The first full-length video Chapter One by a New York based apparel brand, Chrystie NYC has been released. We caught up with the guys behind the brand, Pep Kim and Aaron Herrington, and asked some questions about how things fell into place.
──CHRYSTIE NYC (ENGLISH)
[ JAPANESE / ENGLISH ]
Photos courtesy of Pep Kim Special thanks: Kukunochi
VHSMAG (V)： When did you move to New York from Seoul and what was the reason for that?
Pep Kim (P)： It was 9 years ago to study photography, then just didn't wanna move back to Seoul. Moving back to Seoul, I almost felt like, stepping back from my dream or something.
V： Aaron, you're from Oregon and you moved to New York as well.
Aaron Herrington (A)： That's right. I'm from this town called Corvallis. It's like an hour and a half south of Portland. Like a smaller college town. I moved to New York in 2010. I was living in San Francisco at the time and I was working with my friend that I filmed with. Then we went to New York one summer to visit, and we really liked it. And then we went back the next summer to visit and the first night we went skating, I hurt my foot really bad and I just never left. I paid my rent for a couple months in California and I just stayed out in New York. Fast forward to almost 10 years later, and here we are.
V： What keeps you there?
P： I don't see myself living anywhere else now. I've got my two kids here in New York. I want to raise them here and want them to have more opportunities in the city. A couple years ago, we started a brand called Chrystie New York. And as a photographer/cinematographer myself, without a doubt, this is the best city to be in.
A： This is kind of a subtle one, as far as traveling to Europe is a lot quicker because we don't have to fly over the whole United States. It's not too far to get there, whereas if you lived in California it would take over 10 hours. I'd say the best advantage of living on the east coast is that getting to Europe is quicker. Then the type of skating that I like to watch and the type of skating that I like to do, I feel New York has more of that type of aesthetic and more of those types of spots. Definitely just the city itself keeps me here and the energy and everything. I can't say that I'm going to follow Pep's steps and raise children and have a family here, but for the time being it's where I like to be and it's where I want to be.
V： How did you guys meet? You guys met in New York?
P： Yes. There's one spot on Sullivan Street, near Washington Skate Park. I started working with Josh Stewart as a photographer for his project, Static IV/V maybe like 8 years. He texted me one day, "Pep, you should go to this spot to meet up with Aaron and shoot his photo." Now I don't have much time as before so I have to be pretty selective when I go out and shoot, but back then, I was open to anything. I was like, "All right. I'll be there." It was Aaron doing this crazy Ollie to ollie.
A： It was right up the street from where I worked at the time so I was riding my bike by it every single day. It's funny because they actually knobbed the spot recently and Josh Stewart posted that yesterday. So that was the first introduction to Pep. It's funny you can remember that, because I honestly couldn't remember the first day we met.
P： At that time, he didn't have any board sponsor so he was skating a Magenta board. And about a couple of months later he started skating for Polar, so we had to go back and re-shoot the same photo with Polar board. Then we shot another photo next to that spot for his introduction ads. That's how it all started. I was like, "Oh, this guy, he knows exactly what he wants to do."
A： After almost 10 years of living here, I can't just spontaneously go and cruise around. Not that skating's my job and career and everything, but I value the time I go out street skating. I don't want to just like, "Oh let's go and see what happens today." I like to go and find something, think about it, put my mind to it, get inspired by something else and then go and skate the spot. When you first move here, this city is so appealing and there's so much stuff everywhere that you can cruise around and hit. But over time, I have to go further and further out into the Bronx or out into Queens or certain areas because I want to find different spots. New spots that people haven't skated and I don't have to add a trick to this list of things. Kind of like the opposite of the California school yard skate dynamic.
V： How did you guys start Chrystie?
P： It's not like I just wanted to started a brand. Because if I wanted to, I had much more opportunities to do it in Seoul which is where I’m from. I could make clothes, socks, even like publication, I had all really good connections out there. Probably around 10% of my friends, they own their own brands and they're all successful. They do really well in making money. But it didn't really inspire me because first of all they're doing domestic brands. They sell well mostly to Korean people, which is totally fine, but it wasn't the thing I wanted to do. But after I moved to New York, spending a certain amount of time, I was like, "Oh maybe I can do something." But it didn't really have to be a brand. I love doing small projects here and there and I was like, "Why not? I have good sources out there so we can make a small NY based brand." I didn't want too much stress, so I decided to keep it small. It would be great to sell something, because this city costs a lot of money.
V： You were shooting photos, that was your thing back then, right?
