Jeff is one of the hardest working people I know. So it’s nice to hear him say the same about others. But I mean really, if I’m on instant messenger at 4:00 a.m., I’m killing time, whereas Jeff is actually working. He’s up early, he’s up late. Being humble and wanting to mentor is the kicker. Meet Mr. Staple.
How many careers have you had? What is your current title?
Currently, Founder/Creative Director of Staple Design. Past in reverse chronological order: Graphic Designer, Design Application Instructor, Laser Output Supervisor, In Line Skating Instructor, Sneaker Salesperson, Receptionist/Hair Salon, Busboy, Pizza Delivery Dude, Produce Rotator/Supermarket, Hair Sweeper/Hair Salon, and One Hour Photo Film Developer.
What project will you be working on next?
Your house is burning down. What one possession (aside from human/animal life) would you grab on the way out?
My 15" Powerbook. Sad, but true.
When and how did we meet?
I believe we met in 1999 or so...when you were trying to get me to pay for 120-day-old advertising invoices for Tokion Magazine. (What? "pay" for ads? Ha ha ha ha ha). I became very familiar with the way you wrote the letters: P-A-S-T-D-U-E. [I used to break legs for Tokion.]
If you do an internet search on Staple Design, it says that you are a full service communications design company whose projects include album covers, CD packages, magazines, corporate identity management, and web sites. Do you really do all of this?
Interesting...I didn’t know that. Yes we do all that and more...but sometimes projects come in waves...like CDs for example are not really intriguing anymore to us, or to the industry for that matter, so we do much less of that. Now, we work with some really great brands. I think it’s important to have passion about the people/companies you work with and in turn, its important for those companies to be passionate about what they do.
Are you allowed to talk about the brands you work with? Specifically, can you tell us about something you did for someone?
Let me ask my boss. [Jeff mutters to himself.] Yes I can! Ha ha. Well best example is Nike. I grew up on Nike like a crack baby grows up on the pipe. Diehard fanatic! And for us to be working with them now is almost like a dream come true...as stupid as that may sound. It’s like all those sneakers my mom yelled at me about when I was young is now paying off. But it’s not just Nike, almost all the companies we work with are just cool and dope. It’s rare that we work with someone I'm not feeling.
I know that there have been several versions of a co-branded Nike-Staple shoe. When you say you work with Nike, what is it you're doing for them?
Ninety-five percent of what we do with Nike is behind the scenes...lots and lots of internal stuff. Five percent of what we do is out there commercially like the five shoes we just did this past summer (the Navigation and Tattoo Packs). That’s what’s great about our relationship with Nike...they have a respect for Staple not just as "artists of the moment" but also as marketers, retailers, brand consultants, producers, designers and logistics coordinators. We talk to people over there almost on a daily basis.
You listed a lot of past jobs. Is Staple Design what you see yourself doing five years from now? In other words, is this your dream job?
Um...so far it kinda of is...I love waking up and going to work. I love the people we work with...I love the staff...it’s all kinda good right now. In one typical day, I'll be talking to Nike, Levis, Burton, Shaq [O’Neal], fashion photographers who need art direction, a store that wants to carry Staple clothing, a customer in the Reed Space...but all of it is love. Nothing is a stress on my mind. The staff is very important too...it makes or breaks the company and makes my day either unbearable or enjoyable.
Five years from now...I have no idea. I’ve never sat down to make a business plan, but in five years who knows? The design side of Staple really has a life of its own right now. The clothing needs a little TLC right now and that’s where my focus is on in terms of development. So hopefully, in five years we'll see a major transformation in the Staple clothing line.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your book on hip-hop culture in Cuba? How did that come about?
Well it’s not my book. The project is the brainchild of Jauretsi Saizarbitoria. She used to be an editor at Jane Magazine. But she is one the hardest working people in the world! She is of Cuban descent and she really wanted to showcase hip-hop culture in Cuba/Habana and how it struggles against their government. She wanted to do a book…well now that book is going to be a movie! She's in Los Angeles working on it right now.
The book was shot entirely by Estevan Oriol and Angela Boatwright...two of the best. And she asked Staple Design to handle art direction. It’s truly a labor of love on everyone’s part. I gotta give it to Jauretsi, she's good at stirring passion in people. Shit, I'm not really into Cuban culture at all, and I think hip-hop is dead, and she still reeled me into the mix. Ha ha.
When will it hit the bookshelves?!
End of next year, I believe.
Where was the last place you traveled to, and for what?
The last place I went to was...Los Angeles, I think. My girlfriend, Vivien is from there so we go back from time to time just so she doesn’t completely want to destroy New York City. It was a quick trip.
Where are you going next?
[I’m going to] Tokyo on Sunday.
Work or play?
Work/play. It’s fun! I'm going for one our Japanese clients but I will also see some other opportunities for the clothing line. And I'll catch up with some friends.
The holidays are quickly approaching. List five things on your wish list.
Wow that’s tough. Sky's the limit?
Or do I have to answer corny things like "world peace"? Hmm, dude I have no idea! I feel bad for Vivien, I don’t even know what I want, oh wait…I want a BMW. I just DJ’ed a gig in Block Island, Rhode Island, and they rented me a BMW to go there in. What a freakin car! I want one…
The [rental car was a] low-end 325i, and it was still off the hook! I’ll take that one I don’t care.
You know those Technics CD-J things? I want two of those.
Sony makes this new flat screen television that picks up cable signals wirelessly so you can bring it anywhere in the world! In other words, I can watch NY1 live news while I'm in Tokyo. It’s sick.
My friend Hiroshi just came to New York and he had it...we were watching Japanese news in his hotel! Not only that...if you have a Sony DVR...it can play all your movies also! From anywhere in the world! It’s $1500 for the 12" and $1000 for 9". In the US, they don’t advertise the feature, but trust me...it works. They are just afraid you're gonna go to China and show everyone “The Incredibles” on DVD before it even hits theaters there.
A Segway would be cool (I'm reaching now). I’ll do ollies on it. I’m hurting to think of number five.
That's fine, no worries. Is poker your new favorite American pastime?
I think so. I’m quite addicted. [We got on a long tangent about a future trip to Las Vegas together.]
Is there one thing you've been dying to try out but haven't had a chance to do yet?
I’m such a loser...the only thing that comes to my mind is The Players Club uptown. I've been dying to go, but haven't tried yet.
Does that disappoint you or make you work harder to attain these goals? I mean life is what it is...
Work harder! I'm Asian man! Gotta work hard!
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