The Staples of Branding: From Purpose to Product | Jeff Staple | Skillshare

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The Staples of Branding: From Purpose to Product

teacher avatar Jeff Staple, Founder, Staple Design

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Brand Name & Mission Statement


    • 3.

      Logo Design


    • 4.

      Your First Collection


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About This Class

Join streetwear icon Jeff Staple as he shares first-hand experience and advice for building a brand from purpose to product — essential and tactical advice for entrepreneurs, fashion aspirants, and everyone with a dream to build their own creative product company.


A Note From Jeff Staple

I have been fortunate enough to take part in a number of successful endeavors during my career, with the most notable being Staple Design. While Staple is made up of a globally distributed apparel brand, a thriving consulting agency, and a world renowned retail outlet, this all did not happen overnight. It has taken my team and I over 15 years to build this company to where it is today but it would not have made it this far without creating a strong foundation at its inception.  

I am constantly hit up by aspiring entrepreneurs from the fashion space and beyond looking to build a brand of their own but they don’t know where to start.

With this class on Skillshare, I hope to answer these questions by addressing some of the most fundamental aspects of starting a product-based brand, but even moreso I hope to inspire everyone who has ever thought about starting something of their own to actually take action and pursue that dream.

In this class, through exclusive video content and written instruction, we will go over key lessons:

  • Refining your Brand Name and Brand Slogan
  • The Philosophical, Technical, and Legal Considerations to Logo Creation
  • Crafting a Debut Collection (Telling a Story with Your Product)

To learn these lessons, every student is encouraged to complete and share projects of their own with the rest of the community on the Skillshare platform. You will complete a branding project with a name, a slogan, a logo, and first collection CADs to kickoff your fashion brand.

This class is perfect for aspiring entrepreneurs in the fashion industry, both those who want to create a brand and those who already have a company in its early phases, and anyone interested in learning what it takes to build a brand from the ground up, like we have done with Staple Design. Thank you for joining us.

— Jeff Staple



What You'll Learn

Introduction. Launching a fashion brand can be an exciting adventure, but there are plenty of aspects to consider in order to pull it off. Jeff launched Staple Design in 1997 and has amassed years of knowledge that can help make your brand a success. 

Using his own experience, Jeff will show you how to find your core values, identify shortcomings in your brand design, and how to make your story accessible to the public. When should you hire a lawyer? What’s the difference between a sole proprietorship and a corporation? Do you even need a corporation? In humorous and plain language, Jeff will answer these questions and give you tips on how to go about implementing your chosen path.

Brand Name and Mission Statement. When it comes to advertising design, “Your brand is a story you’re selling.” Jeff will help you develop that story based on your own insights and philosophy. Whether your brand is built on a specific moment or designed for the long haul, these lessons apply equally. He’ll tell you how to connect with your intended audience while still keeping a broad appeal without becoming too generic.

Finding a good brand name can be tough, but there are a few exercises Jeff gives you that are designed to help you identify your core audience and speak directly to them. Jeff will also go over how to craft a mission statement that stays relevant and helps guide your business, especially in the beginning.

Using a few examples, he’ll show you how successful brands position themselves based on their unique story and how you can do the same. Why is Nike’s story different from Reebok? What will a good mission statement do for your brand? Knowing these answers will help you craft a brand story that stands out and connects with your customers.

Logo Design. A good logo is your brand name’s flag and it needs to be eye-catching while still conveying the tone of your company’s philosophy. Whether you want something in stark black and white, or popping with complementary colors, Jeff lays out his three considerations when designing a logo and a few tips to keep in mind when you start your own design. Although a few graphic design classes might teach you how to technically create a logo, Jeff shows you how to identify the underlying philosophy of your brand and use it to craft a unique image that resonates with your brand.

Whether you want a “word mark” or an “icon”, these helpful tips will ensure that you create a logo worthy of your story. It’s about creating a logo that people can not only identify, but identify with.

Your First Collection. When launching your first collection, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here, Jeff will give you his insight on how to assemble and launch a compelling fashion collection that will get your brand noticed. From choosing a theme to merchandising, there’s a lot to juggle. You might have a great line that looks terrible in photo shoots or vice versa, and Jeff can give you his thoughts on how to address those challenges while still maintaining your core values.

What are the benefits of an online-only catalogue versus selling in shops? How should you set your prices? What is your distribution? All of these elements will determine how successful your first collection will be, and Jeff is here to help you make it a reality.

