THE BRILLIANCE! > Ben, what the HECK is going on?!
BENJAMIN GOTT > Nothing. What the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks is good with you?
TB! > How’s it going man? What’s on your mind this fine spring day?
BG > Today? Skateboarding actually, hard-flips to be specific. And this women’s shoe store opening-party I have tonight. Should be a lot of good looking girls there… And free Veuve too. Opening parties are the best…
TB! > Did you hear I got really sick and have about 30 days to live? Oh just kidding, it’s April Fools Day. What are your thoughts on this joke?
BG > It was sub-par, like that cartoon you drew of me when you were like 13.
TB! > Where are you living, what’s life like there, how’s the weather, what’s happ-nin?
BG > I live in Grand Rapids, MI most of the time. I have a beautiful loft-condo downtown, I love the bathroom in it. It’s like 60 and kind of sunny right now, just kind of ‘...’ weather. What’s happening? EVERYTHING. The real-estate here is booming, great night-life, cool art/fashion/social scene… The girls here are kind of boring. A lot of them can’t dress. They say they watch Sex and the City, but they obviously aren’t taking notes. Or they are terribly over-dressed for events. Whatever happened to ‘cute’ girls who just look good in jeans and t-shirts?
TB! > OK so - really - start off by giving a sort of rundown of your hobbies and loves. From art to fashion to cars, just talk a bit about what makes you happy, what makes you nod your head in appreciation?
BG > People ‘doing their thing’ makes me nod my head in appreciation. For real. I love to see people making it happen. My hobbies include being social as a sport, ‘snapping’ or making fun of people, working, skateboarding, buying all white shoes, washing my face, going to Bar Divani too much, listening to music, going to the corner store for ‘Mambas’ and a Diet Coke, getting to the office late and leaving early, constantly using my Treo phone, and spending countless hours on eBay. Other stuff too, but whatever. Oh yeah, the cars. I am kind of losing interest in cars, the only brands I really like right now are Land Rover, Aston Martin, and maybe Benz. Saab is kind of cool but I heard they are wrapping that brand into another brand. Not sure on that one.
TB! > Talk a bit about BENJAMIN EDGAR ® SUPER GOOD!, the ideas behind it, and your visions for the brand.
BG > I almost want to give a longer answer here. But I won’t. BE is a brand just for brandings sake. It is based around three elements… Simplicity, Imagination, and Exotic Travel.
TB! > Branding in general. Give a few examples of, in your mind, what are some good and bad examples of branding today.
BG > Good = Helmut Lang, Bape (I don’t really wear it though), Adidas Originals, Gieco Car Insurance, H&M, Herman Miller, American Apparel, LV, Pharrell Williams as a brand, Saab, and of course NoPattern.
Bad = Levi’s Jeans is really frustrating for me. Could be so much better than they are, they are truly being held back by their brand identity right now. Honestly, I don’t really focus on bad brands, I’m having a hard time coming up with some right now.
TB! > What makes a brand like Ikea tick? Or H&M? We’ve talked in the past about how these two brands are so alike - what’s the deal? Are we not seeing more brands like these today because companies are afraid of taking a risk?
BG > I’ll call these ‘lean’ brands. I think it’s two-fold. They don’t ‘get it’ in terms of how inexpensive products are perceived by the public and how it’s not negative in all situations. And they aren’t willing to take a risk to reorganize their brand to fit the whole ‘lean’ model that H&M and Ikea demonstrate. Also… Ikea and H&M were STARTED with the model they employ today, it is quite difficult for a brand, say Banana Republic for example, to switch their whole branding theory to compete or even mimic the model of these ‘leaner’ companies.
TB! > So I hear 92% of women love Diet Coke but most men hate it. What’s your favorite non-alcoholic drink?
BG > Diet Coke. Can I say ‘Chuck, you’re gay’ in this interview?
TB! > It’s Saturday night and you’re at the bar and you’re in a GREAT mood. What’s on your tab.
BG > I’m usually at a lounge… Ha, anyway… Some drinks for a girl that is done talking to me after she finished the drink I bought her. Ha, no that doesn’t happen, I don’t buy girls drinks anymore. For real though, Ephemere Beer (so good), Ciroc and tonic with grapes on a stick, some Veuve maybe, I only have like 2-3 drinks when I go out, I’m a thin guy.
TB! > What’s on your mind? Ooooooohhhh….
BG > At the lounge? Girls, wondering if I have any scuffs on my Stan Smiths, girls, maybe some business stuff, snapping on some guys shirt that looks like a solar-panel, snapping on some other ‘old-dudes’ Seinfeld-Sneakers with the tongues all poking out, girls, friends, if I have cash on me for valet, etc… Almost kind of boring? Maybe just really releaxing. I don’t ‘wild out’ really at the bar/lounge/club.
