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Friday, 02 September 2011 00:00

The Hundreds

Written by Kristie Bertucci
A simple Google search of The Hundreds will instantly tell you of the streetwear clothing brand's success. Simply put, they're HUGE! Ben and Bobby Hundreds have not only created a brand, but a culture that defies the trends and thrives on uniqueness.

What began as a summer project for two friends while in law school eight years ago has become one of the largest and most notable names in streetwear…and yes, they still consider themselves to be streetwear-oriented. Inspired by all things California-based mixed in with their City of Angels lifestyles, The Hundreds' "made for all mentality" connects with fans on a personal level, providing legions of faithful global followers.

Their iconic bomb logo has become synonymous with exclusive and limited collaborations that sell out within minutes, four flagship stores, a highly trafficked webzine that's read religiously and some of the coolest gear on the streets today. Not to mention one badass DeLorean DMC-12 in mint condition that Bobby Hundreds actually uses as a daily driver. We got the scoop on everything The Hundreds—including some rad info on the DeLorean straight from the horse's mouth!

How did you guys come up with the brand's name and its iconic bomb logo?
Bobby: The name is really abstract. The initial connotation was that that if anything happens by The Hundreds it obviously has a great deal of force or energy. It's a strength in numbers kind of concept. And the bomb logo is representative of our brand, and how we've structured everything in a way where we truly never explode. We never blow out, go way mainstream, and just always keep right under the surface. We're, like, right about to get there, but we never actually do…

"The bomb logo is representative of our brand, and how we've structured everything in a way where we truly never explode." –BobbyHow has it grown since its inception?
Ben: I think it's grown at the right pace. Every year we get just a little bit bigger and work on bigger projects with bigger artists, so it's really been a natural growth. Some people think we've just exploded over the past year, or past couple of years, but I feel like people have been saying that to us forever. That just goes to show the kind of growth we have when we attract new fans each year.

Did you guys ever think it would become this big?
Bobby: Yes and no. We never took it too seriously in the beginning. We were just doing what we wanted, what we were passionate about and having fun with it. Obviously, at the same time, we wanted it to grow and be huge. From day one we said The Hundreds is huge. So we were always aiming for something, but taking it day by day. We're still on the same roll…

What are your respective roles in the company?
Bobby: Ben pretty much handles all the business stuff and I do all the creative. But, obviously, our roles intertwine. So we work together on everything. I always say, "Ben writes the checks, and I write the blogs."

Where do you guys get inspiration for all of your designs and products?
Bobby: Everything is inspired by our daily lives and what we're into at the moment; but we also pull from past inspirations. It's a little bit of everything, which is what I think helps us have such a momentous brand because everything is personally invested with substance and has story behind it. We also have an amazing in-house design team.

How do you keep reinventing The Hundreds' style, while still keeping it true to its roots?
Bobby: Obviously certain things have changed: I've become a better designer, we've had different designers, how we sell has changed, etc. But for the most part, we still have the same spirit, which is what's really important to us. Everything we do is consistent, and we don't follow any of the hype that's happening at the moment around us or in the industry. We just stick to what we have founded the brand around, which is California culture and Los Angles lifestyle. It's not region specific, but more of a story of the diverse subcultures we all grew up around. So we are a little bit of hip-hop, a little bit of punk, a bit of metal and skateboarding…and all that is funneled into one brand, which is The Hundreds.

Many prior streetwear brands are now calling themselves "lifestyle brands?" What is The Hundreds?
Ben: From the beginning we've always said we were a lifestyle brand, but we're a streetwear company and have been since day one. A lot of people think it's not cool to be streetwear or have outgrown it. They now shun it and don't want to be associated with it. We are a streetwear brand; that's what we've been, we are and what we'll always be.

So how do you guys now define streetwear?
Bobby:
You have to look back at the first brand that did it to really define it and that was Shawn Stussy, in my opinion. Stussy was the first, genuine streetwear brand because he built something that combined all sorts of lifestyle elements and its subcultures—skateboarding, hip-hop, just everything. He also entwined it with a luxury aspect and followed what a haute couture brand like Gucci and Chanel would do, but brought it down to a street-based level. That's what streetwear is. It's a bit of everything for everyone, but at the same time it's limited, feels exclusive, really special and maintains that specialty factor.

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So what makes The Hundreds different?
Ben:
One, I think, is that our customers feel a closer connection to Bobby and I, as well as our crew, than other brands because of our website—another thing that really sets us far apart from other brands. Not too many of our competitors have a blog that's updated everyday or a site that's updated as often as ours. It tells the story of the brand, what the brand is doing, our inspirations…that's the biggest difference.

Another difference is that we stick to our roots, while a lot of other streetwear brands change with the times. Our brand has stuck to what we are about from day one, and I think our fans appreciate that.