Meet Your Teacher

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Jeff Staple

Founder, Staple Design



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1. Introduction: What's up. My name is Jeff Staple. I'm the founder and Creative Director of Staple Design and Read Space. I'm really excited to be part of Skillshare and I'm going to be showing you guys the ins and outs of what it takes to create this type of a business and this type of a brand. First of all, if you're the type of person that always has wanted to start your own thing, you know you have some sort of creative seed in you and you want to get it out into the world. On the other hand, if you already have started a brand and maybe you've already got a website, maybe you've already got a name and a logo too, I think the things that I've learned will help regardless of what kind of collection that you're trying to release to the world. It's going to be all good, everything's going to be on the table in terms of what I've learned over the past 20 years. I'm going to show you how to put this first collection together so you really can launch it well into the world. 2. Brand Name & Mission Statement: A lot of people, I think, they have a seed in their head that they want to start something. They have something that they want to get out into the world, but that doesn't mean you have a brand. A brand is very different than just having a couple of things that you want to put out into the world. Oftentimes, when I teach at a class or do lectures, I really tell people to look in the mirror for a really long time and determine if they're ready to create a brand because a brand is not necessarily just a thing that you're selling to the world, it's a story that you're selling, that's really the difference. You can make Q-tips and just sell Q-tips to the world and you'd have a business and you probably have a really profitable business. But if you want to brand it, then you're really telling a story and your whole DNA, your whole soul, and the whole reason for why you're doing this or creating this needs to be put into that, injected into that name, logo, mission statement. Then it has to be done in a way so that the public can read it as well, and understand it, and comprehend it too. The thing that's great is what that message is is irrelevant. That's up to you, it's unique to yourself, but I want to show you how to portray that message out into the world. I think the first question you have to ask yourself, it's kind of goes along with looking in the mirror, is are you in this for the long term? Are you in this for the short-term? Are you in this for the quick money or are you really trying to put something and contribute something to this world? There's no wrong answer, it's kind of like real estate. Some people buy property to flip and that's it, and some people buy property because they want to raise a family in it. There's nothing wrong with either way. If you want to go, let's say, option A, if you want to start a business and a brand where you just want to make money really quick and be in and out and capitalize on something, then I think your brand name could be very trendy and it could be very of the moment. For example, you could create a brand that's called YOLO wear. In five years, will people be saying YOLO? I don't know, maybe not, probably not. But you can start a brand doing that and you could probably make a quick hit and make a lot of money really fast, but you might not be around in five years. When I started Staple in 1997, it was very important to me that I created a name that would last for my grandchildren, potentially. So, I'm talking not just years, and not just decades, I wanted to create a brand that lasted generations. At the time, when I started Staple in 1997, in fashion the big brands that were out were like FUBU, or Pelle Pelle, or Sean John, or Rocawear, and it was really interesting because I was a fan of hip hop culture, I was a fan of hip hop music. But I wasn't a fan of the way these brands were portraying that culture. I said, well, to me hip hop is really about the essential basics, it's about MCing, it's about DJing, it's about graffiti, it's about Bee-Boyism and that's really it. Anything else superfluous on top of that, whether it's jewelry, spinning rims, hoes, popping bottles, whatever it is, is extra on top and that's not what real hip hop is. So, I wanted to get back to the raw essential elements, that's where the name Staple came from. Staple is a raw essential element that you can't live without. Instead of calling it Staple Clothing, I called it Staple Products. That was the original name of Staple Design and through the years it's changed and altered. It's really funny, because my original name for Staple before was called Fan, F-A-N with two dots on it. The reasoning for this name, I can't even believe I'm saying this publicly, it's kind of embarrassing, but I'm of Asian descent. Again, it goes back to that story about being back to the raw essential elements and my original logo for Staple was a bowl of white rice. Fan is how you say white rice in Chinese but I used the phonetic of it F-A-N and with the two dots over the A, the umlaut I guess, is over the A, so people would say it fan. Then I lived with that for like a few weeks and then I realized the immediate shortcoming of that name. The immediate shortcoming of that name is that you're only speaking to one demographic or people that happened to be into that demographic of Asian culture or whatever. I think any brand name can potentially have that issue where you go over people's heads or you just lose people. You don't want to do that because when you're building a brand, you're talking to an audience and quite honestly, you want that audience to be as wide as possible. Even if the product that you're selling happens to be a niche product, it doesn't matter, you still want the widest possible audience of that niche audience. That's sort of like the first step to success. Luckily, I ditched that name, went to Staple which I thought was really great because again, I always wanted to see not just Staple clothes, but Staple toothbrushes, Staple bed sheets, Staple house paints. I want it all and I felt like Staple encompasses any and all of those products. What happened a little bit later was that we changed the name to Staple Design, and the reason why we did that is because Staple products was maybe a little bit, in hindsight, too generic. Both of those words are very generic words and it was very hard for people to understand immediately what it is that we did. On the one hand, where I wanted people to be like, we're not just a clothing line, we could do whatever, we could do hats, we could make a mix tape. What actually happened was people were constantly saying, "What do you do? What do you do? What do you do? Do you sell office supplies? What is it?" So, we changed the design, so that it narrowed it in a little bit so that people knew at least we were not making tires and rubber cement. At least, we were in the creative sector. More recently, we've used the name Staple Pigeon as our brand name, and that I'll explain a little bit later as we go into the lessons about logos and trademarks. Again, if you want to go long term or short term it doesn't matter either way. But just to give you a heads up, that if you want to go long term and you're in this for life, then you should think of a name that is applicable to that. You've got your name, it's adaptable. Now, there's two things you have to look at, one is copyright. The first thing you got to check, is this name usable around the world? There's two ways to do it. One is a simple Google search and I think that's really important because I see a lot of people starting brands that are very hard to Google. It's a difficult-to-Google name. It could be a basic word but spelled uniquely or spaced differently, maybe it's missing spaces or missing vowels or whatever it is, but it should be unique enough so that when someone Googles it, you're the first thing or the first page at least. Number two is then the business side of things. The way I started Staple was first, I check to see if I can use it in New York City. You go to City Hall in