TB! > Vacation spots. Real plans, dreams, fantasies. Discuss.
BG > Fijian islands!!! Palau! Tokyo, more hanging out in NYC, Madrid… I’m going to Maui in a couple months. I going to NYC in a month. But my vacation fantasies (ayy yo!) are in some exotic island location.
TB! > What is it about the look of a beautiful, clean island that drives you nuts?
BG > It looks perfect. Like actual perfection. The water is so pure, the vegetation is lush, the girls have accents, the sand is whiter than my shoes… I don’t know. They look like time is standing still there, I love that idea.
TB! > If I were to come to your place and rob you, what 3 things would you BEG me to spare?
BG > Jay-Z: FYI, I NEVER BEEN ROBBED IN MY LIFE. My LV stuff is pretty important to me, each piece was bought at a certain time in my life. My magazine collection maybe? I got some rare ones. My framed hand-screen printed by Nigo Bape shirt. I guess that’s it. I don’t have a ton of things I trip out over. Oh, my cell phone.
TB! > Talk about a few of your favorite brands. No specific niche, just some of your favorites. What makes them great?
BG > LV… It just seems like they can’t miss. I don’t own a ton of their stuff, just some luggage and city-bag pieces. But it’s so timless. What makes them great is their ability to take calculated risks such as working with Takashi, hiring Marc Jacobs, doing the sunglasses thing with Pharrell. I would love to see their decision process. I guess I have to name Bape. Here’s my thing… I don’t really wear their stuff, but you have to hand it to Nigo, it’s insane how long he has been successful with the brand. Sure the Soho thing diluted the brand a bit but he is so incredible how he has this cloud of mystery around the brand yet its so playful, colorful, famous, etc… And he is consistently on magazine covers… I don’t know, like it or not Bape will be studied in the future in terms of executing a niche brand with perfection. Congrats to him. And NoPattern… The whole non-website based website speaks VOLUMES for what NoPattern and Chuck Anderson as a designer represent. It’s a new take on the whole ‘less is more’ thing.
TB! > Least favorite brands. What makes ‘em wack?
BG > I’ll take an off-the-subject brand. Quiznos Sandwiches. Excellent product, great little ‘restaurant’ spaces, a non-fast-food feel when you are there… And commercials bad enough to make you not like their product even if you had enjoyed it previous to viewing their commercial. I know this is a bit comical, but they are classic example of a brand that should stick to the ‘less-is-more’ philosophy. Show me a steaming Classic Italian on a wood cutting board, just sitting there for 30 seconds.
TB! > What trend(s) do you think are ridiculous right now? Fashion, design, music, whatever…
BG > The whole reflective see-through sunglasses on guys (and girls) with a club shirt. I honestly thought that it was over… But I guess not. Blazer/sport-coats with a hood sewn in. I mean, shit… ARE YOU FOR REAL? Terrible. Wack rappers in general. Wearing too much ‘ice’... Everyone, please keep it simple.
TB! > What’s the bathroom in your condo like?
BG > Weird question. Just about perfect. Taking a shower is like the highlight of my day. I have 12-13 foot ceilings which gives the whole bathroom a fresh feel. It’s all terracotta color with dark ebony-stained wood accents. Hard to explain. Weird to explain. Huge all tile with mosaic tile-floor shower. Double shower-heads. Ha… This is too weird. Custom table/bowl sink. And tons of perfectly rolled white towels. That was weird.
TB! > What kind of car are you driving? What color? What’s your next car? What was your first car? What did it say on the license plate? How do I know so much?
BG > Ha. I drive a ‘white gold’ Land Rover Discovery with all the options, etc, blah, blah. I love it though. Next car? I like the LR3, but I’m also really liking the Saab 9-5 Aero and something about the new body style E class Benz that is just simplistic and clean. That whole overly understated luxury is my thing. I never had a first car. Ha.
TB! > If you could have the PERFECT t-shirt, what would it be? From fit to design to tags.
BG > That’s top secret.
TB! > So many clothing companies are popping up all over the place. Most of them have this corny urban look to them and it’s getting boring. You know, walk into an Urban Outfitters. You’ll see. Why are they so uninspired? What would you do to make a new clothing company just right?
BG > Good question. Some days I think it’s because the consumer doesn’t care so there is no cost justification in trying something new. It’s like they are ‘commodity-fashion’... Like, they are not just a plain t-shirt/jeans/jacket, they are just a few steps above that. So you could consider it fashion, but it’s at the most basic level of what ‘fashion’ can be defined as.
