Phillip Annand: Me, Creativity and the Internet
The name Phillip Annand may not resonate with some, but over the last few years, he’s created a remarkable following. With truly humble beginnings as a frequenter of Hypebeast’s forums, his story is a true representation of organic growth and cautious development. Currently in college, the well-spoken Annand has articulated very clearly his thoughts in both text and writing, through visuals and photoshoots and finally with his first tangible representation, the brand The Award Tour.
For somebody so young, his vision is clear and his understanding and grasp of the powerful tool of the Internet has become a defining point for his success. Interested in his story, we spoke with Annand regarding how his involvement through simple means such as a forum would eventually develop into something much greater and expansive. Included are also his thoughts on blending creativity in a real world scenario and the requisite balancing act required with business. His willingness to lend a helping hand and guide a forthcoming generation of creatives is a further mark of his character and a reflection of his prosperity.
Interview: Eugene Kan
Interview with Phillip Annand
Most people who have been in and around Hypebeast in regards to both its blog and forums have most likely seen or heard of you. How did you get involved in it all?
Some people can talk about how they’ve been wearing Jordans since they were a kid and so on…all of that cool guy stuff. I don’t have any of those stories. I wore Airwalks and Gap shirts. At some point though around 2002 I started writing on Hip-Hop message boards. I got totally invested in graffiti and writing about music and all those kinds of things. A few years later I discovered some sneaker sites. Ended up on Hypebeast, printed up some t-shirts, wrote some words, took some pictures and then things just got completely hectic after that.
But at what point did your participation in a subculture really turn into something more or even as a fully adopted lifestyle?
Tough question. I’d like to think that the culture didn’t change my lifestyle at all. Rather that I made my lifestyle a part of the culture. I don’t know if that’s going to come across as an entirely asshole thing to read, but that’s really how I see it now that I stop and think about it.
If you read the blogs, the websites and the magazines, this whole streetwear/internet thing seems pretty glamorous. And there are surely some great aspects of it. But as I’m sure anyone would attest to, blog posts are not exactly reflective real life. The “culture” is what you make it. I’d say that for the most part I’m still doing exactly what I’d be doing if I had never discovered Hypebeast or limited edition Nike sneakers. Climbing trees, playing basketball, abusing Sharpie markers, and mostly having a damn good time doing it while inviting other people to come along for the journey. The fact that what I’m doing is being adopted, accepted and in some ways celebrated by the “culture” is an awesome added benefit that I’m grateful to have.
From a personal standpoint, were platforms such as the Hypebeast forums integral to your own growth and progression?
Is it acceptable to give shout outs during a formal interview? Big ups to the Hypebeast forums, man. It’s incredible how many times I’ve heard people say “I never even thought to click the forum link on Hypebeast.” Those simple message boards are a ridiculous wealth of information and knowledge. I wouldn’t know half of the things I know about any of this stuff without the forums. True, more than half of that stuff is complete and utter nonsense but learning it was a huge part of the process. Style, music, the fit of clothes, Japanese brands, presentation…I learned invaluable lessons about all of these things and more quickly, and at times, harshly on the forums.
It’s probably worth mentioning that a whole batch of us sort of “came up” through the Hypebeast forums as well. Josh and Trav of Street Etiquette, Tyler from Odd Future and Crook out in NY are all friends who come to mind first, but there’s a whole batch of guys from those days that turned their love of this stuff into emerging careers. It’s awesome to see all around.
A lot of the things you work on hinge a lot on creativity in some form or another. What were your first experiences with the notion of creativity?
I would have to say Kindergarten classes when I was five or six years old and my school projects began to take on lives on their own far beyond what was being asked of me in the classroom. I was making entire worlds out of drawing assignments that were supposed to be something ridiculous like “draw your favorite animal” or something. That sort of thing continued all the way through grade school. I had a teacher in fourth grade who let me skip weeks of assignments because I was developing a full scale, complete board game in the back of the classroom that was some kind of blend between Lord of the Rings and Monopoly using game pieces from every available set in the room.