your local city and they have a record of all the businesses that've been registered in that city and you submit your name and they have an attendant that goes and checks all the records and says, "Okay, in this entire state no one's using brand X, no one is using your name." Cool. Now, what you could do is, you take the proof that you've now registered with the state, and now you could go to your local bank and you could open a bank account with your company name as your business name. I know a lot of friends that start brands and they don't do that. What happens is, they sell shirts, they sell dresses, they sell accessories, and people just pay them directly, they pay the creator directly. If they write a check, they write a check to Joe Smith, "Here you go, here's $36 for your shirt". The problem with that is, in my mind, in my opinion, I want my finances to be really separated. I want to know exactly how much Joe Smith is making on his own and I want to know how much Joe Smith's brand X is making. If there's an expense, if you have to buy something, I want to know was that expense for Joe Smith, or was that expense for brand X. I want to know the difference. You go to the mall, and say, ''I wanted to buy the Shirt for myself, but I need to buy these paper clips for the business.'' Then you charge it together, and then you start losing track. So, what I always wanted to do was, start a business account right away. That way, I had literally two ATM cards, two Credit Cards, two checking accounts, and I could pay for each thing properly. You can have a business account without having a corporation. It gets a little bit complicated. But you individually, have a social security number. Joe Smith has a social security number. Businesses also have a Social security number. It's called, The Tax ID Number. Now, in the beginning, you can have what is called a sole proprietorship. A sole proprietorship, means that, you Joe Smith, and your company brand X are, the same. You share the same social security number. You could go to the bank, and you could say, ''I want to open a business checking account, I have a sole proprietorship,'' and they'll issue you cheques that say, ''Your brand on it.'' Probably, it'll say like, ''DBA, Doing Business As Joe Smith.'' There's pluses and minuses of that. The pluses are that, you don't have to go through the expense of opening a business. There's often legal fees associated with that, there's accounting fees, you have to start filing taxes if you're a business. So, there are negatives usually from a financial standpoint. The negative of not doing that, of sticking with a sole proprietorship, is liability. That's really the biggest thing. Liability is someone's suing you, for any reason under the sun. Depending on what your background is, where you come from, how much money you have, whether you own a home, a car, any property, if your parents have assets. If you are sitting on anything that's worth anything, and if someone sues you, they can go after you and all of you personally. It's very important. Okay? So, let me give you a worst-case scenario. You make a scarf. You sell your scarf as a brand name, but you didn't create a corporation. So you're sharing a Tax ID Number which is your social security number. That scarf that you made, was made in a highly flammable fabric, and some Porsche Mock, lit his cigarettes, and an ash caught on it and set his neck on fire. He lived, thankfully. But he's suing your ass now. Okay. So, you say, ''Okay, cool, you should sue the company.'' No, you have the same social security number as your company. So actually, he's suing you, and your parents, and your house, and your car, and your wife and your kids, he gets everything. That's the big negative. If you have a company. If you have a corporation, you are protected by what's called a Corporate Shell. The Corporate Shell protects the owner of the company. You can then as a company owner decide, ''I'm going to fight this, it wasn't my fault, I could fight this, there was an instruction label on there, blah blah, I can win.'' You can fight it if you want. Or, you could be like you know what, I'm going to lose this, let's shut my company down. Bank file for bankruptcy, shut it down, walk away, you still get to keep yourself intact, you can start a new company if you wanted to. You've protected all your family, your members, your personal assets, and you just lose whatever's in the company. So, it's like an Insurance Policy for something like that to happen. There's a couple of different businesses that you could go into. There's S-Corp, there C-Corp, there's LLC, Limited Liability Partnerships. I would suggest you talk to a financial adviser, or a business expert, or a lawyer. I'm going to get to lawyers in a second, and discuss with you the pros and cons of each one. It also depends if you're in this on your own, or if you have partners, that affects it as well. Lawyers can be your best friend, and I really suggest that. I've learned this the hard way, that you should get a lawyer early. Hopefully, he's a family member. Hopefully, he's a buddy, an old college buddy that owes you a favor for like, when you cheat on your test or whatever. But if you can call on a favor, or if you can afford a lawyer, get it early on. He can help you with your business, he can help you with forming your corporation, he can help you with Copyrights and Trademarks. He can help with a lot of different things. If you're signing a contract with a buyer, he can help you look at the contract before you go ahead with it. It might seem like a lot of money up front. Because, I know in New York, a lot of lawyers won't really even work with you, unless you're willing to cough up like five grand up front. So, if you're sitting there doing a 150, $200 in orders. You're like, $5,000 to hire a lawyer, that's ridiculous. But try your best to figure out a way to get that lawyer on your team. I've gone through issues where I've tried to look at a contract myself, as I can read. I Went to college, I could read this. Read and reread it, and then one weird language line just passes you, goes over your head, and you're like, ''Whatever, I don't get it." Sign the contract, and you're fucked for life. Literally you're fucked for life." I always suggest, invest early, and go for it, and form the business. This goes back to the point that I spoke about before, whether you're in this for the long-term, or the short-term. If you're just trying to make a quick buck on a get rich quick idea, and you want to stay in business for a year and then cash out. Maybe, it doesn't make sense to open a whole company. But if you're in this for the long haul, why not do it from the beginning. It's only going to be easier from the beginning, than trying to untangle everything later. My favorite teacher, my art teacher, or someone who had a great influence on me, was pretty much taken away from me instantly. He died in an accident. So, everything that I did from that point from a creative standpoint, was really in his memory, and dedicated to him. So, like all of my computer hard drives are called Mr. Reed. To this day, my laptop is called Mr. Reed. When it came to the time to open the store, it felt like I wanted to open this store in dedication to him. So, I called it, Reed space. Aside from that sentimental story, Reed space, is actually a pretty bad name. It's not a very cool name, in all honesty. I look at stores like, Union, and undefeated, and say, ''Wow, those are cool fucking names,'' like supreme, that's a cool name. But Reed space, has now been around for 11 years. In this decade plus, we're very lucky and blessed that we're regarded as one of the most highly respected boutiques and retailers in the world. Now, because of that, I hear young people walking around the street saying like, ''Yeah, we got to go to Reed, and checkout Reed." It's such a great testament that hey, they don't even know that they're shouting out my high school art teacher. But number two, that they've encapsulated into their head, that this is a cool name. It's not a cool name though, it's a cool place. We do cool things, and we offer great cool services. But because of that, the name has become cool. I actually remember, when