The streetwear game is a fickle one. If you can jump on a trend at the right time you can make bank, but if you’re too late you’re stuck with gear no one wants. Dictating your own brand’s direction is a tough road, especially if you forego the flavors of the minute in favor of carving out a truly unique identity. Few brands succeed in doing this, and even fewer have had the level of success that Akomplice has had doing it. Founding brothers Mike and Patrick have followed their hearts and ambitions instead of trends, and as a result, they’ve cemented Akomplice as an exciting innovator in the streetwear game. 10 years on, things keep getting bigger and better for this brand that started out humbly in Colorado, not exactly streetwear Mecca here in the States. In 2013 they launched some of their biggest collaborations yet, including a truly amazing partnership with The Dilla Foundation and rapper Joey Bada$$ to honor the late great J Dilla through both clothing and music. On top of collabs with Raekwon, Ricky Powell, Shorty’s, and Michael Cina, Akomplice dropped a bunch of solid seasonal collections and a capsule to benefit The Nature Conservancy. With so much greatness under their belts in one year alone, we caught up with the Akomplice team to find out how and why they do what they do. They’re certainly an inspiration to us, so read on and learn how these guys are doing big things in the streetwear game, the way they want.
INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND YOUR ROLE AT AKOMPLICE:
My name is Catch, and I’m the Team Manager here at Akomplice. I mainly deal in growing the street team as well as marketing and social media. I’ve also spent time in most other areas of the company but these are the main pillars that I personally grow and work with consistently.
YOU GUYS ARE ALWAYS INNOVATING, WHETHER IT’S WITH PRODUCT, LOOKBOOKS, OR COLLABS; WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO WORK ‘OUTSIDE-THE-BOX’?
Our passion to be unique and bring a real change to the world have always guided us in a “different” direction than most brands. We’re not looking to hop on the next trend or what’s hot at the moment, but instead we like to create what we feel the world is missing and what we think is hot.
IS THERE AN AKOMPLICE ‘THINK TANK’ OR IS IT PRIMARILY MIKE AND PATRICK’S VISION GUIDING IT?
There is certainly a ‘think tank’ here at Akomplice. We have designers in Brazil working full time to develop concepts that we have in our heads, as well as come up with new designs and ideas. Everybody in the company has a voice on upcoming design but Mike and Patrick definitely deal with the final steps of putting designs/ideas through into production when it’s time for something to get made.
ON THAT NOTE, WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING ON A TEAM WITH BROTHERS AT THE HELM?
It’s really great being able to work with such an admirable group of fellows (and ladies). We have a solid team here and everybody has a positive vibe. Sometimes things get hectic when the pressure is on and time is of the essence (all the time, everyday) haha… but for the most part we always come together and get things done when we need to.
HOW DID THE DILLA x JOEY BADA$$ COLLAB COME TO BE? WAS IT IN THE WORKS BEFORE AKOMPLICE’S PARTICIPATION IN DILLA DAY?
The Dilla x Bada$$ collab has been in the works for quite some time. Patrick was the main contact to The Dilla Foundation and I was the main contact for Joey Bada$$. I met Joey and Pro Era at SXSW in March of 2013. When I brought up the collab to Joey, he seemed interested but I don’t think he fully believed me until things really started to get going. When we finally got everything set up and Joey was in the lab writing to the unreleased Dilla beat, it was like a dream come true. Huge thanks to everybody involved from The Dilla Foundation to Joey’s team for helping make this happen.
YOU GUYS ARE BECOMING INCREASINGLY KNOWN FOR YOUR PHILANTHROPY, HOW DO YOU PICK YOUR CAUSES?
The truth is, there are a lot of worthy causes to support. The fact is, we only have a certain amount of time we can spend on these projects for each season. Therefore, we like to team up with people/companies/organizations/etc. that we personally find intriguing with the impact that they are making in the world. We also like to make sure that the companies we work with also want to work with us so that we are both satisfied with the outcome.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS AKOMPLICE’S MOST IMPORTANT VALUE?
Spreading love to the world in a really dope way.
YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN IN BUSINESS FOR OVER 10 YEARS NOW, WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CHANGE YOU’VE SEEN FOR THE BRAND?
For me, I would have to say the production. I’ve seen the brand grow from 10 t-shirts a season into full blown collections. We have Mike in India looking at factories, we have a full design studio in South Brazil, we have an office in Denver and an office in Santa Barbara. It’s become a full fledged worldwide movement and I’m very happy to be a part of witnessing the growth over the years.
ANY ‘OH-SHIT’ SUCCESS MOMENTS THAT STAND OUT?
When Mike designed the Liberty T-shirt and we saw the way it impacted the urban community… that was definitely an oh shit moment haha. To think that a young man from the mountains of Colorado would design a shirt that would have 50 Cent rocking it on Jimmy Kimmel or The Game rocking it on a double page spread ad in Vibe magazine is crazy. But that’s exactly what happened. Everyone from athletes to rap stars with that t-shirt got so much love in the urban community. We knew it was hot, but didn’t expect exactly that to happen.
AKOMPLICE RECENTLY OPENED A THIRD OFFICE, IN BRAZIL. WHAT DREW YOU GUYS TO BRAZIL AND HOW ARE THINGS GOING DOWN THERE?
This was actually Mike’s finding and his decision. Upon his travels he met some people and was driven to a small island off the south coast of Brazil, named Florianapolis. Mike spends a lot of time there as head creative director and as a designer himself. I only know a small bit about why he chose this place and what exactly drove him there, but the bottom line is that we have an absolutely killer design team down there and they’re killing the game for us.
YOU GUYS HAD AN INCREDIBLE YEAR IN 2013, WHAT’S NEXT FOR AKOMPLICE?
Thank you! We are always working to take the next step in a positive light. We have a lot of exciting collabs dropping this year and I personally feel like our designs just keep getting hotter and hotter. I’m really looking forward to putting out everything and seeing how the public reacts… I’m going crazy over here hahaha.
LASTLY, DO YOU HAVE AN ULTIMATE GOAL OR PROECT IN MIND FOR AKOMPLICE?
There are many goals and projects that are in mind for Akomplice. For now, we will continue to grow in the direction we’re going and see where this year takes us!