P： I was doing pretty good as a photographer but because I spent most of my life skateboarding, I wanted to do something else in skateboarding. One night I was out at a bar with Aaron and I started talking about making a small brand. "It doesn't have to be a clothing brand. Let's do a sock brand." That's how everything started. I could have done it by myself, but I needed someone to tell me whether I'm on the right track or not. Aaron is a pro skater spending most of his time in the streets. He can't come to the office every day, but he has his own point of view as a skater.
A： I have my ear to the street. You know what I mean? I interact more with skaters, so I just have more of an inside scoop of how skaters work, not saying that Pep doesn't know how a skater works at all. He knows more of the brand side of things, whereas I know more of the industry side of being a professional being involved in it. I can give my insight. Something as subtle as posting a caption on Instagram or something where I'm like, "We need to word it like this. It's not going to make sense. It needs to be like this and that."
V： So that means you both own the brand.
P： Yes. I'm in charge of everything like production, design, direction and stuff, but I make sure to check everything with Aaron first.
A： Certain pieces that we produce, I'll be like, "We can't do it. Skaters aren't going to get that. It'll be too over their head. Our customer base is not old enough to understand the reference or they just won't get it at all."
V： Where did the name come from?
P： It's a name of a street. I like the fact that feminine name is used for a menswear brand. And two soccer fields I play on, are both on Chrystie street so I was already very familiar with the name. It always stuck in my head. Surprisingly no one had used that name so I was like, "Fuck it. Let's take it."
V： You guys started out as a sock brand. How did it turn into an apparel brand?
P： I wanted to make a small band so we started out with socks but just decided to make a couple of t-shirts and they sold a lot more than I expected. Then people started looking at it as a clothing brand rather than a sock brand.
A： Also there were some issues with some of the people that we were trying to have skate for the company. They were skating for other clothing brands and we were marketing ourselves as just a sock company. Then on the line sheet or whatnot, there was some hoodies and t-shirts. That caused some confusion with some people. So some of the people we were sponsoring at the time had to leave. So we were like, "Let's get all new people that don't have clothing sponsors and put our energy into those people that we're psyched on." The people that we sponsor aren't necessarily extremely well known, but now that the video is out, I feel like they're going to get more momentum behind their names.
V： I see a lot of people outside of skating wearing your brand. I noticed Lefto in Belgium was wearing Chrystie.
P： Basically the brand is rooted in skateboarding but we don't necessarily try to sell our stuff only to skaters. Actually, I didn't know how famous Lefto was. He's European so he loves soccer culture. I don't know how he knew the brand, but he bought a bunch of stuff through my online store. Then he reached out to me. Not he was asking for free stuff, but he was curious if he could buy stuff when he was in New York. I met him in person and we started flowing him because he was mad cool. He's a really good DJ as well.
V： That's sick. Where do you find inspiration for the things that you make?
P： I see a lot of things from art movement. For example, a Dutch art movement called De Stijl. Also not that I'm looking for something specific, but I like certain artists such as Massimo Vignelli. He also designed NY subway maps, information design. So it was an organic process that we created one of logos based off his iconic style last year. So sometimes I take references out of them and then make something for our brand. I don't know, I wouldn't say I have a really specific inspiration for the design, but the one thing I know is, I didn't want to make a stereotypical skateboarding image.
V： I really liked the aesthetics of the commercials that you made too.
P： Yeah, we did one with Aaron, the second one with Kaio, which is one of our dudes from Berlin. It's just I like the super 8 feel and old film stuff, which isn't necessarily the best for marketing these days. Everything is so fast, people want to see quick stuff rather than quality stuff. Unconsciously. At the end though, I believe quality stuff will last longer. It's kind of silly to talk too much about it because the brand is super young and I'm not mainly a videographer, but I'm very interested in shooting super 8.
V： The music was great too. Now, who's on the team?
P： It all happened pretty organically. We have two pros, Aaron and Alexis Sablone. And then we haver Kaue Cossa, John Baragwanath, Shane Farber, Brett Weinstein, Kaio Hillebrand and Johnny Purcell. Shin Sanbongi wears our socks too. Shin came to our Spain trip just last month.
V： It's awesome that you guys have female pro on the team.
P： Funny thing is Alexis actually ordered a couple of socks and t-shirts on out online store. When I got the order I was like, "Alexis Sablone." I texted her right away, "What are you doing? You don't have to buy anything. Just text me." She goes like, "Oh no, I really like the stuff. I wanted to support." So I was like, "Why don't you just come in and talk about it. Either way I want to sponsor you as a sock or clothing brand?" This is how Alexis got on the team.
V： That's sick. And your first full-length video, Chapter One has been released. Can you talk about the video?