I thought of Reeds' space and I asked my crew what they thought about it, and they were also to look warm on it. They knew where it came from, so they didn't want to tell me like, ''Dude, that sucks, it's your high school art teacher, go fuck yourself.'' But they're just like, ''Hey.'' But I just felt like in this particular scenario, I'm going with my gut and my heart on this, and I'm going to see it through. As an entrepreneur, and as someone starting a business, you really have to start to get confident in your decisions that this is right, this is good, yes I heard him, yes I heard her. I'm weighing the pros and the cons, this is my choice. The brand name is important, but it's not going to make or break your company. At the end of the day, your product is going to make or break your company. So, it doesn't matter if you have the best brand name ever, but the shittiest product, your business will fail, guaranteed. On the other hand, if you have a so-so brand name, and your product is amazing, you're offering an incredible value to customers, you're going to win regardless. I'll give you a great example of this, one of my favorite examples. There's a brand in my industry of streetwear called A Bathing Ape, one of the most highly coveted brands of streetwear. If you strip away all of the assets and accolades of A Bathing Ape and if you could go into a time machine and sit at the table where the founder, Nego, was thinking about brand names and he said, "What do you think about the brand name A Bathing Ape?" Ten out of 10 people would say, "That name sucks. Don't do it." Am I right or am I wrong? Right. But his product was amazing. His marketing was amazing and he made A Bathing Ape a great thing. He made it a great name. Now, you got kids all over the streets saying like, "Bape. Got to get that Bape. Got to get that Bathing Ape." It doesn't matter. The name is crazy but he made it work. So, trust yourself, have confidence in yourself that if the name you feel after educated research, educated, opinionated suggestions, you take it all in, you process it, if you feel like this is the one, then go with it, and now, put your product behind it. Don't deliberate on the name for months and months and months. Make a decision and move on. You've got bigger fish to fry. When you're thinking about your mission statement, again, I'm going to take two avenues here. Mission statement number one is you're in this for the get-rich-quick idea. Mission statement's probably not as important. In fact, I know businesses that changed their mission statement with every collection, every single collection that comes out. Every season, every few months, their mission statement changes. It's fine. For me, because I wanted a business that was more long-term, it was important to me that my mission statement was consistent throughout the collections, and in my case, throughout the years. The first mission statement that we ever came up with is 17 years later to this day, the same exact mission statement, and that's a positive social contagion. I wanted to make a statement that said everything we do, whether it's a retail space, a curation, a product, a special limited edition launch, whatever it is, it is a positive social contagion. Positive is people going forward, moving progression, positivity. Social is of man, of people. A contagion is something that spreads. So, what we are and what we do, everything that we do has to fall within that thought process, within that funnel of, does it move groups of people forward and push them forward and does the idea spread? That's what your mission statement does. It tells you what to do going forward. It's the map for which you steer your ship. Apple makes computers because they think different and if you also think different, then Apple's for you. But it is still just a box with Intel chips and microprocessors inside just like Microsoft, just like Gateway, just like Compaq, any other computer line, but they've managed to tap into people's wants and people want to think different especially Apple consumers, that's why they pick that. Nike's not saying, "We make the best shoes." That's not their mission statement. It would be too simple if that were it. They're saying, if you're the type of person that just goes out there and just does it, then we're for you, and that's so much sexier and much more compelling tha saying, "Nike, we make the best shoes." It doesn't mean anything. Reebok can say that, Adidas can say that, Sketchers can say that, everyone didn't say that. But it's really the "Just do it" statement that escalated Nike to not only be on the commodity but also beyond the brand and into a religion, in my opinion. That's what I tried to do with my brand, is create something that goes beyond what a brand is meant to be and a positive social contagion is where we landed after that. If I had to break it down really in a step-by-step way, this is the process that I will do to figure out your brand name. Do a free flow thought dump of every brand name that is in your mind that could possibly work for your brand. It could be 20. It could be 100 names. Just jot them all down. Try to narrow those down to like around 10-12. Go back to what I said about searchability, Google-ability, copyrightability, competitors, long-term vision, short-term vision, use all of these things to figure out why some names should be eliminated, so you're going to go through a process of elimination. Once you've got it down to 10-12 names, I would suggest typing each name onto its own 8.5-by-11 sheet of paper in a nondescript font like Helvetica or Times, make it nice and big on 8.5-by-11 piece of paper and then tape them up on a wall and just live with them. If you have partners, you bring your partners in. If you have investors, you bring them in. If you have a focus group, if you have a core cabinet of four trustworthy friends, have them each come in and just say, "Do me a favor, guys. Rank your names one through 10." Live with those for a couple of days, maybe a week or two. I wouldn't go more than two weeks of living with these names because, again, you've got a business to do. Time is money and you got an opportunity you want to strike, you got to go for it. You can't dawdle on this. Proceed to the next step where you start applying the name to situations where you might be using it. So for example, if you have a clothing line, try to see how that looks on a label or a hang tag. Actually, cut out a piece of paper that's the size of a label, stick it into the neck, and just look at it and be like, "How does that feel? How does that look? How does it look on a hanger?" Put it on a hanger. Put it on a little shelf. Cut out a little strip of paper and stick it on a shelf and see how it looks. Coming up with your slogan is a half and half analytical and spiritual process. The spiritual process is that you have to really get romantic with your company and it's a challenge because you probably don't have a company yet. So, you have to get really idealistic and romantic about what your company is going to be. The analytical part is kind of mapping out all of these things written down. So, what you should do is take your customer profile and actually write down sort of a note. It's called a mind map. You can look this up, what mind mapping is. But you basically take, "My customer is Catherine. Catherine likes this, this, this, this, and this. She's into all of these things. This is who my target customer is." You could even get really OCD with it and say, "I've got a secondary customer and I've got a tertiary customer. So, here's my three-customer basis." The slogan option can happen very similar to the brand name option where I don't think you'd have a mind dump of a slogan. I don't think that's a reality. You might mind dump 100 brand name options but I don't think you're going to come up with 100 slogan options. It's probably too much anyway because it has to make sense with your brand name, too. Print them out, put them down on paper, and then put them under your brand name when you print them out. So you've got your brand name, no logo, just do it in Helvetica or whatever, brand name and then underneath, you've got 20 different options for slogans and just start ripping down the ones that you're not really connecting with. Again, bring in your reliable focus group, your partners, get their opinion as well, and then just do that process of elimination. So, these are different things that you should really consider all of these things when you're coming up with your slogan. 