Under your belt you have two different platforms in The Madbury Club and The Award Tour. What purpose did each respective platform serve?
To be completely honest, I really had no idea what I was doing with The Award Tour when that got started. We had posts and stories about baking special “brownies” and all sorts of ridiculous things at the inception. It was simply documentation of the life we were leading at the time.
However, The Madbury Club was without a doubt a much more focused and concerted effort on my part to craft something that could not only fill what I saw as a void in online content, but open up some entirely new avenues and possibilities. We’re doing everything we possibly can to raise the standards of what can be considered a blog post. Our spreads are essentially blog posts with an overabundance of attention to presentation, detail and writing.
When your creative output gave you the opportunity to make a career and become compensated for your work, did your perception of what was perceived as being creative change?
Once money gets involved there’s no denying the fact that things somehow become “tainted.” When I was running around building go-karts out of scrap wood as a young kid there was no second thought to image or perception. Now any image I post or information I spread through my personal avenues has to almost be “checked” to assure that it fits the audience it will be directed at. Of course the same holds true when you’re doing “creative” consultant type work for other companies as well. I’m not sure it’s necessarily a bad thing, just the reality of the world in which we live.
Maybe the opportunity hasn’t sprung up just yet, but how does maintaining one’s vision change with the influence of business and money?
Only work with people you would work with if there was no money involved. I’ve found that’s the only way I can really keep my integrity fully and also retain the quality of my work. When that enormous check goes floating by however I can’t really say how I’ll react because I haven’t seen a number big enough yet to test my will ha. Look at people like ESPO, Futura, and STASH. They’re all doing the same thing they were doing decades ago but from the looks of things seem to be doing quite decently for themselves at the same time. That’s the dream.
You’ve taken on an admirable role of helping up and comers develop themselves. Are you selective about who, and how much help you offer?
Incredibly selective. Some people are imitating with no original thought, that gets no love. The people who email me and say “I’m starting a clothing line, what should I do?” get no love. That’s just lazy. You have to put some thought into it.
Occasionally though, you find people who are coming along and all they need is some exposure and the little guidance that I can offer in order to set them on their way. In those cases, it’s a pleasure to help in any way possible. It’s on a similar note to the way people such as yourself and others in their own ways reached out and helped me when I was another kid trying to figure out how Bobby Hundreds and Johnny Cupcakes were selling t-shirts like beef patties at a Caribbean Day parade. It’s all a big cycle and as long as someone’s work ethic and drive are in place, my hand is always extended.
I’ve always prided the creative community on a more communal aspect. I’ve seen sharing as something of the utmost importance that is a strong requirement for the growth and development of everything as a system. What are your thoughts on this being an inclusive rather than exclusive community?
It must be inclusive beyond a shadow of a doubt. I can’t explain how many times someone across the nation who in reality is nothing more than an email address and a name has spent hours of their hard earned time helping me on projects. The greatest gift I can offer to someone is my dedicated time, and I’m always appreciative when someone does the same for me.
It’s obvious the online world has been extremely helpful in your development yet on the flipside, in what sense can it be detrimental to developing and promoting yourself?
There is this ridiculous concept that accompanies all things “internet.” It’s called instant gratification. Blogs move at a ridiculous pace and it makes it almost impossible to really sit down, read, enjoy, and allow something to marinate. You get caught in the cycle of always trying to out do yourself and everybody else. Sell more shirts, get more hits than last month, update faster than the next site, post a song before anyone else does.
Where is all of that headed? It’s nonsense. The inundation of information and the need to have it faster makes it very difficult for one to develop naturally. It’s impossible to grow steadily when you have to worry about not being relevant within a month if you’re not up to snuff. It goes back to the developing organically conversation. Tough to develop at all when your life span is a few seconds at the top of a blog. It’s shape up or ship out. A tough game without a doubt but one that we’ve brought upon ourselves.