P： Last year in April, we started inviting all the riders to New York. I didn't know what we could do, but Shane filmed a bunch of stuff in just like 5 days. I was super impressed, so I was like, "Maybe we can make something like 15-minute edit as our first promo video." Then we ended up creating 24 mins strong video.
V： Any memorable thing from shooting for the video?
A： I would say any day that we went out filming far away, like out in the Bronx or anything, I'd say a decent amount of the footage or some of the spots, I had to repair them, like bondo some cracks or fix some of the elements of the spots. That was always memorable. There was a trick in my Polar part that came out recently that I get smoked on, that I totally ate shit and I kind of went back and did some redemption, so that was super memorable. I filmed a bunch of tricks on my birthday over the summer that are in the promo, all in one day, so that day was super rad, just a super productive birthday.
P： Yeah, we just did our own thing and made a video out of that. Aaron, no matter what kind of project he's on, he always wants to go out and find a spot and do some shit. I'm kind of spoiled enough to be home waiting for his call, just like, "I found this spot. Let's go." I'm blessed to be filming and shooting photos with Aaron because he looks for perfect spots for himself.
V： So that's pretty much what you guys look for in a skater? Skater who has the eye for the right spot and right trick?
A： I would say, as far as the team, everyone's definitely unique in their own way. As far as spots and stuff, Brett Weinstein from Chicago has a very specific and unique eye on skate spots, as well as Shane, as well as Shin, John. Everyone skates in their own different way that is super powerful. You can put anything in front of Kaue and he can destroy it. Same thing with Shane. They're just all genuine skaters. No cool guy shit, no bullshit. Just like, "All right, let's go to the spot and let's skate. I've got 20 bucks on the next try. I've got 12 oysters or a six-pack on the next." It's always just good times and we've all grown to be good homies, so it made things easier.
P： Yeah, we invited everybody for the Spain trip that we just did last month. I was kind of worried because this was the first time traveling with everyone on the team. It could be a nightmare because, let's say someone wants to skate this specific spot, he's super stuck on it, skates that shit for 5 hours and doesn't want to go somewhere else till he lands a trick. Then the rest of the crew has to waste their time. That kind of thing never happened, everybody got along really well. It was way beyond my expectation.
A： Yeah. Everything was very smooth and everyone handled biz, which was nice. Pep totaled a van.
P： Yeah, I broke a van. I had never driven manual cars for more than 15 years and in Europe everybody drives manual. In Gran Canaria, I had to drive a van because we had like 9 people. I rented a van and I realized it was fucking manual. I was like, "Uh, I don't know how to fucking drive manual." Last time I drove manual was like 17 years ago. I literally re-learned how to drive it from the airport to our Airbnb and that night it just fucking broke down.
A： My hands were sweating so much because I was tripping.
V： Yeah. I was going to ask, any chaotic moments?
A： Oh my god. Every time we got in the van.
V： Where do you want to take Chrystie to?
A： We're taking it to the fucking moon.
P： The thing is, I had no idea what I was doing when we started a brand. I think in my head, in terms of a brand or project, there are two different types of people. One, making the perfect plan and having enough time to create perfect brand identity, make enough promo materials like the video, photos, whatever, and then finally start a brand. For example, Dial Tone Wheels under the TOA umbrella, it took them 4 years to figure out how to make quality wheels. Although staff at TOA like Pat Steiner, Josh Stewart, they've been in the industry forever, it took them so long, you know? It took them 4 years to make proper wheels that they liked, and they started a brand. Me, the day I talked to Aaron about starting a brand, I clearly remember it was around February 2016 and that was the start of the idea. Then I went to Korea in May or April, found a manufacturer to start producing socks in 2 weeks, and then brought (smuggled) whole products back to the States. Then I started building a website, started reaching out to stores, blah, blah, blah. For me, starting a brand, starting whatever, I just don't want to wait until the perfect moment. If you wait too long, your passion will fade away.
A： Yeah, your inspiration dies.
P： You can learn along the way. We wouldn’t say we know what exactly we're trying to do, but I have my clear vision on clothing design and market. We can't really say what our ultimate goal is, but one thing I can say is to build a proper skate team, which we're almost there.
A： We kind of just have to see what will happen after people watch this promo video. That's what we're waiting for, because we didn't have much skate content to back the brand yet, to get the brand, it's identity that we're trying to present to people. Once there's a video, they're going to be like, "Okay, there actually are skaters behind it that are good at skating. All right, cool." It'll give us a better idea for ourselves as to where we want to direct the brand, as well as just having more people understand what it is finally, I guess. It's just like one step at a time.
Launched in NYC by Pep Kim and Aaron Herrington in 2016. They started as a sock brand, turned it into an apparel brand representing street skating and urban culture that surrounds it. They just released their first full-length video Chapter One.