American skate and denim brand Kr3w have been synonymous with my fashion upbringing for the most part of the last decade. From learning about them via Route One catalogues, to realising that Kr3w jeans were the greatest jeans to ride BMX in (skinny, but with spandex, so great for movement) I never really looked back. That is of course, until Terry Kennedy came along.
It wasn’t Terry’s fault of course, but around the time that Rogue Status and Crooks and Castles and other LA brands had once again infiltrated skateboarding, Kr3w adopted some of their aesthetic, releasing all over branded t-shirts, loud colours, and a host of things that were decidedly not ‘Kr3w’. Or at least not how I imagined them. Then there was the ill-fated shoe line, something you would have thought they could have pulled off, considering their sister company is Supra.
Anyone who has checked out the brand recently, and liked them at any point for the same reasons myself and my skateboarding peers did, will be delighted to find that they have returned to their former glory. This is mainly down to a certain mr Jack Toledo, a seasoned designer in the industry and one who ‘gets’ where Kr3w should sit who is now taking the helm as the brands design director.
Jack was in London recently and we got a chance to sit down with him to talk about the changes he’s made at the brand, including the launch of their premium No. 11 line and what sets Kr3w apart from the rest.
Hi Jack, firstly can you tell me a little more about how you came to be involved in KR3W?
I’ve been a Men’s designer in the action sports industry now for about 10 years, and I’ve worked for numerous brands in that time. There comes a point in your career where you feel you have to be selfish and truly like the brand you are working for. So, I came on board with KR3W in 2011 as a senior level apparel designer and worked my way up to my new role. I’ve always been a fan of the brand so, when I landed the gig, I knew I was home for the foreseeable future.
What’s your role there now?
I was recently promoted to Apparel Design Director and couldn’t be more excited! In my new role, I set the general direction on a seasonal basis as far as theme, color, and pattern. We are a pretty small team of dudes here so everyone has input in all that goes down, whether it’s marketing, sales or product. We kind of run the brand in a democratic manner, which is great. Along with overseeing everything, I also have the unique task of still designing all of the cut-and-sew product. Most times within bigger brands you have the Director setting the tone and then communicating that to his or her design team. Since we are a smaller brand, I cherish the fact that I can still physically work on the product; it’s by far the best part of the job.
So, when you started, the brand was almost split in two right? It was the Stevie Williams and Terry Kennedy era with bright all over prints and colours, why did you opt to move away from that?
Hahaha! It’s a damn shame you remember that, my friend. I don’t want to get too much into this because it’s in the past but, ya, we had a sort of identity crisis for a quick second a couple of years ago! When I started, the intention was to continue on the more aspirational and dark aesthetic path the brand was already on. But for a while, we were leaning a bit more on the street/urban side of things in terms of direction. Ultimately, that direction didn’t seem right for us and it took a lot of work to change to get it back to a place that we are all proud of, and the product we are putting out. (Nothing against TK, he’s an amazing talent and we wish him nothing but the best!)
I can confidently say we are now back where we belong, we’ve set a sustainable and timeless direction for KR3W, and retailers and consumers are responding positively.
Tell us about the direction for FA14 and where do you think that positions KR3W?
From Fall 14 onward, you’ll see a more mature looking collection. We are an authentic core skate brand but we feel like we can expand our reach, and cross into skate-lifestyle segments credibly, with product that’s a bit more mature and premium. I think it’s important that we are continually innovating and evolving the collections from season to season, whilst remaining true to our core aesthetic and values. The days of regurgitating last year’s best sellers are gone, you either make cool shit that is unique and fresh or you get left behind. I think this approach will see KR3W remain relevant and consistent from season to season and, importantly, we’ll maintain integrity in everything we do.
Where does KR3W fit within other street and skate brands that produce denim, and what are customers getting from the denim that sets you guys apart?
We are definitely one of the few brands in our arena that can seamlessly cross over from core skate driven apparel, to aspirational skate-lifestyle apparel, and back. In terms of denim and pants, you can always rely on us for the best fits, quality and novelty washes, and minimal branding. We aren’t junking up our product with weird style lines, weird back pocket stitching, or cheap labels. We’re also staying on the cusp on technological functionality with our Rehab stretch program, which utilizes fabric from Cone Mills, and allows for permanent recovery in your denim. We will continue to push the envelope, and keep our fans (and our competition!) on their toes. Come and get it!
Correct me if I’m wrong but you guys were the first to offer built-in shoelace belts?
I don’t know if I would crown us with that one but we were definitely ‘one’ of the first. We were utilizing that feature on all of our signature team rider washes and suddenly it exploded among skate brands in the denim category.
I think our first claim to fame is that KR3W was the first skate brand to use spandex in our jeans to develop the skinny style. It came from Reynolds wanting some stretch in his denim because he was running something a bit more fitted back then. It was the early 2000’s, so the skinny jean was unheard of then; at the time, everyone was using rigid (non-stretch) goods – that quickly changed, didn’t it?!