3. Logo Design: Hopefully you have your brand name figured out, you've narrowed it down, you vet that out, you've also got your brand slogan and your motto, and a mission statement to go along with that. So, now you've got this great start, and now you need a logo for it. The logo is your brand names flag. That's how I equate it. If you stick a flag in the ground and you've got this visual flapping in the wind, representing all of the thing that you've just put the flag into, that's what a logo is. So, it's a visual representation. If you've got a brand, if you've got a DNA, the mission statement and the slogan is the verbal representation of what your brand is. The logo is the visual representation of what your brand is. It's very important but it's also in my opinion not the be-all end-all. So, I wouldn't put all this pressure on yourself to come up with the greatest American or international logo ever seen by human eyes. Come up with a logo that makes sense to you, that means something to the brand, to the brand's DNA and to yourself, take your time to craft it well, and then let's go, let's start this company, let's start this business. I've seen a lot of brands that have strange logos, that again they made them work because the product was great. So, the product is king, the product's going to make your logo what it is. I could cite many examples of companies that have logos that you would never think worked, I mentioned Bathing Eight before, who would think that people would wear shirts with guerrilla heads on them, who would think that people will wear shirts with pigeons on them. Vermin, rats with wings, but people love it. It's about the product being king. So, now let's go through and show you some steps on how you can create this logo. I like to break it down into three different parts. One is the philosophical idea of what your logo is, one is the technical aspect of what it is, and how that should work. Then the legalities of your logo and things that you need to think about from a legal standpoint. So, first is the philosophical one that's always the most important one. When I started Staple it actually was just a wordmark, which is the same wordmark we use today. There's a wordmark, and then an icon. Wordmark, is basically your own custom font for lack of a better explanation. It's says your name, it says it in a unique way, that you can own, and so that when people see that font, or that combination of letters they think of your brand. That's the success of a great logo, or a great wordmark. Originally Staple only had a wordmark, and never had an icon. An Icon, is a singular image that typically doesn't have words, it might be made of letters, but it's usually like a mark versus a word. "Nike" is the wordmark "swoosh", is their icon. So, staple only had a wordmark for the first five years of existence. I was early on really inspired by the brands Stussy and Supreme. Those are really early forefathers of street where brands, and Stussy had a wordmark that was like a tag of the original founder Shawn Stussy and that was their logo, and wordmark together. So, it was what they used on shirts in small places. Supreme, is a red box inspired by Barbara Kruger, with the italicized font, and that's what they use, they have no icon, so to speak, and I felt like those were really powerful statements to just have the word be your only icon. As I progressed in terms of my clothing line, I found that it's helpful to have an icon. It's helpful to have, from a production standpoint, another place where you can use your logo where you don't have to spell out the thing all the time. For example; This shirt that I'm wearing. Sure I could've put staple on the pocket right here, but it would have been so small that the word staple, would have been like probably at like three or four points, it would have been really really tiny. So, I'm able to put our icon on it, now which happens to be a pigeon and I'll talk about how we came to that, but now the icon of this type of pigeon can be seen it's very visual. It's at a decent size, and if you do the right thing in terms of marketing your brand and putting out great product, people will see the icon and be like that's a staple shirt without ever seeing staple anywhere on it. For your brand, you can go in either direction from what I've learned in the 17 years that staple has been around right now. I would suggest you try to figure out an icon and a wordmark that works together in this day and age, with the myriad different applications that you're going to be using your logo, everything from the side of a building. You could get a billboard and your logo has to be seen like from city blocks away, or to an Instagram post where it has to be in the corner of a tiny little square at Instagram, you need to have a logo properties that work in all those different applications. It's funny because when we develop the pigeon as our mark, we actually weren't in search of a logo. We weren't trying to figure out a logo. I was quite happy with staples as a wordmark. We started using the pigeon on things because, we wanted to have a symbol that really represent in New York. That was really the reason for the pigeon first. Nike had asked us to do a project where they asked us to recreate one of their most iconic shoes called the Nike pigeon dunk or the Nike dunk, and they said "just put New York flavor on it", that's what they said, "That was the brief". So, we were developing this concept of the pigeon, and we were thinking, "You know what, the pigeon might work really well on this shoe. Not just as a logo, but the whole shoe. So, like we should make the whole shoe looks like a pigeon, and put a pigeon on it." That shoe ended up being really really successful. It ended up being one of the most coveted shoes of all time actually. That really answered the question for us of whether the pigeon was a good idea or not. People who live their lives which pigeons understand the hustle of a pigeon, and the embodiment of what that bird has to go through to survive. I wouldn't say there's an admiration for the pigeon, a pigeon is not the bald eagle so to speak, but there is a respect for a pigeon. It survives in cities where it has no place surviving in. That to us was really what a New York was to. So, when I started to travel around the world and I'd wear my pigeons shirt, I've be in Barcelona, Venice, Tokyo and people would be like "Wow, the pigeons shirt, that's my bird", and I'd be like "No, that's my bird. It's New York" and they were like, "No your Venice. Look at ever look everywhere. There's pigeons everywhere", and I'm like "Sure, there are a lot of pigeons here", It just caught wind, because everyone adapted it as their own. They thought we did a pigeon shirt for their city, and there's a lot of cities that are infested with pigeons. So, you could imagine immediately everyone thought we had created a logo just for them. That I have to admit, was a happy accident. I didn't plan that, but it just so happened to be that way. Not only the people that live in those cities, but then you've got all the people that aspire to live in those cities. So, there's a lot of kids that don't live in Tokyo, they live 30, 40, one hour outside of Tokyo, but they want to be the guy that lives in Tokyo. They live in New Jersey, they want to be the guy that lives in New York. So, there's an aspirational aspect to being down with understanding what the pigeon mean being in on that message. Even to this day, I would still consider our pigeon logo, a niche logo. It's not for everyone, there's a lot of people that still don't understand it. But I think the sentiment is growing, because it more so represents who they are, where they came from, what they had to do. When Ralph Lauren invented the polo horse, he wasn't from high society, Ralph is a Brooklyn kid, but he aspired to that Hampton's polo lifestyle, and there were a lot