Real Real Genuine Interview
Tell me about Richard Hobbs.. who are you? How did you get involved in this industry?
I started in the denim business back in the mid 80s and ended up working for Pepe Jeans in London and then in Hong Kong. It was a great proving ground and many of the young kids who were learning the ropes there at the same time as myself are now at the top, or very near the top, of many great apparel companies around the world. Working in design, product development, sales, marketing and a few, like myself, in the back room making shit happen. I moved to Hong Kong in 1989 and ran a team of about 100 people developing and making all sorts of products in ridiculously large volumes. I moved around a bit selling to and producing denim for many large European and American retail groups and brands before getting involved in the launch of Mecca USA in the mid 90s. We were probably the first "urban" brand to really have a great collection across all the product categories you could think off, and we consistently delivered where a lot of the start up brands let themselves down a bit in that area. Again, it was a great place to meet and work with all sorts of talented people, especially on the creative side. I think most of the urban brands at their peak in the early part of the 21st century were well represented by ex Mecca staff. Shortly after that I was involved in the set up and launch of Alphanumeric, also while still in HK, and a little bit later I came up with the concept of Etienne Ozeki and we later launched that brand in 2001. I have also helped start a few other brands and labels over the years as well as worked with a lot of brands on the development and production side. Mostly in denim and sportswear, then in the urban fields, and more recently in the new round of sportswear.
I moved back to the English countryside in 2003 and set up a consultancy business and now work with a number of different clients. Helping and advising on design, development, sourcing, production, distribution and licensing opportunities.
What led to the creation of Real Real Genuine?
I had the name and the concept for many years but was just too busy or without the resources to get it started. Then, earlier this year, I decided to get it kick started. For me it was about being true to what actually makes a great product. Design integrity, quality materials, good production, a bit of passion and intensity but without becoming stressed out. I wanted to create product more than a brand and make sure that the product quality was recognised first. That is why I refer to RRG as an umbrella. It’s the vehicle for real creative talent to get product out there, either on the webstore or through a select few retailers round the world. When I work with a designer I give them pretty much complete freedom to do what they want. My job, as it has always been, is to get the stuff made and to market. We will work with established brands as well as up and coming talent as the associations can complement and support each other in many ways. And again, really important to me, is the quality of the product. That has been recognised already and makes me very happy. There is too much product out there which may look good at a distant but isn’t so nice when close up ! That is really where I bring my personal skills and history to the project.
To me RRG is a sign of quality, a movement to create a high quality feel amidst streetwear, what do you think about streetwear today? and how do you think RRG differs from the rest?
To be honest the term streetwear does not mean a great deal to me. Nor do any of the other classifications that get used, and have been used for decades. They are just convenient ways of encapsulating a look, feel, movement, trend and for that reason I have no problem with them being used to help people get a grip on where they are operating. For me streetwear is what you and I, and pretty much everybody else who does not still have to conform to a working dress code, wears every day. I don’t want RRG to get labeled too much and that is why we have a custom made mens scent, we have some things in the pipeline which are music related, we have some leather goods and hand made leather shoes in work, fine knitwear. None of which could be currently classified as street but I believe will be well received across the spectrum. Don’t get me wrong as I love what is currently happening on the street and work with a lot of people out there, on RRG as well as my other business, and it is very fresh at the moment although getting a little crowded with a few bandwagon jumpers. However, there are good people and brands out there that will flourish.
RRG is very much a vehicle to use talents of other brands to create the absolute best in each field, ie. if you do denim you create it alongside an existing denim label, in this first case, Blue Nail, to me this is a great way to go as it ensures only the best products hit the shelves, what was your initial frame of mind with regards to colabs?
The initial colabs have been mostly with really good friends and I will definitely continue with those but to give an example Blue Nail is not really an established brand. The guy behind the label and I have worked together on denim projects for over 15 years. Currently he designs and produces denim for names I dare not mention but the people who will read this and, know who he is, will understand why I asked him to put out a jean for himself. Too long in the background doing amazing things for people but keeping his head down. He is still slightly undercover but at least now has a great denim jean out there that has his name on it rather than somebody else’s !! Going forward I want to keep a good mix of new talent, people like Blue Nail and established brands. The priorities are that the colab must represent quality, some passion and belief and be restricted in its production and distribution. We do make truly limited production runs and I will keep it that way for the colabs.
