In the world of hip-hop, there are two planes of existence. One is the blinged out, audacious world where bigger and brighter is better. The other is the world that is more gritty and underground; a world that is often referenced as closer to the essence of the culture. Some exist in those worlds exclusively and others weave back and forth between the two, eventually finding common ground.
This is the daunting task of Complete Technique. The basis of their company is almost an oxymoron within itself â€“ a jewelry company that makes pieces that stay true to the culture of hip-hop. Format had an opportunity to get in depth with Jenn Tsang, marketing director of this truly unique concept and find out the process of creating and marketing a product that has traditionally gone in two separate directions.
“Just as no single identity can define a New Yorker, no single statement can express Complete.”
Format: How large is the team at Complete Technique? Who is involved, and what are their roles?
Jenn: Our team is small, for a brand that is up and up. My partner and I do everything to keep our label movinâ€™ and shakinâ€™ with the help of some of the cityâ€™s finest. Osa is our Creative Director, Designer, Production Manager, and Metal Smith. I serve as our Marketing Director, Sales Rep, and Online Community Manager. Together, weâ€™re two Executive Officers and about ten Interns hustlinâ€™ everyday to make Complete what it is.
Format: The Complete Technique collection includes head shells, 45 adaptors, speakers, headphones, and MP3 players. How do you decide which products you will release?
Jenn: Complete represents an individual lifestyle that is urban and in touch with music as universal design. We make what we like and what we know. Our greatest influence has been the street culture of New York City and its pioneers. Across continents and oceans, we work with select retailers who we trust and intuitively see eye to eye. Many of them are our friends who we share the decision making process with as style-makers and lovers of good design.
Format: Considering the reach of your brand, it seems like you could hit many more retailers than you currently do. How do you select specific retailers to carry Complete Technique products?
Jenn: We choose retailers who we can build with in places we think our clientele can reach. Complete isnâ€™t for everyone â€“ it takes a unique spirit of style that combines a sophisticated eye for detail and a certain swagger that we look for in our retailers. Together, we embody this statement and attract others who dare to say the same thing.
Format: What are some of the celebrity endorsements you have secured, and how significant have they been?
Jenn: Weâ€™ve been blessed to work with celebrities that share our artistic vision. Mos Def, Nina Sky, and Hi-Tek are clients that continue to be a source of inspiration. Questlove, Juelz Santana, and many others from the hip-hop community have been supporters of our work, but our best relationships have been with our DJ family here and overseas. From the States weâ€™ve worked with DJs Jazzy Jeff, Rich Medina, Spinna, and Drama. From Eurasia weâ€™ve worked with DJs Prozeiko, Hajime, Big O and DJ Krush, who weâ€™ll be working with in our next campaign. Our clients and supporters are our backbone. They amplify our passion for superior sound and the hustle that it takes to bring that passion to the next level.
Format: How do you choose the metals you use for pieces?
Jenn: All of our designs are made from sterling silver, 14K or 18K gold, and platinum. We offer diamonds and CZ. The choice to work with these materials comes from experience. Osaâ€™s background is in traditional, fine jewelry. He works with the best because he can.
Format: You’ve worked with Rocksmith, Kilo Goods, and Kidrobot thus far. How do you decide which collaborations you will take on?
Jenn: Our collaborations have been with friends who we respect. In an industry of new and up and coming brands, we align with those who want friendship and future over profit and promotion. Rocksmith and Kilo Goods are family. We live life for tomorrow and break bread today. We share our business savvy, our successes, and the daily grind to make streetwear that reflects longevity. Kidrobot is one of our best clients and collaborators. When they approached us to build them an empire of Dunnies and Munnies, it just made sense. You find others who arenâ€™t satisfied with waiting around to see what will happen. You just link up and walk the same way. At this pace, the future will just have to keep up.
Format: Please touch upon your previous craft metal and toy projects.
Jenn: Osa has made a number of Dunny designs from metal. Some of the designs use the original soft vinyl bodies but are suited with metal armor and finishes. Others are made entirely from brass and silver, with movable parts and subwoofer eyes. In an age of disposable design, our craft metal toys will survive the apocalypse.
Format: Complete Technique creates custom jewelry. Who is the average consumer for this part of your business?
Jenn: Typically, our custom clientele surface within a very niche market, but it has less to do with where you are in the industry than what your interests are and how you express them. Many of our custom clients are established and have seen many successes and can therefore give back to their labor the fruits of their love. They tend to have an upscale sense of fashion with a refined taste for design and a desire to invest in precious metals. We love working with custom clients because when you love something as much as they do, your options are limitless and not even the horizon can project where you can go.
Format: Complete Technique also creates fine jewelry. How are you able to maintain your brand identity when doing this type of work?
Jenn: When custom clients approach us to make fine jewelry, they absorb our story and find new ways of telling it. We value their contribution whether it remains within our vocabulary or finds new languages. Developing our fine jewelry line for mass production is a more guided process where we come from the same narrative and add value to it through the use of precious metals. Osa and I arenâ€™t invested in a single narrative, because to stay alive a brand must grow and adapt. Just as no single identity can define a New Yorker, no single statement can express Complete.
Format: How has the jewelry industry, if at all, changed since your inception, and how have you adjusted?
Jenn: The jewelry industry is a tough business, full of elitist powerhouses pitting struggling independents against one another for a chance to rise to the top. As far as this goes, nothing has changed and nothing will. We shrug at this because we recognize that in order to give force to a new generation of jewelry design, we have to come together and not be pulled apart. The streetwear industry has this spirit and for this reason, weâ€™re proud to call it home. Over the last decade, thereâ€™s been a slow decline of major labels and a sharp escalation of independent brands. This is happening because itâ€™s lonely at the top, so, why not bring your friends. Now people are joining forces as a source for culture and instead of climbing a single mountain, weâ€™re all building our own.
Format: How many pieces do you generally produce, and why that number?
Jenn: We satisfy the demand and then every new season we offer more because the climate changes.
Format: What is Complete Technique up to in 2007?
Jenn: A lot of our custom designs will be made over in varying styles and our latest custom design, the Kidrobot Medallion, will be released at the New York flagship store in Soho sometime later this year. With over 2,000 stones at 40ct, itâ€™s impossible to ignore its exhibitionist character, so weâ€™ll just come and tell you, itâ€™s ballinâ€™. We have too many new projects to name here, I will say that there will be new designs for Foshofoshow Summer 2007, which will be bigger and better than ever before. As I mentioned, weâ€™re about to link up with DJ Krush from Japan on a new campaign, and Iâ€™ll be reaching out to artists and musicians who are interested in teaming up for a new feature on our site when it re-launches next month. Be sure to check our site for our spring products release and stick around for more on whatâ€™s good at Complete.
Format: Where do you ultimately want to take Complete Technique?
Jenn: Osa and I want to take Complete where no urban jewelerâ€™s gone. Why stop with jewelry? The future for us is producing electronics, audio equipment, and cameras. Weâ€™ll design matchbooks and vintage lighters, custom motorcycle parts and clothing for jetsetters. Who knows. One day youâ€™ll be able to find Complete gum at a bodega and visit our official museum where weâ€™ll store all these things for future generations. Itâ€™s exciting to know that passion has no shelf-life and that as we grow, fresh ideas will materialize in new forms and ways that are unexpected.
More Info: http://www.completetechnique.com/