The Staple Manifesto for the Designer, Entrepreneur, & Fashion Aficionado

He designed a ‘New York’ inspired sneaker for Nike back in 2005 and has spent the last 15 years creating iconic menswear collections inspired by the street culture, design, and music. The irrepressible Jeff Staple sat down with us to share the ‘secret sauce’ that helped him go from Parsons to the top of the New York fashion scene.

The Backstory: In 1997, Jeff Staple walked into the Triple Five Soul boutique in New York City and received his first order of 12 silkscreened t-shirts. Once these t-shirts arrived, Staple was officially open for business. Jeff Staple began his small t-shirt line while he was a student at Parsons School of Design.  From there, his business grew organically and began to gain visibility in the city. In the process of growing his burgeoning brand, Nike hired Jeff Staple in 2005 to create a special sneaker to represent New York.

What should entrepreneurs look for when creating a name for their brand and crafting a mission statement?


The name you establish for your brand depends on your end goal. If you aim to have a brand that’s long term and timeless, it is important that your brand name reflects a more classic and adaptable concept. On the other hand, if an entrepreneur recognizes that his/her idea is more of a fad, a brand name incorporating more trendy and short term concepts and ideas is more acceptable.

Staple’s Pro- Tips on Creating a Brand Name:

  1. Determine if your brand name is usable around the world
  2. Conduct a simple Google Search to see if your name is unique enough to win on SEO
  3. Take a trip to your local City Hall to check the records of the registered business names in your City to make sure that your name is available

Which collaborations, events, or pop cultural moments helped Staple Design gain brand visibility? 

In the fashion industry, the power of the influencer does wonders. If there is a celebrity seen wearing or representing your clothing, it has a huge impact on fashion culture. We’ve been lucky enough from the beginning to have talented, influential, and skilled people representing the brand that has been a huge help in gaining brand visibility.

What are some creative avenues entrepreneurs can use to build brand exposure?

Your “social media game” should be on point! When you’re building your brand, social media platforms are crucial in assisting with brand exposure. There also needs to be a core message behind your presence on social media. Once you’re able to communicate your brand, it will be easier to adapt to shifting platforms and mediums in the future.

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How did you design the Staple logo? What tips can you give to entrepreneurs looking to create an iconic symbol for their brand?

I wanted the original Staple logo to be timeless and unique. It was derived from the way I handwrite the word “STAPLE” which was graffiti inspired. I cleaned it up and put it into a bounding bar and that was how the Staple bar logo came to be. The pigeon is a stylized version of the bird which makes it purposely easy to replicate on embroidery, or small heat transfers, or on a full chest on the front of a shirt. When creating the logos we searched for a more simple design and considered how the design would reproduce over time. If we created a bird high in detail, almost like an anatomical drawing, it would be hard to reproduce.

Staple’s Pro-Tips When Designing a Logo:

  1. Create a logo that means something to your brand DNA
  2. Your logo should have properties that work in different applications be that on social media or a billboard advertisement.

The 3 Components of a Logo:

  1. Ownership: How will the public resonate with your logo? Is the logo available to be trademarked and copyrighted?
  2. Philosophical: A combination of a wordmark (a stylized text and unique combination of text) and an icon (a singular image represented by a mark rather than a word)
  3. Technical Standpoint: If you’re not a graphic designer, work with someone who can help you execute your vision since logos require brand and style guidelines. Style guides provide brand consistency and make it easier to work with collaborators

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From design to production, what are some of the frustrations and complexities you experienced when producing your first collection
?

  1. When you’re starting out, your unit quantities will probably be low. Working with low quantities tends to create a domino effect. New designers might have trouble sourcing factories who are willing to work with low minimums. When you discover a factory with low MOQs, there’s a chance that larger orders will take precedence over yours.

Handy Hint: The Maker’s Row marketplace has verified small-batch and low minimum American factories and suppliers. Find small batch factories here.

  1. Working with lower minimums may mean paying higher prices per unit which of course impacts your retail prices and/or profit margin. I decided to lower my retail prices and take a loss on profit, ensuring my customer knew the quality was still every bit as good. Go back to the factory and show that you’ve doubled (or tripled) your orders, this gives you negotiating power and sure enough they began to lower their prices. It’s a gamble but ultimately it enabled me to increase my volume and overtime return to higher profit margins.