To make a clothing company just right? Wow… I would start from square-one in whatever market/demographic I was in. I would focus on differentiating my brand based on actual fashion design and visual appeal rather than just being different to be different. If it was casual/street-wear I would focus on the styles that were prevalent in the 50/60’s with nods to the whole ‘greasers vs. socials’ thing… Fashion was so PERFECTLY simplistic then. I am really big on ‘wearable’ clothing. Almost like a uniform… I have no problem wearing the same jeans and the same style t-shirt for a few days straight. I like letting the all the little subtle aspects of an outfit speak louder than the whole outfit as a whole. The shoes. The wash of the denim. The perfect fit of the crisp-white t-shirt… It’s almost like mentally I want a clean slate to start with and grow from there. And I love the idea of a pair of worn out 501’s, a perfect fitting white t-shirt, good sneakers and a LV Keepall 55 duffle bag over the shoulder. It says so much with so little. I don’t think I answered your question very well.
TB! > What is your favorite food? Least favorite food?
BG > I cannot get enough Edamame right now. Can’t eat Sushi. After I got food poisoning from it I can hardly look at Sushi.
TB! > Any favorite restaurants?
BG > Bar Divani. Big Bowl. The Chop House in GR. Tre Cuginie (sp?). That’s probably it.
TB! > NYC or Chicago? What are the ups and downs to both? Which city do you prefer?
BG > Chicago. Only because people get so much shit for leaving Chicago for NYC. I like them both equally. Chicago has a really cool culture on the South Side. No pretension at all but a real heavy culture. I miss it… I grew up out in that area.
TB! > If you were organizing a concert, what 5 musicians would have to be there?
BG > Can they be dead artists? Jay-Z, John Legend, Ghostface, Harry Connick Jr, ... Maybe Elvis, or the dudes from Operation Ivy? ?!
TB! > Where do you envision taking Benjamin Edgar or any of the brands you’re involved with?
BG > Honestly I don’t have a solid 5/10 year plan for BE. BE is a brand for brands sake. I’m going to leave it at that. With THE BRILLIANCE… I see classic steady growth. I want to have fun with it but I want it’s perception to be that of respect for our taste. I want THE BRILLIANCE to help make/break a given brand or person. In both the good and the bad ways.
TB! > What’s the best part about Grand Rapids?
BG > Me.
TB! > What are your favorite lyrics and songs?
BG > It changes all the time… But I like this one from Jay like… ‘I never asked for nothing I don’t demand of myself, honesty, loyalty, friends, and then wealth.’ I don’t live by that 100% or anything, I just like it right now. And I always get a laugh out of… ‘How you want it? My jeans 300… These ain’t Diesel *****, these is Evisu.’ Tell em’ Jay. I love that original ‘Show You’ track from the advance.
TB! > With so many websites out there doing the same things, looking the same ways, and just being boring, how do you feel about the web in general? For brand enhancement and just generally?
BG > The web is so damn boring right now. That’s why THE BRILLIANCE looks the way it does. Here is my honest opinion on the whole web thing. STOP thinking about what a ‘website’ looks like and how to fit your product/brand/firm/etc into that mold and start thinking about the message and FEEL you want to convey. See NoPattern, Helmut Lang, Drudge Report. I really think people need to start from square one. Clean the slate and re-think what the ‘web’ means to their brand/product/firm/etc.
TB! > Name a few sites that are still daily visits for you, that you absolutely must visit on a daily basis?
BG > I am on eBay TOO much, CNN.com, NikeTalk (I don’t even wear Nikes nor have I ever posted there, but these kids are up on EVERYTHING and those personal posts are too funny), Superfuture… Honestly not many.
TB! > Nike or Adidas? H&M or Value City? Land Rover or Geo Tracker? Sushi or a big slice of Chicago pizza?
BG > Adidas. H&M. Land Rover. PIZZA!!!
TB! > You owe me a bowl of Reese’s puffs.
BG > I owe you a whole box. I still laugh when I think about that. I bet you are still finding those little puffs at your place. Man, that shit was hilarious.
TB! > Can everyone who reads this interview get a coupon for one free evening on the town with you?
BG > Only if it helps build my personal brand image, i.e. good looking women.
TB! > Final words before I go back and edit the hell out of this interview in order to make it actually interesting?!?
BG > Watch me turn something out of nothing, turn platinum from gold. Watch me light the Cohiba off the Viking stove. I take an empty bank account and fill it with ‘O’s. I take an empty building and fill it with CONDOS.
TB! > Thanks Ben. Final, FINAL thoughts here.
BG > No final thoughts, I have to go to the bank real quick. Thank you Chuck…