Everyone in our scene had an entry point into streetwear and mine was New York’s own 10Deep. Initially I was drawn by the bold graphics and the bravado of the statements on the t-shirts, before falling in love with the unique cut’n’sew pieces, all with the small details and quirks that only a designer with real passion would have dreamt up.
Many don’t realise that 10Deep has been around for 20 years now, the same as Supreme – something really must have been in the water in New York back in 1994. But unlike Supreme, 10Deep have quietly gone about their business for the best part of those two decades, and even though I don’t have as much of their gear as I used to, I still regularly check in and look on – to see where they’re headed next.
Always relevant, their recent World Wide Wave collection shows they’re still tapping into the street zeitgeist, while their collab BMX bike with New Jersey’s Animal Bikes via BMX Pro Mike Hoder shows that they’re still prepared to do things outside the streetwear lexicon.
At the helm of the brand is Scott Sasso, an enigmatic designer and brand leader who still designs most of the collection for the brand, as well as overseeing the rest of the operation. 20 years of dedication right there. Scott and I conversed over email for this interview, and it was a pleasure to delve deeper into the brand that got me started on this path.
How did 10Deep start, and what was the brand like back then?
Much like most of the earlier roots of ‘street wear’ it was honestly done with out any sense of business consciousness. I woke up one morning, thinking that I wanted to start a t-shirt brand like many of the guys graduating from graffiti before me were doing, so I wrote down a bunch of names on a piece of paper, taped it onto the wall of my college dorm, and eliminated the ones that I liked least over the next few days.
10Deep was the name I liked best. I just wanted to make a couple of t-shirts really as something cool to do and as an extension of my interests in graffiti, zines, etc.
At what point did 10Deep become full time?
What were you doing to fill your days and earn money until that point?
I was designing for an urban brand that I helped build that was called Akademiks.
I read something about your Mum helping you out early on, as your production manager?
My mom once told me that, no matter what, don’t get into the apparel industry. Despite that she did help me get my first cut-and-sew stuff off the ground.
Was there ever a time where you wanted to jack it all in?
Of course. After 9/11 when the market dried up, and right before the streetwear explosion happened at the end of 2005. Basically it started to be a situation where I was putting much more in than I was getting out of the business.
Where does the brand stand, and have you ever had to ‘reinvent’ yourself? As when you started, 20 years ago, ‘streetwear’ didn’t exist like it does today.
The brand has always been true to its core so there hasn’t been a need for reinvention. We’ve always been based not in what we think we ‘should’ do but from the collective of interests and tastes of our small and eclectic crew of friends. That said, sometimes we find it necessary to re-remind the street wear public (who often like to assign their own assumptions and values to brands) who we are.
On the surface it seems you put more effort into properly themed collection than other brands, why is this and do you find that there is more chance to tell a cohesive story with the collection if it’s smaller and more concise?
I design along themes just because it comes naturally to me. I think sticking to a theme actually makes the process harder. It’s just my style and what I like to do.
You also do more drops per year, 3 per season rather than 2. Why is this? Is there some kind of advantage?
It’s actually two drops plus a separate one for our sportswear-themed design lab – VCTRY.
With the themed collections, is there a route you haven’t explored yet?
There are always new routes and new approaches to themes to be explored.
How do you ensure you stay current? 20 years is a long time. The new World Wide Wave collection feels very ‘now’ in terms of street fashion, but when brands fall too bad into trends that’s when they loose out. How do you ensure this doesn’t happen?
We simply try our best keep blinders on and to follow our own path and interests. It has gotten us this far…
Out of all the collaborations you’ve done, the Animal Bikes one was the one that spoke to me most – how did that come about, and why Animal?
They approached us, we were cool with Hoder who I think was riding for them, and we were able to do what we wanted. Friend’s, and shared social circles make sense for collaborations, especially on products that we don’t make.
You had Mike Hoder model and ride for you too right?
Yup, he’s part of the extended crew. We don’t have a BMX team per se, but he’s just one of the folks we respect and like to support
I’ve heard rumours of a Flagship Store in NYC – will that be opening any time soon?
We’re working on it. It’s important for us to feel like we have a common space for the brand to live and for us to interact with our public, beyond any traditional retail sense.
Why do you think you’ve succeeded in longevity where some of your NYC peers have failed?
A combination of being being both business and design savvy enough while remaining in touch with the culture.
Can you impart any wisdom you’ve picked up along the way?
Make sure you enjoy what you do. Happiness has to be part of the payoff…
Where does 10.Deep fit with ‘Streetwear’ today, especially the latest wave of trapped out trill shit.
Things come and go. We stick to the essence of where we come from – the 90s NY indie brand scene. Much of what is called street wear today doesn’t necessarily fall into stuff that we would call streetwear.
What does the future hold for you guys?
Who the fuck knows?
Words: Tom Kirkby
Photos: Colin Walker