When Scott Sasso, 33, is not driving his 1987 BMW 535i, the Vassar graduate is biking to 10 Deepâ€™s office where his creative direction fuels a streetwear company that was established in 1995. When Sasso designs, heâ€™s not thinking about the agenda of 10 Deepâ€™s competition, instead Sasso designs what he wants to wear. â€œI try to design stuff by pulling in a bunch of influences so people can relate from different directions and interpret it in their own way,â€ he says.
Perhaps, Sassoâ€™s upbringing with his mother, a high-end womenâ€™s fashion designer, in New Yorkâ€™s West Village is why heâ€™s keen to create clothing. â€œI grew up around fashion, playing under the table with the fabric,â€ he says, adding his inspiration for 10 Deepâ€™s Chain Gang print came from the silk patterns his mother used to handle. â€œI flipped the motifs that were in her fabrics to something that was hip-hop related. All the rope chains and things like that were status symbols when I was young, so I pulled it, transformed it and co-opted that image, and made it mine.â€
Co-opting ideas and using imagery as the tool that adds substance to 10 Deepâ€™s clothing is what Sasso does best. â€œI hope that people would see the imagery that I used in the Last of a Dying Breed group and think [America] screwed things up in the past, our government was pushing these moves then and, maybe, whatâ€™s going on now is wrong, too,â€ he says. Currently, 10 Deepâ€™s summer 2007 line is available at store front and online retailers.
“To me, the dude that goes out and is wearing a $500 sweatshirt or $500 jeans is a fucking jackass.”
Format: In a recent Format interview, Married to the MOBâ€™s Leah says, men in the streetwear community have feminine characteristics â€“ trolling blogs for clothing, taking photos of their clothing and lining up outside stores for clothing. What is your opinion on these feminine characteristics that she is referring to?
Scott Sasso: I think it is a somewhat strange phenomenon, but it is also about collecting. I feel that, right now, whatâ€™s happening with streetwear is like collecting baseball cards or collecting comics. Both collecting cultures were much bigger ten, 20 and 30 years ago, and thatâ€™s what kids and men dabbled in. In some ways, streetwear has replaced that culture of collecting. Itâ€™s about collecting, but the fact that it is fashion, I can see why sheâ€™s saying it is feminine. Traditionally, fashion is in the realm of women that are concerned about how they present themselves. It is kind of a weird border. I donâ€™t think the collection aspect is as weird as taking photos of themselves and putting it on blogs, thatâ€™s a little strange to me, but people are strange. I think that what she said would be something a guy would say. She seems like a character that is projecting a strong woman image and to use a disparaging description for streetwear men, that says theyâ€™re like women is the opposite of what a strong women would say. Itâ€™s like saying these men are wack, because theyâ€™re like women. I think itâ€™s more about collecting. The fact of what streetwear has been with bright colors and stuff verging on clown suits, at times, increases the perception that streetwear is weird.
Format: Traditionally, women are primary consumers of fashion. Why are there not more streetwear lines for women?
Scott: A lot are popping up right now, because people are recognizing that hole in the market. For so long, the streetwear community was, kind of, a boys club. As streetwear expanded, girls found out about it and many of them wanted to do what their cool guy counterparts were doing. The audience is growing. Obviously, women consume more fashion than men and it becomes a real market place, and there should be more stuff there, but there hasnâ€™t been that cultural foundation. The way the streetwear community was, at least how I experienced it in New York City, it was always about these star, underground, cool guys and the women around them were accessories. That doesnâ€™t speak well of it â€“ I wasnâ€™t part of that social scene, because there was too much posturing for me. As the audience has expanded and more girls get looped in, people are realizing that girls want stuff for themselves. And, there is no reason girls canâ€™t design some bright ass shit like all the boys are doing, too. Historically, here in the New York streetwear scene, where my brand came up, it was the boys club.
Format: In a recent Format interview, Krudmartâ€™s Steve says, 10 Deepâ€™s clothing is top quality in design and materials. He adds that 10 Deep captures high quality, but is reasonably priced. How can 10 Deep maintain the highest quality and charge reasonable prices?