Your first line introduces collaborative products alongside, Aly of Fiberops, Meth, Blue Nail and others, how did these relationships start? and why these people/brands?
I first met Alyasha in Seattle in about 1997 or 98 when he was doing a bit of freelance work for Mecca and later I was involved when he started Alphanumeric with that whole original team down in SD. Another group that have gone to do amazing and influential things around the creative and street worlds. We have always been in touch and worked together on a lot of projects, including still Fiberops. I also set up A# distribution in Europe and Asia and met up with Brian from 852 who came on board and helped the whole Asian network grow. We keep in touch and talk about stuff whenever I am in HK now that he is doing great work with Knowledge. I met Meth through an intro again from Aly as I also do some consultancy work for Gumball3000 and we got Meth to work on that project a year or more ago. I really onjoyed working with him and wanted him to contribute to the launch of RRG and thankfully.
Denim in particular, has, over recent years become heavily controlled by hype, personally 5 years ago I would never have heard kids talking about selvedge denim, speaking in terms of the Ounce of their denim etc.. its now a big part of the hype vehicle, denim is very important and its not just how the jeans look, its what they are made up of… I’ve been a big follower of denim for years through my love of vintage denim, but even for me much of this talk is something I’ve only picked up in recent years.. what do you think about the way the market has developed?
Denim has always been a big part of my life and is still the one area that I can get a bit obsessive about so I can fully understand how and why people get deeply into the history and details of fabric weaves and dyes and finishing techniques, etc. I think the fashion business has become quite polarized into the two extremes of mass, fast, cheap and disposable fashion versus the limited, exclusive and rare product and brands that have to be sought out. This area is where the internet has opened up the world to those brands and consumers. Combined with the Japanese approach to product development and marketing has allowed consumers to become much more aware and knowledgeable so this interest in what constitutes ‘good’ denim is a logical extension. The beauty of this is that a brand or a project can be global from launch. Historically you would take a few years building up your local presence before expanding overseas but now that can be achieved in weeks.
You mentioned that you are working on numerous products, not just tee’s, denim, but scents, leather goods and even shoes, this is actually something I personally have developed as far as a train of thought throughout the development of my own brand I’ve been working on for a while, the reason being, I want to release products that are timeless and of high quality and not just because a ‘collection’ emcompasses each element, if I wouldnt wear a hoodie, then I’m not gonna make a hoodie, but if i change my mind in 3 months and want to wear a hoodie, and find a way to do it better then I’ll do it… whats your thought process around branching into a wide array of products?
Absolutely my sentiments. One of the founding principles of RRG was to do whatever product felt good and appropriate at the time and not to be driven by people telling you should be doing more colours in the tees or skinny fit jeans or all over pastel print hoodies and so on and on. Most product ideas normally come out of brainstorming sessions which usually involve a few beers and some good friends and the good ones float to the surface, develop sails and catch the wind. Sometimes it is about trying to fill a gap or niche but mostly its when everybody involved starts nodding then you know you have hit on something.
You’ve worked all over the world within the industry, do you see big difference between styles and the way people work in different parts of the world? what makes a brand successful throughout different parts of the world?
That’s a really tricky question. I don’t think there is one formula that makes a brand work all over the world. Market dynamics and economics work completely differently in the US or Japan and even in different parts of Europe but good product always stands out. Quality and integrity will always make a difference.
Whats next for RRG?
There are a number of new colabs in the pipeline for later in the year but I don’t like to talk about them until they are ready to be released. Suffice to say there are some larger brand projects as well as a selection of new and up and coming talent. My current priority is to find 20 to 25 good retailers around the world to represent RRG, we are well on the way.
Expect more from Real Real Genuine soon… you can also read Richards Personal Blog here at Slam X Hype.