects to me.” One of the worst things that can occur is that I end up with a lovely outfit. If I keep it close to me, I will be able to become a part of the community.

To ensure the exclusivity of our brand, we need to break the boundaries. We started out by selling T-shirts, and then began being ahead of the curve with the help of our core fans selling the Trapstar jacket, etc. We don’t really need the popular culture to keep our name. If you require the mainstream, you’ll over-produce and overload your brand with advertising because it’s more about business rather than passion. You need to possess some of both. If you’re able to find enthusiasm, you’ll make the right choices to build the brand. Perhaps not for the company however, but to the name. Like your business you can earn a significant amount of money on it in just one year, however, you might not have a brand that you can return to after 10 years. If you are thinking about the brand, rather than an organization, you’re likely to make decisions that favor the brand rather than the company.

Do you see Trapstar as a distinct London label?

No. We’re London by and large, however we are a part of the population, not just with a particular city. We’re part of a city and the city has been supportive however, our opinions are widely shared. The concept for the brand was born in London and is a part of the core of London however, its views are supported by a wide range of people across the globe. We’ve been fortunate. When we travel, we have met people with the same opinions about refusing to conform to any standards of fashion. It’s a brand that originated in London but its ethics have been embraced across the globe.

What do you think happens when it gets out there? Does it happen through music or international celebrities?

This is the most effective and fast method. It involves people who have influence. However, even the icons have trouble with the brand due to their ethos. They dress it up and those who follow them, are following the brand. There’s a starting point for everyone. Consider A Bathing Ape, for example. I would not have heard of the name if it wasn’t for Pharrell however Pharrell isn’t why I’m still an avid fan. It’s the brand itself that is. It’s possible to have an entry-level position from a popular brand but that’s not what makes you stick around.

What are the most significant developments since the brand was co-signed by A$AP Rocky and Rihanna?

I believe that the entire society has changed. It’s as if Rocky and Rihanna have embodied the message Trapstar is trying to spread out there before they knew about the brand. Wearing our clothes has brought our brand closer to someone who has zero interest in streetwear as they’re spotted on channels that aren’t exclusive. We’ve been around for a number of years however, if you spot people such as Rocky or Rihanna wearing our clothes on a popular channel, where you’re not even searching to wear fashion, this is the way people gain access to your brand. It’s a way to provide access to a large number of people who wouldn’t had the chance to find us. It’s all about the Internet. Period. In the event that Rocky and Rihanna were wearing our clothes, and there wasn’t an Internet and no internet, there would be no way to tell. This is the time of the internet for fairness, and connects everyone.

Does this link between everyone alter what the branding message is?

The message of the brand isn’t changing, but the responsibilities of the brand are more extensive. The brand was initially created for private reasons but with focus and popularity comes responsibility. We started teasing Rocky in the year 2011 three weeks before he was signed. Rihanna has been wearing our clothes since 2010, but our messages are more focused on promoting an idea – a thought made up of musicians, artists and other brands which over the past have been able to show. We’re trying to be an example and help a movement whether that’s through our clothing as well as our events, or those we help.

What was the way that this brand do in its first few days?

I’m going to be honest with you that the reason Trapstar was able to exist is due to the opposition from the industry. When we first began the brand, stores would not take us on because we were young, we had no any experience, or the widest range of products. There are a few people beginning to launch. You know, you set up the process of creating an Big Cartel and you have the name. It is possible to have one product and then become an established brand. We owned several items, however, people were reluctant to purchase our items because we didn’t like the brands with millions of dollars pumped into them , and are ten more years old than we are. We got plenty of support from our local community, so we managed to survive by selling our clothes to our peers. It was a kind of word-of-mouth of business.

We visited a shop located on Portobello Road and they offered us a deal. It was that if you visit our store for just one weekend, we’ll take the brand on as a partner. We developed an invasion strategy in which we took over a shop for a week, and after that we’d go home. Therefore, we created our own pop-up stores inside the stores.

In the #shinebright contest, you’re offering one contestant the opportunity to join you as a part of an open-air store. Based on your experiences, what advantages are there for selling through a pop-up shop as an alternative to a conventional retail store?

It’s less than a concoction and you can be more interactive. If you’re selling at retail, you won’t know who the customers you’re selling your products to. You’re not able to really communicate. I believe that streetwear brands focus on engaging with the public. Without naming names, there are plenty of brands that aren’t connecting simply sell the clothes and then you leave.

My first turning point came when I hosted an event dubbed “Reset” during Nike 1948. It was a crowded event with 12 different brands the same room, and as everyone bounced off one another which gave us an euphoria. When I finally got to that and met my first customers and people who actually purchase my product, it gave me a jolt of joy and I’m determined to bring the same feeling to other people. I believe it’s my obligation. We’re doing very good at the moment, and, if it weren’t for this, maybe we wouldn’t have this conversation now. This is why I’m trying to convey this feeling to others who are incredibly proud of their personal brand. It’s not always about Trapstar and it’s not just about us. It’s about helping others and providing a platform to those in need because I know how fortunate I was. I was given the opportunity by someone else and it’s only fair to be in a position to accomplish the same.

The latest collection of yours is released on Thursday. What’s it based on and what’s the main source of inspiration?

The one above is more baseball-themed. When I create, it’s a feeling that I’m at a stage in my life where I’m more proud of my team than I have ever. It’s like we’ve been elevated. We’re still the infants of the big leagues. We’re the newbies at present. Baseball is built on the concept of teamwork, working together, cheering each other on, and want to know if they’re going to be around in the future. It’s the basis of it.

What else are we looking for coming from Trapstar in the near future?

We can say Trapstar has plenty of surprises in store for the coming year. We’re hoping to make our city proud , but I’m not able to reveal too much. We’ll end with this 40oz VAN collaboration, but be on the lookout for a historic action we’re planning to make this year.