of people obviously, that also aspired to that lifestyle, whether they've ever been on a polo track or not, or ever even seen a damn horse or not, they just wanted to aspire to that. That's was the secret for the success of polo. I think for staple now, with our pigeon mark, there's a lot of people that can relate to the lifestyle of what it means to live like a pigeon and hustle like a pigeon. Then there's a lot of people that aspire to that hustle, and that drive. I don't take my money and go play polo, like I take my money and I wait in line for sneakers, or I dig for records, or I buy art, it's a little bit of a different mentality. We've been benefiting from that mentality growing from a population standpoint just growing and growing and growing. So, I'm hoping for a bright future for the pigeon logo. Technically speaking, I think you might be a graphic designer and you might have the ability to create your own logo. That's great. Not a lot of people have that skill set. If you want to learn it, there's great classes on Skillshare that teach you how to do logo design. But if you're really just not a graphic designer, you should work with someone, have a friend that can help you execute your vision and make it into a logo. It's definitely a skill set. I don't suggest you scribbling on a piece of paper and then thinking that's your logo because logos need guidelines. The only difference between really a bootleg and your logo is the guideline. If you go to Canal Street and you pick up some bootleg, Louis Vuitton handbag, the reason whyyou know it's bootleg is because the logos are slightly off, the fonts are slightly off, the hang tag is cut wrong. So, a branding guideline is really important and a brand style guideline basically says to yourself and also anyone that you work with, whether it's a third-party vendor or freelancer, whatever it is a guide printing your business cards, it says, "This is the font that I wanna use. These are the colors that I want to use. This is the logo mark. This is exactly how it looks like." You can't stretch it. You can't shrink it. You can tilt it. You can't put a drop shadow on it. You can't fill it with graffiti, unless I approve it. You can't use pink because my corporate color is brown. You got to use this font. These are guidelines. After you've created philosophically what your logo is, from a technical standpoint, you should create a style guide. A style guide is not that difficult to do, but again, if you're not a designer, you should work with someone who can help you design it, or if you're a designer, you've already got a head start, and you should start making a style guide from the very beginning. It'll help you greatly. I didn't make a style guideline in the beginning. I remember in the early days, my hard drive would just have 15 different versions of the staple logo. Each one, two percent off from each other. We'd have three different pigeons flying around and eventually, I just said, "You know what? Let's start from scratch. We know what our logo is. We know what our word mark is. Let's redraw it, clean it up, and make these two the official ones." There's one file. There's one PDF that has it. If my business card printer needs it, if my trade show booth builder needs it, if my embroidery needs it, they all get the same file, they're all working from the same file, and it makes your brand consistency so much stronger. It's an intangible that a lot of people take for granted. But having the public see different versions of your logo is my pet peeve, and I think it's one of the most telltale signs that it's still amateur hour at your company. The third thing that I want to talk about, as it relates to logo design, is ownership. The first question you have to ask yourself is, can I own this logo? Not from a business standpoint but from a consumer standpoint, because there's the 10 percent rule in terms of copyright and trademark. You could always change something 10 percent and then you own it. But do you even want to go there? Do you even want the confusion? Why would you create a brand that has a crocodile that's red with two tails instead of green? You really want people to always be like, "Hey, is that like a low-cost thing?" No, that's my brand. It's not low-costs. Fuck them. It's like you're early on in the game. You don't really want to go through that uphill battle. If you're creative enough, if you're passionate enough, you should be able to find a logo or a mark that really represents yourself. Number one is that, own it with the public. Number two, how are you going to own it with the government? So it's very similar to a trademark search or a business search with your name, and this is where you're going to need a lawyer. It's going to be really helpful to have a good lawyer here. There are certain lawyers that specialize in trademark and copyright. Basically, what they do is, they do all the paperwork and filing for you and they will submit to the right people at the US Patent and Trademark Office. They do a search to see if any other companies are using your logo for that particular category. There is about 45 different categories, I would say, that you can pick from. So, even if someone uses your logo for glassware in kitchen cabinetware, but you're using it for men's clothing, they might allow you to get away with that, as long as that company hasn't bought all the different categories for their logo. If all goes well, you're going to get approved for your logo design, and you're going to get a sheet, a certification from the USPTO that's got your logo on it and it says you're the only company that is authorized to use this logo. It's a great thing when you get that. My suggestion would be to get it first in the country that you're operating in; second, get it in the countries that you plan on doing business in, or that you are already doing business in, or you have a plan to do business in; and third, get it in the country where you're making the stuff in. If you've got those first three covered, those are your priorities. Why? Obviously, you want it where you're from. Two, you want it where you're selling to so that no one else can take your name. If you all of a sudden you got distribution in Paris, France, you're going to want France covered so that someone in France also say, "Hey, this is a great idea. I love this logo. I just realized nobody in France owns this logo. I'm going to own it in France." That's going to be the new owner of the brand in France. So you don't want that to happen. Along the same lines is getting the logo trademark where you make your stuff. So, if you're making your stuff in Vietnam, for example, and you think maybe, you know what, I'm never going to sell my brand in Vietnam, I don't need to get a trademark there, you don't want to admit this, but that factory owner could take the trademark and buy it, and then he's the owner of your brand in that country. So, that's also very dangerous too. So, that's what I would suggest, is to get yourself a good lawyer and own it in those three parts of the world first. After that, depending on how your business goes, how your future projections are, again, whether you're in this for the long run or not, you should then look into investing in trademarking it globally where it's just covered throughout the entire Earth. That way, you don't have to worry about anything. I will give you one warning though. My warning is that when it comes to lawsuits, people can sue you really for any reason they want. That's the bottom line. Even if you've got an ironclad protection on what your brand is, some media can do something somewhere in the world and claim that theirs is different, they're doing something unique, it's different than what you're doing, there will be no interference at all. At that point, it's really up to you whether you want to sue them or whether they want to sue you. So, the trademark doesn't prevent people from suing each other. It just helps you when you go to court in terms of your argument. It says, "Look, we've trademarked this. We've got the trademark. We got it approved. What's going on here?" But unfortunately, you're still going to have to fight that fight and in a courtroom, it costs money to fight that fight. So, you're still going to have to hire a lawyer. You're still going to have to spend time in court. It's not ironclad protection, it's just help. So, definitely, consider that when you're thinking about investing the money into paying for that trademark in a foreign country. 