Steven Vogel literally wrote the book on Streetwear. His 2007 book “Streetwear: The Insider’s Guide” gave readers a behind-the-scenes look at their favorite brands, and became somewhat of a bible for Streetwear culture enthusiasts. He also owned and operated his own apparel distribution company, a successful blog (with no media buys), and ran one the biggest international trade shows. He also dabbles in brand consulting but only if he’s inspired by what the brand represents. Everything he does and says comes straight from the heart.
You just came back from an epic road trip with your father, how was that?
It was, 6000km (about 4000 miles) in 12 days, most of which was completely off-road through Albania, Kosovo and Serbia. Really challenging but great to be totally off the grid for a while.
You are—without a doubt—one of the most influential people in Streetwear fashion,
how did all of this start for you?
I don’t know about that- certainly not in a commercial way. I am like the guy that everyone likes to listen to. In a way, I have always seen my role as the little devil sitting on Streetwear’s shoulder screaming that what it is doing is bullshit- it started for me as a “career” – and let’s be honest, you can’t call my last 20 years a career – I worked as a journalist for a Heavy Metal Magazine in London. I worked in a skate shop as well as going to college and from then on onwards I skipped in between writing and designing.
What brands do you think are standing out in such a cluttered Streetwear market?
Hard to answer because I am not that in touch with the commercial aspect of the market per se – and I have a very basic taste when it comes to myself. I don’t ever buy Streetwear brands or clothes unless it’s t-shirts – because I tend to stick to those brands that know what the hell they’re doing – for example, denim- I go to the best denim makers. Jackets – I go to the best jacket makers and so on. That’s not to hate on Streetwear – but you know, when everyone started thinking they were actually DESIGNERS rather than smart graphic designers and / or artists – things went wrong. Why would I want to buy a pair of jeans from xyz when I can get one from Levi’s who’ve been making jeans for over 100 years? Sure, marketing and association, but I am 37—not 14. With that – I love a good t-shirt—really—make a good t-shirt and I get really excited. Aside from the band shirts I get, I tend to stick to indie artists who bring out tee’s occasionally, but in regards to streetwear – WTAPS, Us Versus Them, I still love a classic small Stussy logo tee.
Tell us a little about Blacklodges.com, and why are you so obsessed with Twin Peaks?
Black Lodges is the platform I use to do whatever the heck I want to do. I am far too curious to simply do one thing at a time. I write, I draw, I design, I work for brands, I make my own products. Now black lodges started as a blog in 2005. It’s not only a platform for me, but for a whole group of people that dare to think different. It’s like an international drinking club for people that are curious, vocal, and yes a lot of them have really good taste of music.
As far as twin peaks goes, and more broadly speaking David Lynch – it is the best piece of art that has been with me since the age of 13. Lynch’s obsession with detail, mixing darkness with humor, the fact that he does create in so many disciplines and merges them into one, blows me away to this day.
How do you use the content you produce to further your brand?
If I deem it good enough, and I produce a lot of stuff, believe me, I then try and make it commercially tangible – essentially a Black Lodges merchandise desk without the sweaty drunken jocks spilling Jagerbombs on your product.
Do you pay attention to analytics and other things like Click through Rates?
Never have and never will. If you rely on Google manipulation to achieve anything, your product is weak and you need to get back to work.
Do you think print advertising still has a place in the modern world of online banners and “sponsored” Instagram post from companies you don’t even follow?
Advertising, as a whole needs to be readdressed, it’s really lost now. Especially if you are want to approach a niche audiences. Sure, if you want to speak to Middle-America (or Germany for that matter) – a semi violent, racist, sexist ad during the Super Bowl will be hugely successful, that format doesn’t need to change. If we are talking about advertising to people like me, than the whole industry is pointless. It doesn’t work and the entire approach needs to be re-addressed.
How has marketing a brand changed in the last 10 years?
As above, it all depends on what you are marketing or specifically, who you are wanting to sell to. As to the mainstream, not a whole lot, sure the integration of online into a marketing plan had to be incorporated- but the pulls and levelers are the same. What has changed is the increased attention of brands to niche cultures (a fact that is wrong in my opinion but that’s a whole different subject) – and so far, no one has really gotten it right. The fact is a niche is a niche because it doesn’t want to be sold to. If anything, any marketing approach to a niche has to come out of the niche. If it is not, and the niche responds, you are talking to the wrong people, not the core, but the frauds and leeches that will do anything to exploit a niche for a quick buck.
How do you feel with some companies doing digital content marketing rather than spending media dollars on traditional TV spots?
It’s an interesting approach—again—It doesn’t appeal to me. I am very allergic to people trying to sell me something I don’t need.
How do you utilize social media to increase the awareness of your brand?
I mostly use Instagram. Twitter bores me and Facebook is MySpace but Instagram seems to work for me, right now. I think it’s important to understand any social media platform as a tool.
Are you still doing the Reference Council blog? And if so, can you tell us a little about it and your role?
I have actually just shut it down. I owned it, I ran it and then two years ago I handed over the editorial reigns to Calum Gordon, who did a great job. After 6 years I got to a point where I finally accepted the fact that the effort of producing only original, critical and thought provoking content did not match the rewards—sad but true.
What blogs do you have to read/look at in the morning before you can start your day?
None. I stopped tapping into the world through the Internet three years ago. My reality is what is in front of my eyes, what I can touch. Even though I use IG to help promote what I do, I try to spend as little time on it as I can. Too much connectivity produces too much confusion.
Do you think brands can use social media too much? As in, can brands become annoying to their costumer base?
Most definitely—especially email marketing, but that applies to me and I am not even representative of my generation.
What are some marketing strategies you’ve notice for brands that have gotten your attention?
Grass Root, personal, one-to-one, word of mouth information. I walk into my friends store and him / her being stoked on something new they got in. Seeing it, touching it. Being around my friends and when we share information, even when most of us are in some way or other paid by them. For example, I freelance for Sonos. I’m convinced that Sonos makes great product, and when I’ve sat down for a coffee with a friend, I’ll mention it. That’s what works for me. Brands in my opinion should consider the value of human one to one interaction more than anything else. It comes down to the age-old argument of revolution from above vs. revolution from below—Lenin VS Gramsci. Get your brand reps to go the stores and train, excite, those that will then sell your product. You shove anything down my throat and I’ll automatically be weary of it.
As you know, we’re in the beginning stages of the 2016 U.S. Presidential race. Social Media is such an important component the candidates are using to reach out to voters and talk crap about each other. Do government officials in Europe use the same strategies to reach their base and get new voters?
They are starting too and they are giving the Comedy Channel a run for their money. I say, force them all to only use Social Media without the help of focus groups and aides, and let them show themselves for the idiots that they are.
Good talk man. Thanks.