Scott: The same way weâ€™ve done it forever! Thatâ€™s another thing, a lot of shit you see out there with streetwear brands charging $50 or $100 for T-shirts is arbitrary. Again, thatâ€™s about the cool guy club. Me, I donâ€™t give a fuck about that â€“ Iâ€™m trying to make clothes that look good and I want people to wear them if they like them. 10 Deep keeps its prices where they need to be for us to make money. Itâ€™s not like weâ€™re skimping on our margins. Iâ€™m making stuff people like and that I like. Iâ€™m not trying to gouge prices and make people feel theyâ€™re better than the next person, because they spent $500 on their sweatshirt. To me, the dude that goes out and is wearing a $500 sweatshirt or $500 jeans is a fucking jackass.
Itâ€™s absolutely ridiculous to me and donâ€™t want to be a part of that. I want people to feel good about 10 Deep, because they like the way it looks or the idea it presents; not because it costs a ridiculous amount of money. There was that time when all of our shit was being resold, specifically, the Chain Gang print, and they were going for $300 on EBay. Meanwhile, 10 Deep was wholesaling them to stores for $43 so they could be $86 in the store. I think that perception of the product was great, but it also made me feel like when I saw a person wearing it in an extra cocky fashion it looked bad to me. It looked corny, because thatâ€™s not what Iâ€™m about. I donâ€™t think what 10 Deep does is cheap, by any means, I just try to provide products at a reasonable price. There is no fucking way Iâ€™m going to spend $200 on a hoodie, so we canâ€™t make that for our customers and expect them to pay that.
Format: 10 Deep has been in operation since 1995. The brand has spearheaded an industry that is relatively young. In what ways have the streetwear industry changed since 1995?
Scott: There is an audience, now. Again, I think it has become an industry. Before, it was a bunch of hobby brands that existed in New York with most of its consumer base in Japan. Now, because of the Internet, it has created a space for there to be exposure for lines that nobody knew about. I think 10 Deepâ€™s first ping, where things started to click with people, was on a blog that no longer exists that posted pictures of the Protect Your Neck scarf that we did. The post created a stir and people wanted to order them online. There was the Purple Punch shirt and Chain Gang that bounced around on small blogs, and The Fader dropped a photo on their blog, too. Thatâ€™s what set things off. Back then, when I started, it was all word of mouth. People did not know about Ssur, 10 Deep or 2600 Union unless they walked into Union or a random, tiny store in Japan, otherwise, you would not know about it. There was no communication for it. It was so, so small. Americans werenâ€™t interested in it, at the time.
Format: Please explain the attitude behind 10 Deepâ€™s Problem Solvers.
Scott: Itâ€™s weird how that kind of became the logo. Again, like most of the things that hit for us, it was a joke. I did that design in the fall of 2001 and I thought it was funny. Obviously, this is not how you solve your problems, but, sometimes, you want to think that is the best way to solve your problems. A lot of the extra text on that T-shirt was disappeared, but that was the original sentiment. I guess some people picked it up and thought, yeah, this is how you solve a problem. A lot of the images for 10 Deep, especially prints on T-shirts, have projected the image of strength. Whether that strength comes from intellect or physical powers is up to the person wearing it. For one of the early ones, I used a silhouette of a tank. It was an idea of urban survival, which sounds corny now, but back then the term urban didnâ€™t mean anything. It was about having an imposing strength. Even the name of 10 Deep is meant to bring a group of ten people brought together to affect some action, either positive or negative. Also, it was a reference to the fingers, the strength of a hand and individual. For a very brief time, I used two hand prints as a logo for 10 Deep, too. Itâ€™s supposed to be about independence and self-sufficiency.
Format: What has the MAGIC Trade Show done for 10 Deep?
Scott: Itâ€™s a showcase for clothing lines and it gets you exposure. I donâ€™t know if MAGIC has done anything for us, because theyâ€™re hard to deal with. I think Iâ€™ve had more shows when Iâ€™ve been screwed by MAGIC than Iâ€™ve had good shows. MAGIC is important, because that is where all the buyers go. If you have a line and you want to show your stuff, thatâ€™s a good place to start.
Format: 10 Deepâ€™s spring `07 line uses Native-American imagery as the inspiration for its line. By 10 Deep incorporating Aboriginal chiefs, weapons and prints in its designs, what message is 10 Deep trying to capture?
