How Jeff Staple turned the pigeon into a streetwear icon

I’m friends with many musicians who make hits and 10 years later they still have to play it. Pharrell still has to do “Happy.” Nas still has to do “One Mic.” So for me, yes, I understand when asked to share a story. And I’m honored to be able to continue telling it.

Why do you think the sneaker hit so hard?

It was the right time. I mean, I love the design and it has great storytelling, but timing is a huge factor. The greatest luck is that the reporter revealed that story to New York Post Office live on Orchard Road. If Rachel Sklar hadn’t lived on Orchard Street, the whole Dove Ball myth might be different now, because that newspaper cover is tied to the actual shoe.

It elevated it from a downtown story to a citywide story, and eventually a nationwide one.

Total. If it ends up on the Hypebeast, it becomes a Hypebeast thing. But since it’s turned on Item, she became a 90-year-old grandmother living on the Upper West Side. Suddenly, it became popular culture. Love it or hate it—and some say Pigeon Dunk killed the culture, and took sneakers from a subculture to the ridiculous thing it is now—you can’t deny that Pigeon Dunk did putting sneaker culture on the map.

The book really documents countless collaborations over the years: Nike, Coke, Dr. Martens, Clarks, Beats By Dre, Timberland, New Balance, Puma, etc. Did the partnership become the foundation of your career on purpose or did it just happen that way?

It’s not a goal or a goal. I was greatly inspired in my youth by graffiti artists in New York City and the way I see tags on all subways, buses, and trains throughout the city. Or the Andre the Giant sticker by Shepard Fairey. I remember once, on my first trip to Tokyo, I was at the immigration counter in Narita [airport, in Tokyo]and I saw an Andre sticker on the immigrant wall and I said, “Wow, this guy’s everywhere.”

In fact, there’s a term for that in graffiti culture: going “city-wide” means you’ve been to every metro line, so every county and neighborhood sees your tag. And that is the goal of a graffiti artist. So when I start doing a collaboration or two, admittedly, I don’t like, “I need to do a million collaborations.” But it excited me when I partnered with New Balance after partnering with Nike.

Many people will say “Yo, why don’t you sign a long-term contract with Nike?” And when New Balance gave me the opportunity to work together, that’s when the graffiti mentality emerged, and I loved the idea of ​​doing one thing with one brand and then almost doing the same thing with another. . For me, it was the same card on two different trains.

I hear criticisms and comments like, “When are you going to do something different? You keep slapping a pigeon and making it gray. And I said, “Yes, that’s a point like that.” Because now when you zoom out 25 years later, it’s amazing that I can basically go around the city with corporate America. I was able to bomb all of these brands.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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