SoJones sat down for an exclusive interview with George Robles, the creative force behind Rocawear. What’s his secret to keeping a monster lifestyle brand fresh and ahead of the many competitors at his back? And just how involved is Jay-Z nowadays in the clothing company he founded more than 10 years ago?
Tell us a little about your background.
I was born and raised in the Bronx during the 80’s hip-hop era. This was at a time when Graffiti was the art of New York. Graffiti was a way to express yourself and make your presence felt to the masses.
The streets are where I learned and practiced my craft, using my own unique color combinations & styles to create a vision. Back then, I was in a crew called C.O.D., and we tagged and had murals all around NY. It was how we marked our territory and gained notoriety. This was our way of getting famous; it was all about street credibility.
Growing up, I looked up to the cool kids on the block that had the hot cars, the flyest clothes and of-course the baddest chicks. That lifestyle inspired me creatively. I loved fly sh*t, which back then was Nautica, Fila, Polo, Ralph & Tommy Hilfiger. I guess that’s when I started to notice fashion.
How did you get to where you are today?
I started in fashion as a freelance artist at Triple 5 Soul drawing graffiti artwork for their t-shirt line. I was young but at the same talented and people were impressed with my sense of style. My creativity took me far in the fashion game without me even trying; I was able to grow into my career organically.
I continued my progression in fashion working at Mecca USA, which is a pioneer in the Urban World of fashion and later at Akademiks, where I contributed to the launch of that brand. These companies and the people were my classrooms and I was the student. I had hands on training from the best, which gave me the knowledge & experience to be where I’m at today.
When I started freelancing at Rocawear in 2001, I was already knowledgeable of the fashion industry and the process of delivering a good clothing collection. I was able to oversee the whole creative process and when the opportunity presented itself to take the position of creative director, I embraced the opportunity.
So what’s a typical day like for a creative director for Rocawear?
A typical day for me is never typical. For example, I may have to come up with a theme for the new collection, which involves a new color palette, graphics, denim washes, labels, and overseeing my team of designers to make sure we’re all on the same wavelength aesthetically.
It could also involve travel to another country to oversee production of the collection, choosing fabrics, or a dozen e-mails and phone calls from people with questions that have to answered in a timely manner. Deadlines can be gruesome and keep you working around the clock.
My job changes from day to day & being able to multi-task and stay focused is a must.
Did you have a fashion icon when you were coming up?
My culture and surroundings influenced me most when I was coming up. The fashion of my generation was so exciting and new. Back then, people had exclusives and created their own swag. The “streets” back then were on top of their fashion – street fashion inspired me.
What two celebrities or music artists are just on point with their
fashion game right now?
Jay-Z is the inspiration behind every Rocawear collection and he’s definitely on top of his fashion game right now. From his denim to his suits, he is an all around fashion icon.
Kanye West for his individuality and his growth in the fashion game. He mixes all types of fashion up and still pulls it off with a cocky swagger that makes people follow his lead. He still represents hip-hop fashion but he has taken it to a higher level creatively, which is something that I respect as a designer. Not just anyone can get a deal to design for Louis Vuitton and star in the ad campaigns. That is just not heard of…
How would you describe the spring looks for your menswear line?
The spring collection paid homage to the military uniform with colors such as khaki brown, black and olive green but for the warmer season, pops of color were added to give it a transitional feel.
We also included military inspired wovens, cargo pants, and camouflage jackets in light earth tones. This gives the collection a broader appeal, attracting that youthful guy that’s on trend but at the same time a fashionably older guy who’s more subtle and conservative.
What are you most excited about for Rocawear this year?
We just celebrated Rocawear’s 10 Year Anniversary and I’m excited about the next 10 years of the brand.
It’s a lifestyle brand that’s definitely here to stay. The product is only getting better, with a new exciting R+ logo, denim washes from destroyed to distressed that have been executed to perfection & t-shirt deliveries that provide strong meaning. The level of variety that we can provide is across the board. We’re on top of our game and have been leading the pack for a while now.
It’s a compliment when you have people copying your style!
When it comes to celebrity-backed brands, people always wonder what the celebrity really does behind the scenes. At Rocawear, what’s the one thing that Jay-Z gets involved with the most?
Jay-Z is hands on with the Rocawear collection from the beginning to the end of the creative process. He basically makes all of the final decisions.
I e-mail him on a daily basis regarding the design concepts, color palette, and even slogans. His yay or nay is the deciding factor in whether I can move forward or not with an idea.
If he doesn’t like it, it’s back to the drawing board!