We recently caught up with Jay Smith, whose ½ of BKRW. We chatted in-depth about BKRW, his favourite brands, where his inspirations come from, and about life in Paris. Check out the interview below.
Please introduce yourself.
What’s up? My name is Jay Smith and I’m the founder of BKRW.
What’s life like up in Paris, as far as music, fashion, nightlife, and popular culture?
Paris is an exciting city to live in. Many new projects and shops have opened in the past few months. You can feel the excitement in the streets, in the air. Paris is less and less becoming the boring city of haters that it once was. People are less selfish and less trash talking in the business and more creative. I really do like how Paris is these days. Clubs have gotten smaller and smaller, the atmosphere is more hot and confidential. Paris is electric!
Tell us a little bit about BKRW and the people involved.
BKRW is one of the first digital (online) magazines that is street culture oriented in France by also internationally. We are not a blog. We are not a forum. We are a digital magazine! Since we started BKRW as the digital magazine we have now expanded as a creative agency based in Paris, creative space / art gallery, textile label, and have a brick-and-mortar and online store. The creative space / art gallery is called Les Archives and the textile and stores are Black Rainbow. We are a small team with 2 partners: My partner Greg and I. We also have 3 people staffed at the store and online shop, and that’s pretty much it. If we are working on bigger projects then we will hire on some freelance people for the duration of the project.
Where did you get the idea to start an online magazine? How did you start?
I was the editor-in-chief / founder of Ware Magazine and working for WAD Magazine for more than 5 years. I love print magazines, and am very much into streetwear, sportswear, and technical sport gear. I found myself on the web more and more daily. I was feeling that whole blog revolution, that whole street culture reborn. I use to travel a lot with Greg…Me for my work and him for his own. He was really convinced that we should do a digital magazine. That’s how it started. That’s how we blindly and wildly went into this crazy adventure. Starting BKRW with just our passion for street culture and our wish to create a different media. Try to apply journalistic methods to online culture. Today, it’s kind of easy to think that creating an online magazine is not that crazy, but in the past it was a huge step. But the fact is that coming from a print magazine helped me to not think about BKRW as a blog, but as a full-fledged and real magazine, with creative content of our own, not necessarily some news that other people / blogs are posting. It was good times…I really do miss those times (Not that far back if I really think about it), the whole atmosphere was really different…Nostalgia.
Since starting the online magazine, you’ve really branched out and have become a full-service creative agency, clothing brand, and a store. Was that a goal of yours or did it just happen organically?
It just happened organically and by chance. The minute we started to work as an online magazine that was oriented on street culture, people started contacting us to help them and give them advice. It was perfect timing. We did launch our company with the Medicom x Chanel consulting. Doing the first 1000% Bearbrick for a high-fashion brand. The creative agency actually helped us get the shop. People from the department store Citadium were searching for some kind of streetwear consulting. When we met them we did understand that the consulting that they were searching for was far easier to do through our own pop-up shop. That’s how the Black Rainbow shop was born.
What clients have you worked with in the past?
We started with our biggest thus far: Chanel. We proposed to them to do the 1000% Bearbrick with Medicom and they accepted; more than that they featured them in all of the Chanel window displays worldwide. We’ve also worked with Nike, Adidas, Lacoste, Casio G-Shock, and Footlocker.
What brands does Black Rainbow carry?
Black Rainbow carries Staple Design, Hellz Bellz, Supra, Nike, New Balance, HUF, Lafayette, BePrive, Only NY, Sugarcraft, Crooks & Castles, and our own in-house label to name a few.
What are some of your favourite brands at the moment?
I don’t want to sound cocky or arrogant but Black Rainbow is probably one of my favourite brands and what I am wearing most right now. We created the label because we can’t always find pieces that truly stand out to us from other brands. I like the small street twist we are putting in the classical silhouette that we are choosing. Greg does an amazing job on our Black Rainbow clothes. I also have a special crush for Isaora (New snowboarding brand) and Nike ACG.
What are some of your inspirations?
Inspirations are hard to get. The digital magazine and internet takes up most of our time. There’s no real time to go and check out art exhibitions or to see good movies at the theatre. I’m still a huge fan of printed magazines such as Wallpaper, Monocle, and Sneaker Freaker. I’m a huge fan of Steven Meisel, JR, KR, Marylin Minter…Street looks websites (Sartorialist, Lookbook.nu, What’s One Wearing) are becoming more and more inspirational. Music is certainly my inspiration: Hip-Hop, soul, R&B, samba, etc. I’m always listening to music. Another cheesy drop, but streets are still my biggest inspiration, on the train, on basketball court; going to see friends in the suburbs ghetto…It gives you a total new way to see your job.
The fashion and music worlds are often tied together…What music artists out right now are really grabbing your attention?
That’s an interesting question. I’ve always been attracted to old school music (Soul, funk, R&B) and always been kinda followers / early adopters to new hot singles. Regarding the vibes I’m rediscovering the interesting work of incredible musician, Shaggie Otis. Regarding new school, my favourite artists are J. Cole, Saigon, Wale, and Young Money.
What new upcoming events, projects, or releases are you currently working on?
We have many projects in the works: The new Les Archives gallery exhibition, our Summer 2010 Black Rainbow collection, more creative content and exclusive interviews on BKRW. Many projects with cool brands as consultants or for special pop-up shops in our Black Rainbow store.
What would you say are the most difficult aspects of your line of work?
As you can see BKRW is 3 different entities. So it’s 3 companies to manage at the same time. Sometimes it gets really hard to handle and manage everything properly, especially if you look at our small crew.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Jay. Do you have any shout-outs or anything else you’d like to say?
If Canadian brand Sorel wants to work with us for a special collaboration project or work on new designs, hit me! I love Sorel boots! I’m always happy when Winter is coming and I can wear my big Caribou x Sorel shoes, even if all of my staff insult me for wearing such huge shoes in Paris. Tabernacle!
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