A little while ago on PSFK we let you know about creative mastermind Rick Klotz’s new campaign to make Freshjive clothing logoless and brandless. PSFK spoke to the man behind the line himself to set the record straight and see what directions he’s planning on taking the company in the coming year- and what it really means for a brand to shed it’s identity. Additionally, Rick has provided PSFK with some exclusive images of his new logoless pieces and a glimpse into the Freshjive Studio.
PSFK: I guess first off, can you tell me how you formed the company and what your original vision for it was?
RK: I started Freshjive in 1989 while attending my last year in art school here in Los Angeles. I was really into skateboarding all my life, and then snowboarding and surfing. And I was immersed in the Los Angeles punk rock scene in the very early 80s, and then the club and rap music culture of the mid to late 80s. And I always had an interest in men’s style and fashion. But I couldn’t see myself designing actual “men’s fashion” and the skate and surf clothes at the time didn’t appeal to me. Just wasn’t my vibe. So I naively started Freshjive with t shirts and shorts to more reflect the mixed influences of my life at the time. I must admit that I was way too inexperienced to have some sort of “vision” of what I was doing. I was just kind of figuring it out along the way.
PSFK: Do you believe that the new logoless-less label is in itself a new logo? Are you trying to completely un-brand Freshjive and have it be an anonymous line, or are you trying to reign- in the image of Freshjive through taking away it’s logo recognition? Is this the end of the Freshjive logo or just a redesign?
RK: Well the new logoless label can be considered a logo in itself. But it’s not quite new, as it’s just the same labeling we’ve been running on our garments, less the brand name on it. Hopefully, the company will be anonymous on the retail floor, but it’s still the Freshjive company. It is some form of re-branding as opposed to an un-branding you can say, but it still is taking off the existing company logo/name which in one form or another, in various typefaces has been in use since 1989. Yes, you could say I am trying to reign-in the image of Freshjive through taking away its logo recognition. There’s a lot of baggage in the name, and I thought to myself I could just get rid of the baggage by just dropping the name. And a couple more things: 1) it just looks bitchin’ without any names on the labels. And 2) it’s a total mindfuck.
PSFK: What do you say to those of your critics who view this as a publicity stunt, or sign that the brand is in trouble?
RK: Well then I’m a stuntman. Of course it’s marketing! But this is the type of stuff I love to do with my company. I’ve been doing this for 20 years now, and I can honestly tell you that it’s the times that we did controversial stuff that is most memorable to me, not some piece of clothing. To make a point or just push the boundaries. Whether it was defending ourselves over frivolous lawsuits, feuding with some stupid celebrity, off-base ads, or standing up to the Jewish Defense League and pro-Israel fanatics for some t shirt designs that were sympathetic to the Palestine cause. I just like to fuck with peoples perceptions of what a company is expected to do. And now this: a multi million dollar company taking the name off all of it’s garments in one swoop.
As far as the brand being in trouble? What does that mean? That it’s not growing exponentially by leaps and bounds? Sounds like a critique from a bean counter. The company is stable, I’m having fun, and I’m doing what I want. Doesn’t seem like trouble to me. Seems like a good time.
PSFK: Would you consider this an anti-consumerist move, or rather something more personal about your view for the company’s future?
RK: It’s not an anti-consumerist move. Perhaps it’s a curb-your-consumerism move. As far as it being my personal view of the company’s future, well I guess it is. But the company is mine, therefore it’s personal. It really just is what it is. A removal of the brand name on the garments because it looks better to me and allows me a little more flexibility on the creative side.
PSFK: What made you come up with the black box tag as opposed to truly leaving the articles label-less with just a plane wash instruction guide and size?
RK: As I mentioned, the black box tag already existed with the brand name in the middle. I thought it would be way more of a jedi-mind-trick to just remove the name but keep the labeling. I had a lot of laughs with our employees just imagining someone picking up a garment, and spending a little time trying to find the brand name on the garment, and just being perplexed. Kind of like a skit on “Candid Camera”. Having no label at all just wouldn’t have the same impact.
PSFK: How do you think Freshjive’s fans over the years who have come to identify with your logo and branding will feel about this move? How ideally would like them to view it?
RK: I think fans of the company have come to expect different things. I don’t think something like this comes as too big of a surprise to anyone keeping track of what we’ve been doing.