4. Your First Collection: At this point, if you've been following along, you've got now a great brand name, you've got a mission statement, you've got a slogan for that brand, and you've got a great logo for that brand now. So, you've got really the foundation for where you're going to build your collection off of and that's where we're going to talk about now is how to create your first collection. When you're creating your first collection, the first thing that you have to think about is a theme, and that's where I would like to start with at first is a concept or a theme. Now, in the early days of Staple, our slogan was a positive social contagion, and it was important that every collection in the beginning, that I came out with, really followed that to suit. So, our collections early on were really thought provoking, very edgy and conceptual, and they didn't sell very well. They didn't sell very well because I think they went over a lot of people's head. Now, from a business standpoint, that's probably not a great idea, but from a branding standpoint, it was, because the people that got the brand, like people that got the clothing not got it from a consumer stand up, but got it in their heads, were like turned on fans for life. Some of those fans to this day 16, 17 years later are like that for sure, you did that for a season, I still remember that. So, in a sense even though they didn't sell a lot, the people that we sold them to were really lifelong fans. I think in hindsight, if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't have changed, I wouldn't have made shirts that said Staple all over them or something like that because it was really important for me and for any burgeoning brand, startup brands that your message, your DNA, your soul is really put out there and that you're differentiating yourself because if you think about the fashion game, brand game, anything, you have a lot of competitors, enough competitors to fill a football stadium. So, how do you know, short of making something that's so ridiculous that people can't wear, like adding, like a third arm hole or something like that. If you're making clothes, if you're making shirts, or you're making pants, or you're making a bag, how is your bag, how is your shirt going to be different than the 60,000 other shirts that are competing for the same space? The way you're going to differentiate yourself is by really being true to your brand, being true to your DNA, and then exhibiting that in your first few collections. So, let's dive in a little bit about how that will work. Once I've got my theme, let's just say it's military is my theme for the season. From there, I can then do my research and talk about military machinery, artillery, significant wars, different camouflage. I could have all these different aspects that feed into the thought process that's going to happen. This is like the soil that I'm just pounding together and I look on, I research libraries, I go to museums, I travel, I talk to actual people, Google image search, Wiki searches, just fill your mind with everything. Really live and breathe what your theme is. When I design Staple collections in the past, I almost put myself into like the shoes of an actor. An actor is a great actor but with every role he does, he has to really take on the identity of that person that he's playing and with every collection that we do, because we have to do multiple collections a year, sometimes we do 4-8 different collections a year, you have to be able to take a departure off of your previous collection and then put yourself into the shoes of this new thing. So, if military is the season's collection but the next season, its sporting goods, you've got to take the military hat off and now put the sportsmen helmet on and then be like okay, what does an athlete think like? But it's fun. It's actually really the fun part about designing a line is to really take yourself out of who you are and then be able to put on a whole new identity, research this role just like an actor would. You're going to talk to people, research things, look up things, pin stuff to the wall, and just let all of it inspire you. Okay. So, now that you've got this stew brewing in your mind about what is inspiring you about this theme that you've chosen. Now, how do you encapsulate that into a collection? This process is actually called merchandising. That's what merchandising is. You might have heard of it when you're merchandising a line or merchandising a brand. Merchandising is basically, how it looks to the buyer. The buyer could be someone that walks into a store. The buyer could be someone who visits your website and is on your online store, or the buyer could be someone who works for a larger store and is buying your brand for their store. So, for example, if you're selling to a department store, you're not technically selling to every person that walks into that department store. You're technically selling to the buyer of that department store. The buyer is going to choose from your collection, what he or she wants, put it in the store and then it's that buyer's job to then sell to the customers. There is actually another customer which I've learned recently which is the press. An editorial and PR is another customer because oftentimes, what happens is you've got a fashion magazine, or a blog, or a website that wants to feature your brand. Nine out of 10 times, the piece that they pick to shoot for your brand is like the worst selling piece in your line. I don't know why that always happens. The other thing that happens is, a celebrity comes in and says, "Yo, I love your brand I want to get something. I'm going to the Grammys, I need to wear something for your brand." The thing that that guy picks is usually the worst selling thing in your line, and I think it just has a lot to do with edginess, leading edge, bleeding edge people, influencers versus the masses. It makes sense. The thing that Kanye West wears, everyone talks about but not a lot of people can pull off. That's the reality of it. Oftentimes, you design pieces that you know are for press. You design pieces that are going to look good on a magazine, editorial, spread, or a fashion shoot, but might not look good on the kid in the mall and you have to be cognizant of that. You don't want too much of that stuff because you have too much of these press items, you're going to a whole line of things that don't actually sell but just look good in magazines. Conversely, if you have a whole line of stuff that everyone can wear, then you're going to be deemed as not being edgy or not being innovative. So, you got to really have this balance. When I merchandise a line, I reverse engineer, and this is what I mean by reverse engineering. Sometimes what I'll do is, I'll work backwards and write myself a press release. This is a little trick that I do. A press release is basically a one sheet of what you're going to send to media outlets, magazines, even your friends or your stores, and it's a one sheet piece paper that says, here's my brand, here's what I'm about. Here's the season's themes. Here's the highlights of what the theme was about. Here's the prices. Hit me up if you want anything, simple one. Right? This gets sent as an email blast or you fax at the people, email to people, and it's a very common thing. What I do sometimes is I do that first. So, I think about, what do I want to talk about? What are the highlights of my collection? What are the major points? What's the theme? And I fill that out, and then from there, it then informs how you're going to sort of fill out the the collection. It's kind of a cool trick that often works out well, but what you want to do when you're merchandising a line is think about it in terms of buckets. Let's just say, my customer, I really want to get the Australian surfer. Let's just say that I want to get the Australian surfer guy. Now, when I'm going to merchandise online, I'm