  1. You could get a cash investment at the start which would give you the option to produce more styles and quantities. It’s risky because you’re holding inventory which you’ll need to sell before it ages, but the upside is that you can negotiate a lower production cost and therefore get a higher profit margin from day one.

How did you research and select a factory to manufacture your first collection?


It’s paramount to visit the factory in person. When factory owners meet you face-to-face, they build a rapport with you that helps in the future when making your clothes. Also, check out the work that the factory has done previously. To find a reliable manufacturer, ask your favorite brand to refer to you their factory. Often this information is very proprietary since some aren’t will to share this.

Staple’s Pro-Tips:

  1. Be willing to find a factory and learn the hard way that they’re not the right partner for you. Sometimes it takes a couple of go’s before you find your ‘dream’ partner.
  2. Try not to put all your eggs in one basket. In other words don’t rely on one factory to make your entire collection. Spread the production out, so you have different factories to depend on.

Should entrepreneurs hire showrooms to sell their collection? What are some other avenues?

There are other options besides showrooms; you can do sales internally by hiring a sales rep or partnering. Brands today are ditching the wholesale model and going directly online or hiring an internal sales representative.

4 Questions to Ask a Prospective Showroom:

  1. Is there is a rental fee or percentage of sales?
  2. What kind of dedicated staff does the showroom provide?
  3. What retailers can they almost guarantee to get your brand into?
  4. What are the other brands who will showcase alongside yours?

Why should entrepreneurs use tradeshows as a launching platform?
 How can they use this platform to gain potential buyers and build brand awareness?

Trade Shows provide fantastic exposure and accessibility to retail buyers. The biggest trade show in America is MAGIC Las Vegas. For three days, the entire world of retail settles into one place. Instead of racing across America with your sample collection to 300 different stores you have the opportunity to connect with major and smaller retailers in the one place.

How did you develop an effective pricing strategy for your product?

Trial and error! Learn how to competitively price your product. You don’t want to be the only brand in the store that is selling four times more than everyone else. On the other hand, you do not want to be the brand that’s selling half price for everyone else. Your price point should be within the same spectrum as the labels you want to compete with. If you’re retailing against shirts that are $120 aim for a price point between $110-$135.

What’s the trade­off between opening your retail store, distributing through retailers, or selling your product solely online?

The biggest advantage to having a standalone store is retaining a significant profit margin. One of the major disadvantages when selling out of your retail space is limited exposure; you’ll have to rely on walk-ins and foot traffic. You’re also going to have to convert prospective buyers into customers by selling them on the concept of your brand. While you miss out on a favorable profit margin when working with larger retailers, your brand will benefit from the retailer’s existing customer base (your brand will already have context) and promotional methods. Your brand will be able to drift off of the positive reputation.

What are some budgeting and allocation methods for entrepreneurs to maximize their spend?

While a business is very difficult to run, it’s easy to understand profits and losses. Try to be frugal and save as much as possible with everything. There are two ways that a business can be more successful:

  1. Increase the amount of money coming in
  2. Decrease the amount of money going out

If you can do both well, you’ve got a great business! It depends on whichever you can control more. If you’re able to generate sales, then more power to you. If you can’t grow sales, try to control operational and miscellaneous expenses that are easily manageable (i.e. hiring efforts and office supplies).

What were some legal hurdles you encountered when you first started growing your brand(s)?

Getting a trademark for your logo and your brand name is crucial. Until this day, we still fight copyright infringement. We were one of the first brands that used a pigeon as an icon. After years of developing and curating that vision for the bird, it’s grown to become socially cool. However, people don’t realize that it’s a registered trademark of our company. We have to constantly police the use of our logo all over the world.

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When launching your business, would you consider legal advice an investment rather than an expense?

Seeking legal counsel is an investment. It may be a lot of money for new brands to stomach in the beginning, but this cost is a valuable exchange for the protection and peace of mind that comes with owning your brand and the trademark. On the frugal side, you may end up paying $2,000-5,000 for legal counsel but could cost upwards of $20,000 for a high-end lawyer.

What do you think is the secret to your success?

Incorporating my passions, hobbies, interests, and inspirations into my work is the key! I think that my passion for my work is one of the key contributors to my success. I’m also genuinely into sneakers, music, fashion and sports so I naturally incorporate all these elements into my brand and, of course, each collection.

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