Our first skinny jeans were actually modeled on a pair of woman’s jeans…and the rest is history.
So part of your new role has been setting up the No.11 collection, I saw a bit when I met you and it’s looking good. Why make that collection and what customer does it serve?
The No.11 collection is a great opportunity for me, as a designer, to truly showcase our capabilities as a brand with aspirational product.
The capsule is named after the 11th letter in the alphabet – K – and it’s our premium offering that debuts this Fall. It has more premium fabrications, elevated detailing, and minimal branding but it’s still really affordable. While our riders wear it, I think it also speaks to a skate-lifestyle customer; I see a lot of our artist and musician friends wearing it too.
My inspiration for No. 11 generally comes from the same places that inspire the rest of the collection, it’s important that there is a consistent narrative across the board. For me, it’s from the reemergence of counter culture, music, travel, contemporary fashion, art, and anything else cool that may be going on.
Ultimately, we wanted to provide an elevated product that was unique to our brand but affordable by all. It’s our desire to have this product placed in more specialty stores within our current distribution so it was important that the price points were reasonable. The end result is a capsule that I think is well executed, well priced and something that can sit in your favorite skate shop as well as a cool, specialty men’s boutique.
I’m particularly attracted to the selvedge chinos, can we expect more things like that? Little twists on the norm?
The answer to that question is simple… YES! In a nutshell, that’s the kind of the approach I take in designing KR3W. I like to take classic garments, be it vintage, army orAmericana, and put a timeless but modern spin on it.
There are so many options when it comes to buying clothes nowadays, I like to be a bit unconventional with design to stand out and catch people’s attention. The Fall ‘15 collection is arriving in house now and I can promise you the bar has been raised!
What else can we expect from No.11?
You can expect us to take more risks with future collections. No.11 kind of came about organically; we needed a home for our more elevated pieces. The capsule is back again in Holiday 14, and then again in Fall 15, and we really feel like we’ve stepped up our game from season to season. Fans of the first go ‘round won’t be disappointed.
Lets talk about the Eric Dressen collection, he’s collaborated with a few brands recently, what about him drew him to KR3W or you to him?
Our collaborations all seem to come about organically – there’s usually a connection between someone who works here and the artist. One of our senior graphic artists is also a ripping skater who knows Eric personally. There was an interest from both parties to make some cool shit happen… and BAM!…the rest is history.
It’s a pretty natural fit for both of us, I think. Eric’s a legend within the skate world and a true O.G. in the game, he also been making a name for himself as a tattoo artist for quite some time. He’s toured the world as an artist and has been featured in many global publications as a highly sought after tattooist. The capsule we put out with Eric has been received well from buyers and it’s also an in-house favorite.
We’re really honored to work with him for the Holiday 14 season.
Can you talk us through the collection? What are the highlights?
At the end of the day, we’re a bottoms brand and that’s our focus. It all begins and ends with having the best denim offering; from fit, to wash, to trims. We are constantly pushing ourselves to evolve, innovate, and offer a quality product that’s superior to our competition. With that said, we also have an awesome array of non-denim chinos, five-pocket pants, and stretch cords.
The goal was to start with bottoms and compliment that offering with great printables, headwear, and cut-and-sew tops. I feel that our line is progressive, has a clear identity, but it still very wearable. The highlights for Fall and Holiday 14 are definitely the No.11 collection, beanies, premium t’s, and our new Standard Fit denim.
Angel Cabada started KR3W, does he still retain creative control? Or is that largely handled by you?
Angel is a true visionary and is someone who is absolutely still involved with KR3W on a day-to-day basis but these days he’s pretty busy, so he takes more of a back seat approach.
He really backs what the team is doing and gives input at the beginning and end of each season. I think that’s a real testament to our team and the product we are putting out. The refocused direction you see from Fall 14 onward is a modern interpretation of the brand’s original design aesthetic, it’s true to our heritage and Angel’s vision while being more relevant to today.
Ultimately I have creative control but, at the end of the day, everyone in the creative department shares an affinity for wearing black, for fashion, and for good music, so we’re all on the same page.
Whats next for Kr3w, and is there anything else on the horizon that you can tell us?
The goal is to maintain a similar aesthetic and grow our business through consistency and progression. We will be getting darker, more angst driven with our approach, and aggressive. You can also count on some amazing collaborations and new No.11 styles next year.
Our intention is to become a staple, not only in skate stores but also in men’s specialty lifestyle stores. KR3W has always been considered a brand with the unique ability to cross over seamlessly through core skate and lifestyle/fashion.
I think our collection has an edge that most of our competition would have a hard time with. You can count on us taking more risks, all while staying in our lane.
So… stay tuned…