probably not going to want to do heavy bubble goose down jackets because if my customers, the Australian surfer, he's not really going to need or want to buy a bubble jacket. Now, the other thing to do when you merchandise your line, is you kind of want to showcase your prowess, right? You want to showcase that you're a talented designer and you can do many different things. So, oftentimes you see lines start out it's just T-shirt brands and Staples started out as a T-shirt brand. When we started out, it was a T-shirt line and it started out as four T-shirt. That was our first line. In this day and age, I think that's a little bit too little, back when we started in the early 90's doing the T-shirt brand with four shirts to start with, was acceptable. I just think that nowadays with the Internet, with the way things are being seen. With the way things are expected to blow up now there is a bit more pressure for a brand to come out and sort of come out with a substantial offering. When I mean substantial offering I mean maybe you have five Ts, an accessory, one cut and sow piece and great marketing. So, a lot of times brands nowadays have to have an incredible viral video or an Instagram campaign or a Twitter campaign or a Facebook campaign or they need to have some up and coming musician or artist working with them on the line or a collaboration with another artist. These are things that in reality are really quite advanced. But now in this day and age of branding, they're almost expected right out of the game. I'm actually pretty glad that I didn't start staple in this era because it would have been really hard. I started staple when Streetwear wasn't even Streetwear yet. There was no word called Streetwear, street culture yet. It was so infantile that it wasn't even defined yet. So, we had the flexibility to do whatever we wanted. Going back into the who your customer is and the merchandising. This goes hand in hand with that. But now you want to talk about pricing and distribution. There's various ways now of which you could do it. Some brands are only sold on their own online store and that's it. They're not sold anywhere else and they make a great turn on that, they make great profits from that. Other brands want to be in their online store and also in the best 25 boutiques in the world and that's another approach. Other brands want to go out there and be in every mall in America. That's another approach. But depending on which way you go will depend on how you go about pricing your brands. Let me give you a quick example of that. If you're only going to sell on your online store, there is a really huge plus to that and the huge plus to that is that your pricing, your profits are going from the amount of money it cost to make your thing, whether it's a shirt or a bag or whatever. Whatever it cost to make your thing all the way to the retail price. If a shirt cost $30 retail and it costs $5 to make, you're making $25 profit on every shirt that you sell. That's awesome. That's an incredible thing. Once you bring in another retailer it's a middleman, they have to make money too. So, now you're selling the shirt to them for 15. They're going to retail the shirt for 30. Okay, so, now you're making $10 on that shirt because it cost you $5 to make. You're making $10 on that shirt. The store's making $15 on that shirt and it's still going to cost the customer $30. Now you're thinking "Well I just made a lot less money. Why would I want to work with a store?" Well because the store probably has a following of their own. They probably have bigger distribution, bigger audience so they could probably order more. A store might order a hundred of those shirts whereas via the online route, you're selling to each guy individually. So, it's a lot more arduous process. When you go into larger and larger distribution, right? So, if you're trying to get into every mall in America for example. Same problem happens. Your margin is probably even getting lower because now these stores are asking you for maybe thousands of shirts. But they're going to want a discount off of that. So they might say, "Hey, you know what? I don't want to buy your shirt for $15. I want to buy for $10." Now you're only making $5 a shirt, but you're making a thousand of them. So, you're actually making $5,000. If you want to try to make $5,000 on selling each individual guy. You do the math and you figure out how much work that's going to be dealing with one guy that's going to give you $5,000 or dealing with hundreds of individual people that will hopefully give you money. There's pros and cons to both of them. The other intangible of that is brand protection. Oftentimes the organic way to do it is to sell on your own directly or to a select number of boutiques. Why? Because you get to protect your brand more. When you sell to each individual person, you get to tell the story, you get to show how it's displayed, you get to make sure that the quality is good. You're probably literally packing every single order and shipping it out. So, if you notice a little nick on a shirt, you're not going to sell that one and your quality is maintained. It comes down to that simple fact. When you start dealing with boutiques, boutiques generally display brands in a really well-established way. They tell the story, their staff cares. As every kid knows, you go to a mall and all of a sudden the shopping experience really falls off, you see clothes on the floor, you see sales staff not giving a crap about what brands are selling. So, there's a trade-off for sure in terms of profits versus representation of the brand. I would suggest that you try to do it as organic as possible. Let your brand develop. Again, I sort of take a long term approach to things. If you've got a short term thing that you want to do. I was spending time in a mall last week and I saw shirts that just said "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" on a shirt. That it's not a shirt that's going to sell 10 years from now. But the guy who made that shirt knows that he can make a lot of money this month on that shirt thanks to Kendrick Lamar and he's probably not paying Kendrick Lamar any money for that. So, he wants to get in and out as soon as possible. So, he obviously has a different vision. He wants to get it into every mall in America, ASAP, cash out get out and be onto the next thing. That's not how I do business. I want to do things in the long term. So, I would always suggest a way that protects your brand to do it that way. So, let's recap on a little bit about how you're going to start your first collection and what are the things that I want to see. First thing, you're going to come with your theme and concept for your first collection. I want to see that. After you've figured out what your theme and concept is for this first collection, you're then going to come with your merchandising line. So, I want to see how many pieces you're going to be doing, why you're going to be doing these pieces as it relates to who you're selling to. How many styles are in your first collection. Whether they're short sleeves, long sleeve, jackets whatever it is. Some concept of color. How many colorways does it come in, how many different variations does it come in. If you're doing a design, does it come in a long sleeve, a short sleeve, a three quarter sleeve? Does it come in red, blue, white, black or just white? Really justify why everything is happening. I want to see the decision making process. So, if your entire collection is all white T's. I want to know why it's all white T's and how it relates to the seasonal concept. I want to see pricing. So, target pricing as it relates to who your final customer is. So, as I mentioned before, I want it to be $12 because I want it to be in Walmart. That could be an answer. I want it to be a $100 because I wanted to be in Barneys and Collette and the finest retailers in the world. That could be another answer. But I want you to give some thought as to how much your line is going to cost, how much each style is going to cost and who your prospective customer is going to be. I want to see all of that and when you put all of those things together, that's going to be your first collection.