According to Christian faith, there are three theological virtues: faith, hope and love. Weâ€™re not sure if our interviewee subscribes to this religious sect, but we do know that Brian â€œ24HERBSâ€ Siswojo understands the importance of the three values. Placing faith and love in his work with the hopes that the others will see his vision, the Hong Kong emcee and founder of 8FIVE2 Distribution is setting a precedent for urbanites around the globe.
Utilizing his knowledge of street culture, strong beliefs in possibility and passion for creativity, the CEO of Know1edge is soaking up every drip of sweat to churn out a pool of the most precise, tailored garments in the Eastern hemisphere. Direct from the HK, Siswojo talks to Format about how â€œWe seek knowledge from the cradle to the graveâ€ and how our creativity stems from the roots.
â€œWe want to make clothing that canâ€™t be dated and we intend to be around for a while. Something you canâ€™t look back on your pictures and thinkâ€¦ what was I thinking?â€
Format: Introduce the world to Brian Siswojo, the emcee, designer and entrepreneur.
Brian: Iâ€™m actually a skateboard enthusiast, family man, and someone who believes in following their dreams to the fullest. Iâ€™m from humble beginnings where it may have seemed impossible to earn a living doing everything I love to do. I was lucky [that] I really had good people around me that had helped me out a lot. In â€™98 I started my own company, 8FIVE2 Distribution out of my small place from a sheer desire to have all the brands that I liked, available in Hong Kong.
Then in 2001, it just seemed to be the natural thing to do to open my own shop called 8FIVE2SHOP. Itâ€™s a skateboard, sneakers, street clothing shop that supports a lot of brands that I believe in on a personal level.
Since â€™97 I have been organizing skateboard events and exhibitions to help grow skateboarding in Hong Kong. Thatâ€™s how the whole emcee work began. Soon I was doing friendsâ€™ weddings, Xtreme Sports events, And1, and even lecturing at Universities.
Format: How did Know1edge come about and who are the team players behind you?
Brian: In 2004, my wifey Annie Lee and I started Know1edge, a menâ€™s clothing line of simple clothing with a lot of attention to details from the simple desire to do special collaborations with friends. We take part in the whole process from finding the fabrics, designing, and to every aspect of the whole company. Actually, aside from our talented friends who help us in the designs, the two of us are the whole company!
Format: Where does the brand name Know1edge come from?
Brian: Know1edge is taken from day to day life, and the process of always learning. We seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave, we donâ€™t stop seeking knowledge and we donâ€™t stop learning. Itâ€™s so essential to me in life and I respect all channels of knowledge: fashion, art, music, skateboarding, food, etc. Know1edge is the roots of creativity.
Format: Your garments are produced in Hong Kong, are you aware of the working conditions of your manufacturing plants?
Brian: Yes, we use proper manufacturers in China, Hong Kong, and Canada. Weâ€™ve visited our factories and trust in our technical advisor whom we have a close friendship with. Heâ€™s been through our learning process since day one. We definitely choose to work with people who share the same core values and work ethics as we do.
Format: What role has Hong Kong played in the development and/or direction of your brand?
Brian: Hong Kong is an influential city in terms of fashion for other Asian and South East Asian cities. Of course, Japan has always been the leader but Hong Kong has been receiving more interest. Although the market is small still, there have been a few recent brands coming out of Hong Kong and itâ€™s good to be one of the noted few. In terms of production, it convenient to be located so close to our manufacturers and the fabric district.
Format: A lot of the pieces in the line are grey, black and dark denim. Explain why Know1edge decided to go for the use of darker colors versus the popular retro brights?
Brian: I mean, we love bright colors as well but weâ€™re trying maintaining our own image and style as opposed to what the hype is right this minute. We want to make clothing that canâ€™t be dated and we intend to be around for a while. Something you canâ€™t look back on your pictures and thinkâ€¦ what was I thinking? We focus on clean designs, timeless high quality fabrics, and attention to details.
Format: Know1edge utilizes precise cuts and styles. Let us in on your sewing and execution tactics.
Brian: Thank you. Each piece has a different way of going about it but, normally the procedure is to sketch out the initial designs, brainstorm, flip it into illustrator, go over exact measurement changes, hand pick the fabric, brainstorm some more, make the first samples, make the necessary changes or sometimes Annie just makes the samples herself to see an actual sample of how the idea will look. Sheâ€™s been known to hand paint, embroider, quilt, or just start sewing, gluing, and cutting random pieces together. Itâ€™s still a learning process.
Format: How big of a role does Hong Kong play in the future of fashion?
Brian: Huge. You canâ€™t deny that pretty much everything and anything are now made in China and all the key designers find it a necessity to stop over in Hong Kong. So many of them are already making plans to set up an office here in Hong Kong or planning exhibitions. Hong Kongâ€™s economy is thriving as always, and itâ€™s grown so much even within the last few years. The potential is huge and with China peaking an interest to other brands other than the typical monogrammed luxuries, I think there will be a definite shift towards China/Hong Kong.
Format: What are some of the colors, cuts and styles we can look forward to this Spring 2008 from Know1edge? What about Fall 2008?
Brian: Weâ€™re always using many colors but with a monochromatic feel. There will definitely some purples, turquoises, bright oranges, yellow, greens — pretty much everything. Weâ€™re putting a focus on the cuts as usual. The pants and denim fits are one of our strongest pieces where itâ€™s just flattering for everyone. There will definitely be many options where you know you can wear it on a daily basis without feeling like youâ€™re going to perform at a hip-hop concert. Watch out for our accessories. Thatâ€™s where we definitely play with more colors, and styles without minimizing the quality.
Format: Where can consumers purchase your pieces and is there a flagship Know1edge store in the future?
Brian: At the moment, weâ€™re carried in carried in over 150 retail shops worldwide: USA, Canada, Australia, Spain, Denmark, Japan, U.K, New Zealand, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, China, France, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia. You can get it online at Reedspace.com, in4mation.com, karmaloop.com, etc. We havenâ€™t been making plans for a flagship Know1edge store yet but, eventually when weâ€™re ready, we will.
Format: If Know1edge was to identify itself with a figure in pop culture, who would it be and why?
Brian: The great fighter: Cassius Clay AKA Muhammad Ali. He had style, taunting tactics, intelligence, and knew how to take the punches without falling down. â€œFloat like a butterfly, sting like a bee.â€
More Info: http://www.know1edge.com/