Longevity in streetwear is no more common than morality in rap, however, Crooks and Castles is a staple within its pool of ambitious peers by boasting an L.A. flagship store, a full line and multiple seasons of growth. Dennis Calvero, Crooks and Castles owner, can say his brand is a personal choice for Jay-Z and Kanye West – Calvero wants English action film superstar, Jason Statham, to wear Crooks and Castles, as Stratham is “edgier” – but he’s more interested in retailers that “can pay bills,” says Calvero.
Calvero believes Crooks and Castles’ flagship store is a marketing tool extension and way for business growth. Crooks and Castles’ L.A. flagship store finds itself on prime realty, “We are going to be on the same block as Fred Segal, a Bathing Ape, Marc Jacobs and Paul Smith,” says Calvero.
“It’s almost like the blogs are the apparel news for the streetwear enthusiasts, sneakers fiends and the cool kids.”
Format: In a previous interview, you say your philosophy is simply, “behind every castle there’s a crook.” In your opinion, who, currently, is the largest crook with the largest castle?
Calvero: Bill Gates. He built his own empire after ripping off Apple.
Format: Recently, communist China has attracted a lot of negative press for its exports: poisonous pet food, tainted seafood and lead paint on children’s toys. If relations between America and China were to halt, how would your industry, the street fashion industry, recover from its severed connection to cost-effective manufacturing?
Calvero: When we had another brand prior to Crooks, we were making everything in L.A., so we have resources here in California. The Crooks and Castles tees – one of our best selling items – are already made domestically.
Format: Several fashion designers are designing into summer 2009, now. How does Crooks & Castles project what will be fashionable several season in advance?
Calvero: We’re not quite on an action sports calendar where everything needs to be that far ahead, even though the design changes each season. Also, we stay true to our signature imagery and logos. From a brand standpoint, people identify us as a brand. We do shop and travel all over Asia and Europe, taking notice of what’s currently trending and try to forecast what is going to stick or what is going to last, then put our own twist on things.
Format: Brand collaborations are go-crazy and that is fine, however, the practice is becoming commonplace. What characteristics does Crooks & Castles look for in the people or brands that it collaborates with?
Calvero: The streetwear community is a tight knit of people. Everyone seems to know one another. It’s more like picking people and brands that are cool and have the same values. Sometimes, we think it will be a good marketing move. One another hand, if there is a product that a company specializes in, for instance, Mitchell N Ness specialize in sportswear memorabilia, which is why we collaborated with them on our Letterman jacket. Or if there is an item that we don’t carry, but want to make then we will push to work on that, such as sunglasses with a sunglass company.
Format: Celebrities play a large role in brand recognition. If Crooks & Castles could choose any celebrity to floss its gear, what celebrity would Crooks & Castles choose and why?
Calvero: The right people have been supporting us without us having to target them. Jay-Z and Kanye West have had a major impact to our brand by rocking it. On a more crossover appeal, we would like English actor, Jason Statham. This would help create a mold for an edgier appeal.
Format: Crooks & Castles is worn by rappers and other rap-centric celebrities. Does Crooks & Castles get their product to these celebrities to wear or is that 100 per cent a stylist’s doing?
Calvero: It’s about 50 per cent. Many times a stylist will hit us up, but if we like the artist then we will flow them gear.
Format: Recently, Crooks & Castles teamed up with Internet retailer, Karmaloop, and, basically, took over front page presence of Karmaloop. How did the Crooks & Castles and Karmaloop partnership materialize and why is it mutually beneficial?
Calvero: We wanted to test this and see how other online retailers reacted to some of our collection and having a wider online distribution.
Format: What qualities does Crooks & Castles look for in its storefront retailers?
Calvero: We look for stores that can pay bills.
Format: The Internet blog makes awareness of street fashion skyrocket, compared to the time when word of mouth or physically seeing the product, spread awareness. What are the pros and cons in street fashion being cataloged by third party blogs?
Calvero: The blogs are responsible for the popularity and the mainstream of streetwear and its culture. Since streetwear is the category that offers exclusive and limited product, the blogs and brands kind of work hand and hand. It’s almost like the blogs are the apparel news for the streetwear enthusiasts, sneakers fiends and the cool kids. It also saves paper!
Format: Does Crooks & Castles consider itself streetwear?
Calvero: Yeah, we do. We originally started out as a small streetwear brand and now what we’re trying to do is solidify Crooks as a brand. Regardless of the category, we just want to be a lifestyle brand.
Format: Bootlegging and counterfeiting are an increasing problem for street fashion companies. How does Crooks & Castles protect itself from bootlegging and counterfeiting?
Calvero: Bootlegging and counterfeiting are an increasing problem for street fashion companies, we agree. We take certain precautions and have a lawyer. However, if brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci can’t control them, how can we? It’s like Crooks stopping crooks.
Format: With the boom of street fashion companies herding to trade shows like MAGIC, is there opportunity to build relationships with retailers?
Calvero: Yes, that’s exactly what MAGIC is for.
Format: In December Crooks & Castles is opening a store in L.A.. How did the need for a Crooks & Castles’ storefront presence materialize?
Calvero: With the demand for the brand increasing more and more over the fast few seasons, we felt the timing was right to open a retail space. Harajuku, in Tokyo, have numerous brands that have their own flagship store. Having a flagship store is an extension of a marketing tool, which is also a way of growing our business. We are going to be on the same block as Fred Segal, a Bathing Ape, Marc Jacobs and Paul Smith. With our central location, we’ll also be able to expand our customer base to a more sophisticated and older clientele.
Format: Crooks & Castles is based in Los Angeles, a city that defines people, companies and industries. How is Los Angeles part of Crooks & Castles, as product and company?
Calvero: Our whole lifestyle that developed from growing up in L.A. embodies what Crooks is all about. But when I decided to re-launch the brand, I was living on the east coast. What I was exposed to at that time was more New York based.
More Info: http://www.crooksncastles.com/