The brand is instantly recognisable; from their casually stylish tracksuits to the highly sought after KING / New Era hats. Creatively, the brand has always looked for ways to expand their boundaries whilst ensuring all designs are fresh, edgy and exclusive- designs are never repeated and always come out in limited numbers, hence their firm ‘no re-runs and no repeats’ policy.
Recently the brand has collaborated with ‘Want Respect? Use A Condom’- a campaign designed to promote safe sex amongst young people. Together they have created 1,000 limited edition jeans featuring a unique condom stash pocket.
Britishhiphop.co.uk speaks exclusively to TIM HOAD one of the founders of the brand about KING Apparel’s growing popularity, working alongside the ‘Want Respect? Use A Condom’ campaign, UK Hip Hop and how they manage to keep setting those trends! Read on.
BHH: How did KING apparel come about and what was the creative vision for the brand?
TIM: We started KING around 2002 with my business partner and co-founder Paul Linton. Paul had a background in graphic design and I was a professional snow boarder and we basically saw a niche in the market where there wasn’t any top quality, high end labels in the UK that crossed over all the boundaries between Hip Hop, Grime scene, snow boarding so on and so forth. We thought we would try and put our creative hats on to fill that gap. We started off with quite an original idea which was underwear and accessories and then we made that natural evolution as planned to develop it into a full clothing range. Starting off then got our foot in the door as an independent clothing label and it has given us a really good foundation.
BHH: When did the partnership with NEW ERA come into the equation?
TIM: Erm, well we started working with New Era back in, I think it was 2003. We were actually the first independent brand in the world to work with them, now lots of brands work with them. Before New Era came to Europe we knew that it was gonna be a real good look with the 59/50. I actually contacted New Era in the States and they said they didn’t work with independent brands at the time, but we just sent them what we had at that moment and a few days later I got a call from their CEO in Europe and they really liked what we were doing and our plans for Europe. It’s just gone from strength to strength from there and now we are able to have exclusive designs with them.
BHH: Who does KING Apparel market to and what is a typical KING wearer like?
TIM: Typical market is like 16- 35, we are always emphasising that we are a cross over street wear label and we like to think we are a fairly high end label as well, in terms of the quality, it is always top notch and the designs are as unique as we can possibly make it. It’s for anyone into the Grime scene, or Hip Hop scene, Skate scene- any scene- we don’t wonna alienate anyone from our brand. It can apply to all markets and genres, so hopefully we have tuned into that. I hope people feel they can pick and choose something for them from our different ranges, which will emphasise what their lifestyle is like.
BHH: In terms of artist sponsorship, Plan B, Sway, Pyrelli, Wretch 32 etc have all featured in your adverts and endorse your clothes- what are you looking for in an artist when you are deciding who becomes an endorser?
TIM: We wanted to set up a team of artists who were talented and on the verge of making it. People like Sway, we hooked up with him before his mixtapes came out but we knew he was gonna be big. So it’s a combination of people like that and people who are up and coming as well. We wonna make sure as the team develops and artists move on to other projects, there will be people waiting to take their place. We want kids who see the adverts or the artists to be able to relate to that hard working mentality. We get calls everyday of people wanting to be on the team but we only use about six people at a time, so people have that drive even more to wonna join us and its good for them and good for us at the same time, it’s a really positive thing. It’s a big deal for us bringing someone new into the team.
BHH: So how can artists go about being considered for the KING Apparel affiliates team?
TIM: Erm, the first thing is professionalism. We get so many people who ring up and say ‘can I be sponsored’, you have to be a lot more savvy than that. If it was me approaching myself I would put together a comprehensive package that would blow me away. CV, mixtapes, any background info, future plans and what you can bring to the table as an original artist. What is different to what I’ve already got? I mean if you look at someone like Breakbeat, there’s no one else doing what he does; he has got an exceptional talent when it comes to acoustic instrumentation. Again if you look at people like Wretch 32, Pyrelli and Sway, it’s the way they structure their albums, the music, the interludes, they have got a charisma- it’s not just someone sitting on the mic spitting. But we keep everything we get sent, it might not be right at that time but maybe say in a years time.
BHH: What has been your most popular item sold?
TIM: This summer our shell jackets, which are rain resistant and the designs are quite unique. Across the board the hats always do quite well. Our tracksuits have their own market as well and they always fly off the shelf. So it’s been quite a good year for us.
BHH: What kind of music do you listen to?
TIM: I’ve got quite an eclectic taste, so everything from the Grime scene to Dup-Step to UK Hip Hop to American stuff. I like Punk music, rock music- if I like the sound of something than I get into it.
BHH: In terms of UK Hip Hop, are there any artists that you are really feeling right now?
TIM: Teacher’s Training Day by Wretch 32 is easily the best mixtape out there at the moment. It’s got everything on it, when I first got hold of it; I was impressed with it straight away. Pyrelli always impresses me with what he does and he’s someone I think is quite underrated.
BHH: What motivated you to get behind ‘Want Respect? Use A Condom’?
TIM: They actually contacting us and told us what they were doing and immediately we knew it was quite a noble cause that we wanted to get involved with. We sat down with those guys and told them how we felt we could help them and what we could bring to the table and it turns out we could get some really exciting developments within our clothing lines. It’s such a good cause, there is nothing but positive things coming out of it, and it’s something we couldn’t say no to really.
BHH: What was the creative process like when designing the limited edition ‘Want Respect? Use A Condom’ jeans?
TIM: Everything we produce is limited anyway. We make three hundred of everything, so if it sells well and sells out than that’s that. That creates exclusivity around the brand and the demand for the brand, we don’t ever wonna lose that. That was our first thought: what we can do with Want Respect to make these jeans even more exclusive and give a little bit more to the customer? That’s why we decided to work in the little stash pocket with the Want Respect logo and a bespoke swing tag box to carry condoms in and you get that free packet with it s well. We’ve got the key chain lanyards on sale in shops as well; it’s the little extra details that make the garment.
BHH: What’s your vision for KING in the future?
TIM: To keep on making really good clothes people can identify with and will wonna buy. At the moment we have our LDN range coming out in July, which is high end and very exclusive- I think only 30 shops will stock that, so we are really excited about that.
The jeans are available now in over 80 independent stockists throughout the UK, Ireland and also online (check stockists section on www.king-apparel.com) priced at £75.00.