To learn more about the product offerings of vitaminwater’s #shinebright collection, we caught up with Mikey Trapstar to get to know more about his brand and to have the opportunity to join him at an upcoming pop-up store in London. Like many other designers, Mikey got his start by working in a pop-up store that was collaborative and is now looking to give a talented designer the opportunity for their works to be showcased in an original task.
In addition to Mikey’s challenge five additional challenges were created, including the opportunity to collaborate with Susie Bubble taking pictures of fashion’s most stunning close-ups during London Fashion Week. These six individuals, Mikey Trapstar Susie Bubble, Theo Gosselin, Jenny Grettve, Lisa Gachet and Trine Kjaer, were selected to represent #shinebright, based on their unique style and personalities which reflects six of the many minerals and vitamins that are available in vitaminwater.
Check out the video below for our interview of the London native, and then click here to view the challenges that were set by the #shinebright creators.
Was you involved in fashion prior to starting Trapstar?
Yes I was part of the fashion industry at the bottom. I did not go to a the fashion institute or anything else however, I did leave right after high school and worked for a clothing shop that was selling the very first collection from Moschino as well as D&G as they first came into the US. My boss was at the time the former manager of Versace located on Bond Street. It’s where my majority of experience in fashion came from.
I began as an internship, sort of sales assistant thing. After that, he brought me to wholesale meetings. I was chosen to work in the store. I was also learning a about the retail aspect of the business, and when I quit, I was the man in his right. He allowed me to purchase inventory to sell, and which meant that there were occasions that I’d invest my money into Moschino or Gucci loafers. Then I learned how to earn money selling clothing yourself.
Do you recall what attracted you to streetwear and fashion at first?
At at around 14 I was walking to school. I was raised on an estate, or what might call it an investment and my neighbours would all be wearing Jordans. I wanted to be just like the more mature kids, so their fashions inspired me. As I got older, I would save my lunch money to purchase clothes. My school would be a walk instead of the bus . I would purchase clothes. I’ve always been involved in the fashion industry that fashion, whether streetwear or more modern or high-end. At the age of 14 I used to swap out clothes. We’d swap clothes just like we exchange sneakers nowadays and that’s what my money was going to.
Later in my life around 7 months ago, my husband and I launched Trapstar. I had a desire for a T-shirt. we would visit an online store that was custom-made and request customized T-shirts. We’d pay a great deal of money to get them because they were airbrushed and designed by two graffiti artists. We demanded everything designed by the designers, and they would then sell it in their stores. The T-shirts were popular and they would be copied by others, therefore we always had a the social influence of creating the trends. We’ve always believed in something unique that no other person could possess, that’s the secret ingredient that has led to our Trapstar brand. We were looking for something that nobody else could do, and we didn’t want it to be out in the open, we just wanted exclusive items. Seven years ago, I was looking for an Scarface shirt and I would not let my friends get the t-shirts. I would create them and create them, and then sell them until the person making the T-shirts thought “you are making some money from them,” and I said, “what money?” It clicked. Oh what if we could turn into a company? Then demand came in and we were forced to create the brand.
This is where the first concept of Trapstar was born, from having success by your own ideas?
It was a result of creating T-shirts that everyone wanted. One of my acquaintances said to me that in the event that I don’t sell him a shirt then he would be able to copy my designs. This is why I decided to turn into a business and I learned the steps step by step. All I have is passion. I have no expertise or knowledge, just enthusiasm.
Since then, the brand has really grown. What can you do to keep the original idea of keeping it untrue with this sort of growth?
I am a lover of my clothes and I am always trying to improve ourselves. My primary ethos is: if you’ll never wear something, then do not create it. When I first began making clothes , I thought, “okay this is what I’m going to make and this is the thing that’s closest to me that connects to me.” One of the worst things that can occur is that I am able to have a beautiful collection. If I keep it close to me, I will be able to meet people.
To ensure the exclusivity of our brand, we need to break boundaries. We started out by selling T-shirts, and then began making a difference with the help of our core supporters. We don’t really need the mainstream to sustain our brand. When you’re in need of the mainstream, you’ll be able to overproduce and over-saturate your brand since it’s more about business rather than passion. It’s essential to have at least a little of both. If you’re driven by enthusiasm, you’ll make the right choices to build the brand. Perhaps not to benefit the business but rather to the name. Like your business you may earn a substantial amount from it in a single year, however, you might not have a name to return to within 10 years. If you are thinking about the brand and not an organization, you’re going to make choices which favor the brand and not your business.
Do you see Trapstar as a distinct London label?
No. We’re London all the way through, however we are a part of people from all walks of life, not only with the city. We’re part of a city and the city has been supportive however, our opinions are embraced by all over the world. The idea for the brand came from London and is a part of the very heart of London however, its views are supported by many people around the globe. We’ve been fortunate. In all our travels we have met people with the same beliefs about not adhering to any norms of fashion. The brand was created in London, but its ethics have been embraced all over the world.
