A Conversation with Bobby Hundreds
Bobby Hundreds is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Los Angeles-based lifestyle brand The Hundreds. Bobby grew up in Southern California’s skate, snow and punk scenes, and attributes much of The Hundreds’ story and success to his background in these subcultures. His initial launch into the action sports world was a stint at Transworld Media, where he was part of the original team that put together the now-defunct Stance Magazine. The Hundreds is stocked through countless retailers internationally, including its four flagship locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Santa Monica.
The Hundreds growth… is both organic and deliberate. We follow the heart of the brand, we listen very closely to it’s needs and sensibilities, as if it were a child’s future. To some, we’re too conservative and perhaps overly protective, but the idea is long-term growth instead of overnight blowout. You want your daughter to go to college and build a career, right? You don’t want to throw some clear heels on her and twirl her on the pole.
But our growth is all very strategic and driven by a logical trajectory. That, and the unbending adoration of teenage boys around the world.
California culture is like none other because… it’s every culture. The diversity across ethnic demographics, socioeconomics, sexuality, politics and religion all funnel into a spectrum of captivating subcultures. This is the birthplace of skateboarding, streetwear and we have our own interpretation of hip-hop and punk. It’s hard to grow up here and not be open-minded and exposed to cultural inspiration. Plus, California girls… dude… must be something in the avocados.
The business side of The Hundreds… is far undervalued and under-appreciated. That’s primarily Ben’s territory, and it’s arguably the hulking vehicle of our success. The media and public are drawn to the brand for the creative facet, but what allows that to exist is a smart business mind and diligent work ethic. Of course, it’s much “cooler” in kids’ eyes to talk about a crazy snap-back cap with a purple propeller on it over a calculated approach to distribution, so it’s often ignored. But if you want to succeed in this game, it takes more than just rad art, branding and a logo that gets you hassled at airport security. It’s so easy to make noise, but try writing a symphony.
Over the past few years, retail has become… a focus of The Hundreds. Yes, our own flagship stores are important because they are a pure, unfiltered presentation of the brand. It’s like being able to go watch your favorite band play at a concert versus listening to a DJ play it in a club or on the radio or in a YouTube remix with a Rebecca Black hook. It’s the experience and a true representation of The Hundreds lifestyle. It all goes back to reinforcing our brand.
Running an increasing large operation while trying to be a family man… is a formidable task. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m working towards it. I try to make a clear distinction between work and life, but that’s complicated when they feed off each other. The Hundreds is structured as a personally-themed project. We are the world’s first social merchandising company, meaning that the people are the brand, not the product. Simply put, it’s not business, it’s personal.
Owning a camera… is so stereotypical of me, but I swear it’s not just because I’m Asian. I took an interest in photography when I was 14. My dad had an old film camera lying around and my friend Zach (Cordner) was already an avid photographer at the time. Zach encouraged me to bring it out and taught me how to shoot our friends when we’d go out skating or snowboarding, to live local punk shows, or whatever trouble we got into as kids. I still don’t really consider myself a photographer but I’ve had my camera with me almost every day for the past 2 decades of my life. I’ve never taken a class, I know I’ve completely bastardized all rules of lighting and composition, but that’s okay – at this point it’s my own unique retarded style. It’s also nice to have documented all these incredible moments in my life, both personal milestones and cultural happenings. Who else has photos of themselves getting pepper sprayed by cops in riot gear after a Descendents show?
It’s very cool to see so many young people obsessed with photography nowadays, whether its because of Tumblr or the accessibility of digital SLRs and Photoshop. It was really uncommon to be a photographer when I was growing up, I knew the 10 or 11 kids in my town who were into it and we all pushed each other. It was an expensive habit, the cost of film and developing, and the learning curve was painstaking but I’ve always said that one of the most rewarding hobbies you can take on is photography because it heightens your perspective of your environment and everyday life. Another rewarding hobby is BEING AWESOME. I’ve been doing it since I was 8.
Reaching out to our clientele… is the crux of our brand. The Hundreds was imagined as a response to the closed-off nature of traditional Japanese-inspired streetwear brands. We wanted to break that exclusive mentality wide-open and share this fascinating culture with anyone willing to participate. As I mentioned before, The Hundreds is the world’s first social merchandising company, in that the customer is ultimately buying a substantive story, a perspective, a relationship with the people behind the brand. It really doesn’t matter what we make because the product is just a conduit for this relationship. Ben and I have never considered ourselves above our customer because at the end of the day we are still fans just like anyone else. Maybe that doesn’t make us the coolest company out there, because we’ve positioned ourselves as regular, accessible figures, not some cool guys. But it’s the most fulfilling and rewarding position to be in. You die with 10,000 cool points, I die with 10,000 friends.
The Hundreds Santa Monica… is our proudest feat to date and a culmination of our brand to this point. I guess it’s the kickoff of the next chapter for The Hundreds, a rebirth – that’s the explanation for all the post-apocalyptic themes in the lead-up videos. We’ve been looking to open a second location in Los Angeles for a couple years. L.A.’s a funny retail platform, especially for a brand and business like ours, but we knew we wanted to plant on the West side of the city. This space presented itself and voila. You can see the ocean from the storefront and Kim Basinger stopped by the shop yesterday. How can you beat that?
Photography: Natalia Brutalia