So who are your fans?
Bobby:
Been asked that question since we first started, and we've always said it's for everybody. And we really mean it. I think it's another one of our strengths. You can walk into any one of our shops and see people of all backgrounds. Look at Ben and I; he's Persian and I'm Korean. We look like the United Colors of Benetton here at The Hundreds.

How do you plan on expanding the brand and its image?
Ben:
We're starting to expand a bit more into footwear. It was a rough road up until now, but I think we've finally got things down. We learned a lot about footwear the first two years and the future looks to provide a lot of good growth with that segment. Eyewear is another thing we are expanding in. Everything is actually growing for us right now—all our apparel, our stores and even our online store. We plan to make a bigger impact over the next few years.

"We stick to our roots, while a lot of other streetwear brands change with the times. Our brand has stuck to what we are about from day one, and I think our fans appreciate that." –BenThe Hundreds have had some cool collaborations. What's the story behind how you choose which ones to do?
Bobby:
Collaborations are based on what makes sense with the brand. It needs to have some kind of personal sense with us as people and be something we are emotionally tied to. They have nothing to do with what's cool at the moment. The Garfield one is a perfect example. It was my favorite cartoon growing up, and I learned how to draw from it. A lot of the comic's elements have influenced the brand. So we did something special around it.

Any new ones coming out soon?
Bobby:
There's one coming out soon with an iconic surf brand called Katin. We worked on some vintage-inspired boardshorts and stuff. One thing people forget about us is that when we say California culture, we mean it; we are inspired by surf life, too. Growing up, it was all about '80s surf apparel and this is our way of paying homage to that.

Ben: There's also one with Ron English coming out by the end of the year, which will be big. We're in the process of working on stuff with NERF for next year—clothes and toys.

You also have Public Label. What's the tie in with The Hundreds?
Bobby:
The Public Label is more of a specialized higher end brand that's more mature. It's really focused toward guys like us, who grew up in streetwear but are looking for a bit of a more mature look because they are now in their 30s and have professional jobs. It's also more thought out and gives us a chance to be more fashion forward and experimental with the designs.

Ben: It's available in all our retail shops and online, as well as five or six retail partners we've chosen around the world and in the States. Beyond that, not sure how much the label will grow. It's something we are purposely keeping really small and limited. If you want it, you have to go get it because as soon as it's gone that will be the end of it.

You recently opened up another L.A. store in addition to the one in Hollywood, SF and NY. Why another L.A.-based one?
Bobby:
L.A. is our backyard and, to be honest, there's a demand for it. We want to be strong and especially strongest in our backyard, which is why we wanted to hold it down for the city. We're looking to someday expand globally, too. There's been interest everywhere—Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris. But right now, we're just focusing on our four stores, making sure all the nuts and bolts are tightened before anything else happens internationally.

What's the fascination with DeLoreans?
Bobby:
I've just always been obsessed with the car. Clearly, it started with Back to the Future, when I was a kid. When I was little, I always said when I'm old enough and have the resources to do so, I'm going to buy a DeLorean; it was the only thing I wanted when I was a kid. But beyond that I just fell in love with the mythology of the car. There's a really amazing story behind it. From John DeLorean's life and the mystique around the car with its limited production and celebrity nature. There's really no car like it out there.

So, how did The Hundreds DeLorean come about?
Bobby:
Before my 30th birthday, we worked on a project with DeLorean. Actually years before that, I had reached out to them and spoke to the owner and told him about my idea to do a project with them. He wasn't really familiar or keen enough to understand what I wanted to do, and at the time, we were really small. I was like, " I just want to make some T-shirts!" but he didn't get it. Then three years later, all of a sudden, I get a phone call from them asking if I still want to do this. I was like, "Hell yeah! Let's do this!"

So we just started working with them on the project. It's amazing because it's owned by this family in Houston, TX, where the factory looks like a barnyard from the outside and is in the outskirts of town. After we closed the project, I asked them to be on the look out for a DeLorean for me and they were able to get me one.

How does it drive?
Bobby:
It's super heavy and a gas-guzzler. It's funny because it's far from being a perfect car. When the company first launched in the '80s, it got made fun of a lot, had really bad motors and lots of technical difficulties. But design wise, it was amazing. John DeLorean was a designer, and pretty much created (in my eyes), the most beautifully designed car of all time.

You think it'll make a comeback?
Bobby:
It was recently used in The Beastie Boys' "Fight For Your Right (Revisited)" video/film. The manager is a friend and called me up asking how he could get one and suggested he use mine since it's known as the best DeLorean DMC-12 in the world. A lot of my friends want one and will probably get their own in the next few years after seeing how cool mine is. But, I think there will be a serious comeback because there are those, like me, who wanted one as kids and can now afford to buy one as adults.

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