Scott: Iâ€™m glad you asked that, because it seems like a lot of people got the wrong idea about me trying to capitalize on Native-American stuff. I choose that subject matter by thinking of the political atmosphere in the US, currently, where there is a ridiculous sense of the infallibility of government. It amazes me with the things that have happened over the last eight years with the Bush presidency, the war in Iraq and September 11 being perverted into something else â€“ itâ€™s sad. What I hoped for in that spring grouping, I focused on a few of the Indian chiefs, the rebel chiefs is how I refer to them. These guys were an organized resistance to the US governmentâ€™s encroachment on their land and the treaties that were being broken, written and broken again. Itâ€™s really crazy and sad. I was hoping people would take it as an example of that fallibility.
I saw a really funny group of interviews, on the Internet, of people on the street. A guy was joking about ridiculous things and one of them was like, â€˜How do you feel about George Bushâ€™s stance on wanting to invade France?â€™ And, this guy was able to get five or ten people to say, â€˜Yeah, weâ€™ve been having problems with France, I support my president.â€™ For one, itâ€™s totally untrue, but itâ€™s ridiculous, itâ€™s France! These people blindly agreed without asking the issues, instead of saying they didnâ€™t know or even think about it. I hope that people would see the imagery that I used in the Last of a Dying Breed group and think [America] screwed things up in the past, our government was pushing these moves then and, maybe, whatâ€™s going on now is wrong, too. Thatâ€™s why I choose those motifs.
Format: 10 Deepâ€™s Chain Gang prints look Versace-esque â€“ elegant and bold, but street. Please explain the creation of this print.
Scott: Itâ€™s pretty simple. My mom was a clothing designer. She used to do high-end womenâ€™s fashion and had a few stores in New York. I grew up around fashion, playing under the table with the fabric. She used to do a lot of silk prints and many of the prints I remember her doing her doing had the similar theme of ropes, chain links and other beautiful silk patterns. I remember when I came up with it and it was kind of a joke. I thought, wouldnâ€™t it be funny if we had an all-over print of chains? It was supposed to be really humorous, but I donâ€™t know how many people bought it for being ironic or funny. I think people took it for a sign of affluence. I flipped the motifs that were in her fabrics to something that was hip-hop related. All the rope chains and things like that were status symbols when I was young, so I pulled it, transformed it and co-opted that image, and made it mine.
Format: On the 10 Deep website, the description for the All Posers T-shirt reads, â€œPosers arenâ€™t exclusive to streetwearâ€¦ you can find them landing on aircraft carriers, too.â€ Thatâ€™s interesting, because, by writing that statement, 10 Deep touches on the elitism within the streetwear community. Often, people are caught up in labeling each other as posers or not posers. Why is status within the streetwear community so important?
Scott: Status outside of streetwear is important. Thatâ€™s human nature. Itâ€™s about competition for mates, competition for resources for your family and itâ€™s the basis of all human existence. Streetwear is no different. Itâ€™s just another sub-community of the larger human community. Itâ€™s just like fashion, like cars, sports and anything else. Status is important to people. Unfortunately, status is too important to people. Especially, a lot of the meaningless status you have in streetwear and the ugly things it turns into for people. The reasons why status is important in streetwear is no difference than anywhere else.
Format: Does 10 Deep have a moral responsibility for the messages its designs send to the public?
Scott: I donâ€™t know. I think, unfortunately, as a company, the general consensus is that we donâ€™t, but for me, as a person, I do feel that there is a moral obligation to people and society. I donâ€™t like the idea of putting out things that can be perceived as being too negative or taken the wrong way. Especially in my design style, as I leave things open for interpretation. I know I mean it this way, but a person walking up to it in a store can read it this way or read it another way, too. I try to design stuff by pulling in a bunch of influences so people can relate from different directions and interpret it in their own way.
With that said, there are a lot of things I can do and make a lot of money off of, and make my brand more successful than itâ€™s been or make it successful faster by doing things that I wouldnâ€™t allow myself to do. My moral obligations are to myself and people around me. People around me help me decide whatâ€™s OK and whatâ€™s over the line, and whatâ€™s good, but dangerous and probably good to put out. That Death To All Posers T-shirt probably has people looking at me, right now, but I thought it walked the line of whatâ€™s in good taste. Itâ€™s harmless and funny, but could make people think.