What are the ways that it is spreading? Does it happen through music or international celebrities?
This is the most effective and fast method. It involves people that are influential. However, even these icons can mess with the brand’s image due to their ethos. They dress it up and those who are following them, are following the brand. There’s an entry-level for everyone. For instance, take A Bathing Ape, for example. I wouldn’t have known about the brand were it not for Pharrell however Pharrell isn’t why that I’m an avid fan. It’s the brand itself that is. It’s possible to have an entry level product from a brand that is popular, but it’s not what makes you stick around.
Click here for the Trapstar jacket.
What are the most significant changes in the past few years since the brand was co-signed by A$AP Rocky and Rihanna?
I feel like the entire society has changed. It’s as if Rocky and Rihanna have embodied the message Trapstar is trying to spread out there before they knew about the brand. Wearing our clothes has brought our brand closer to those who have no interest in streetwear since they’re spotted on channels that aren’t specific to the niche. We’ve been around for a number of years and if you’ve seen somebody similar to Rocky or Rihanna wearing our clothes on a mainstream channel and there’s no need to wear fashion, they’re giving people access to your brand. This is just providing access to many people who wouldn’t had the chance to find us. It’s all about the Internet. Period. In the event that Rocky and Rihanna were wearing our clothes, and there wasn’t an Internet then it wouldn’t have happened. The time of the internet for fairness, and connects everyone.
Does this link between everyone changes how the company’s message will be perceived?
The brand’s message isn’t changing, but the responsibility is greater. The brand was initially created for private reasons but with focus and popularity comes responsibility. We started teasing Rocky since around 2011 three weeks before he was signed. Rihanna has been wearing our clothing since 2010, but our messages are more focused on promoting an idea – a thought made up of musicians, artists and other brands that over the past have been able to show. We’re trying to be an example and help a movement whether it’s through our apparel and events, or our supporters.
What was the way that this brand perform at the beginning?
I’m going to be honest with you The reason Trapstar was able to exist is due to the resistance of the industry. When we first launched the company, retailers didn’t want us because we were young, and we didn’t have the experience, and we didn’t have an extensive range. Some people are making their way into the market. It’s like starting with an Big Cartel and you have the name. You can own one thing and be an established brand. We owned multiple items but nobody wanted to buy from us since we didn’t like the brands with millions of dollars invested in their products and are 10 more years old than we are. We received lots of support from our local community, so we made it through by selling our clothes to our peers. It was a kind of word-of-mouth of business.
We went to a place in Portobello Road and they offered us a deal that said that if you visit our store for a weekend, we’ll take your name as a brand. We developed an invasion strategy that would let us take over a shop for a few days and then we’d go home. Therefore, we created our own pop-up shops within the stores.
In the #shinebright campaign , you’re giving one contestant the opportunity to collaborate with you on an open-air store. Based on your experiences, what advantages can you expect to sell through a pop-up shop as in comparison to a traditional retail store?
It’s not as fake and you can actually interact. If you’re selling at retail, you won’t know who the customers you’re selling your products to. It’s difficult to interact with customers. I think that brands that sell streetwear focus on engaging with the public. Without naming names, there are many brands that aren’t connecting simply sell clothing and then you leave.
My first turning point came when I hosted an event dubbed “Reset” during Nike 1948. It was a crowded event with 12 different brands the same room and everybody bounced off one another which gave us an euphoria. When I finally did this and met my first customers and the people who actually bought my product, it gave me a jolt of joy and I’m determined to bring the same feeling to other people. I believe it’s my obligation. We’re doing pretty good at the moment, and without this, maybe we wouldn’t have this conversation now. This is why I’m trying to convey the same feeling to those who are passionate about their personal brand. It’s not always about Trapstar and it’s not just about us. It’s about helping others and providing a platform for others, because I realize that I was fortunate to be in the position I am. I was given the opportunity by someone else to do this, and it’s only fitting to be in a position to fulfill the same purpose.
The latest collection of yours is released on Thursday. What’s it based on and what’s the main basis for the collection?
It’s more baseball-themed. When I create, I feel that I’m at a moment in my life when I’m more proud of my team than I have ever. It’s as if we’ve risen. We’re not the kids of the big leagues. We’re the newbies at present. Baseball is built on the aesthetic of a team being together, bringing everyone on, and looking to see if they’re going to be there tomorrow. It’s the basis of it.
What else else can we expect to look for in the future from Trapstar in the near future?
We can say that Trapstar is full of surprises planned for this year. We’re hoping to make the city proud, but I’m not able to reveal too much. We’ll end with our 40oz VAN collaboration at this point, but be on the lookout for a historic action we’re planning to do this year.