PSFK: You had mentioned now you are ‘“freed”… of the necessity to think of HOW to logo our product.’In what ways did this logo design limit you previously?
RK: I’ll bet many designers, particularly in streetwear or youth driven clothing, will tell you how one of the priorities when designing a garment is where the logo placement is gonna go, based on their boss’s instructions. But there’s limits to how a company’s name and typeface is going to blend with a particular design. There’s a point where branding starts taking away from the actual design. Actually as of recently, I’m pretty sure our company was not making sales based on our logo or company name. I believe it was more on the actual garment, the actual t shirt design, a long standing relation we’ve had with many stores, distributors, and other perhaps behind the scenes factors having been around so long as an independent company. So I think the step of removing our logo from the labeling was not such a big step, at least not in my mind.
PSFK: Do you think de-branding will limit the authenticity of the product, or take away some of it’s signature look? Without the logo, what do you think separates Freshjive from the pack?
RK: On the contrary, I think de-branding will definitely expand the authenticity of the product. The signature look, especially as of the past few years, is staying intact. Though I will take the opportunity to expand some looks within the line, the company will remain a traditional streetwear line, with the calculated almost “anti-fashion” niche styles that are true to the roots and styling of a streetwear brand. This is hard to explain. To put it in laments terms, if you didn’t grow up as a street kid, skateboarding, into street music and street vernacular, I don’t think you’ll understand the aesthetic mindset of street style. What separates us from the pack? Our particular take on garments, graphics, culture, photos, etc. and the pursuit of subtleties in design that will set us apart from the next company, as it should for any other company out there. Plus, it’s owned, designed, and directed by me. I’m “unique”.
And also it’s a personal creative expression against what I think is pretty lame: Seeing consumers walking around with such obvious branded clothing. When I see someone walking down Farifax Avenue with a big company LOGO across his chest, I just think to myself: What a douchebag. Like the person needs to flaunt to the public that he’s knowledgeable enough to buy into a smoke and mirrors association with some company’s image. As if associating with a particular company makes them “better”. Makes them look like an uncreative dork to me. Sorry to be so harsh, but I’m being honest.
PSFK: Do you thinking branding extends to just logos or is it also ad campaigns, what stores you select to carry your brands, and the “lifestyle” you are marketing?
RK: Yes, yes, yes, of course. Branding is all that you mentioned I’ll admit. I’m getting a headache even thinking of it.
PSFK: Did you think this move would be controversial? Were you hoping it would open peoples eyes towards how logos and advertising were effecting their shopping?
RK: Controversial? According to a quick Wikipedia search of “controversy”, it states that controversy “is a state of prolonged public dispute or debate usually concerning a matter of opinion. The term originates circa 1384 from a combination of latin words meaning – “turned in the opposite direction”, “against”, and “verse””. So yes, I’d say it’s controversial. For me it’s a big experiment to see what will happen, and yes, I am hoping it would open peoples eyes towards how logos and advertising were effecting their shopping. It’s exciting to not really know what the future holds for this change.
PSFK: Did you receive negative feedback from fans of the company over the years about branding, or was this an idea entirely your own?
RK: I didn’t really receive any negative feedback, but I’m hyper aware of brand status and our own company’s brand baggage from over the years. I’m very proud of the crazy shit we’ve done over the years. But I think people could have known more about it if we were A) a brand more in the limelight, B) I was a better marketing person (I really hate marketing), and C) I embraced the typical way things are done in this business. But it’s all my idea. I don’t do anything for “fans” or customers. This is my baby, and I’m mainly out to please myself.
PSFK: Will the labels be on the outside or inside of the clothes?
RK: Both. Depends on the actual style.
PSFK: What direction, ideally, would you like to see Freshjive take it’s image and design-wise over the next few years? Will you also be rethinking the brand’s aesthetic, and in what ways?
RK: Freshjive, stylistically and graphically, is on the path it should be on. I’m in a comfortable place as far as it’s image and design. I won’t be re-thinking the brand’s aesthetic, but at the same time I’m ALWAYS thinking of the brand aesthetic and manipulating it year to year in the direction I want to see it go, as all companies are.
PSFK: Do you think it’s possible for a company to ever truly be logoless/brandless?
RK: That’ a very good question, and I don’t have the answer. You want to know why? Because I’m just a rebel artist. I’m not a professional advertising and marketing goon.
You can find out more about Freshjive on their site www.freshjive.com/