Like tires are to automobiles, sneakers are the safety, security and style for feet, and JB Classics are much more than a Cadillac for feet. Innovative lines, spectacular colorways and signature packaging make JB Classics the Bentley of sneakers, and pioneers of the independent sneaker industry. Together, Jason Bass and M-dot steer JB Classics in a direction where style is not sacrificed for comfort. Whether on the road or at home in San Francisco, JB and M-dot are perpetually surrounded by their passion for design and creation. Although the duoâ€™s thirst for creativity can be observed on sidewalks across the world, JB says it best, â€œIt doesnâ€™t necessarily feel like work or a working environment because itâ€™s our life.â€
Format: M-dot, youâ€™re an enigma to the public. Why have you chosen to be mysterious?
M-dot: My main thing is everyday being able to apply my passion to what I do. Iâ€™m not too much of a â€œhey look at meâ€ type of person. Learning more about who M-dot is will happen naturally. For me, from comfort to design to marketing is where Iâ€™m at and the kind of thing that the M-dot mystery is that people donâ€™t know, â€˜Is M-dot a female, is M-dot a male, who is M-dot?â€™ We always get that question. Itâ€™s kind of fun to play with.
Format: What does the â€œMâ€ represent?
M-dot: Mysterious! Letâ€™s keep it at that for now, stay tuned!
Format: Please explain your industry experience.
M-dot: Industry experience is in fashion, in terms of project management for the retail image and events and for schooling it was definitely business, and it evolved into interior architecture with an emphasis on furniture design.
Format: How did you meet JB?
M-dot: At a photography show called Who Shot Ya, which displayed hip-hop photography. It was actually in San Francisco and at the time I was pretty clueless to JB Classics. So I look across the room and see these really hot sneakers on some dudes feet. So I say, â€œHey, I really like your kicks.â€ We started talking and we found a lot of our interests or what not are similar. And it evolved into, â€œHey letâ€™s make a few kicks together!â€ The next thing I know I came in on the business and marketing side of things then naturally kind of evolved into the design, too.
Format: Whatâ€™s in the future for M-dot at JB Classics?
M-dot: To bring more footwearâ€“being a femaleâ€“to the females and really taking what the females want to wear in terms of comfort, but still have that style of sneaker and athletic shoe; thatâ€™s definitely where I want to take it. There are a lot of female audience who do complain, â€œOh thereâ€™s never any sneakers for us,â€ or, â€œour sizes, we always get few core styles, we want the other styles,â€ yet on the backend in terms of sales and communicating with the retailers, there isnâ€™t that huge market, yet. Also, in the works of developing a few sub-brands under the JB Classics line and one will be the luggage line and more lifestyle accessories.
Format: In your opinion as a woman, do you think women will be receptive to a female sneaker line or will they stay with their boots, pumps and shoes?
M-dot: I think they will be more receptive to a sneaker line for women. I definitely want to apply the same direction we use when we hybrid a casual shoe with athletic footwear design. There definitely is an avenue for that. We do get responses from a few retailers who are like, â€œOh my female customers are looking for something really crazy.â€ I really think that they [consumers] are out thereâ€“they are tired of the same safe designs. Itâ€™s definitely about taking risks!!
Format: A certificate of ownership comes with JB Classicsâ€™ products. Can you explain the importance of JB Classic packaging and what were the influences to take that direction?
M-dot: We think packaging is an extension of the product and sometimes overlooked. We came across the same issue when outsole makings where little texture details are unseen. Everybody uses the same few textures and our factory sends us this gigantic book of all the textures involved and with that said, we apply that same concept with packaging, why does a shoebox have to look like every other shoebox, why just plain tissue paper. Why not apply the art or graphics to the tissue paper. We definitely take feedback from our consumers and our retailers about, â€˜Oh this shirt is a great idea,â€ or we love the bag. Weâ€™re expanding more into that, because the display and the presentation are just as important as the product. When you do open the box and the first thing they see is the certificate of ownership. It asks another reminder of the exclusivity. Plus the consumer feels like they paid that high-dollar and they get high dollar detail and quality, itâ€™s presented in that manner!
Format: Youâ€™re an expert in packaging, please explain how you came up with the concept of JB Classicsâ€™ The Bully packaging.
M-dot: That was one of the first projects that I was fortunate to take from concept to final product on my own. So the Bully was a joint-project in terms of manufacturing. The other party wasnâ€™t really forward about putting the packaging together, they were just kind of lagging. We ended up getting about 25 Bullies and they were so elaborate and fragile. Started looking at the packaging ideas and I thought maybe we should stay out of the whole cardboard box avenue and make it a display item, and thatâ€™s when I started to think ofâ€“personally, if I bought something like this I would want it in secure packaging, something thatâ€™s different, something that I can carry it in and started working on it. It started from a chest design made of wood to the final detail of laser engraving, leather handle, to obviously a certificate of ownership.
Format: If you had to make a sacrifice, would you give up comfort for appearance or vice-versa?
M-dot: Definitely comfort is where we want to take it. Weâ€™re not here to endorse athletes, but we are definitely here to give that comfort feel while people wear our footwear, definitely comfort and then conquer the aesthetics. We will push and push for the comfort level and fitting tests to make a shoe thatâ€™s going to look great and itâ€™s going to feel really good. We do get a lot of feedback for our comfort level â€“so itâ€™s working!
Format: What are some designers that JB Classics would like to do collaborations with?
M-dot: I would say, without naming anybody, a different avenue then what weâ€™re in. I would say an industrial designer for Chrysler, somebody they bring in as a guest artist we would like to work with, because footwear and automotives are extensions to oneâ€™s personality.
Format: JB, what influence in your childhood or adulthood effected the creation of The Bully collectable?
JB: The general charactersâ€™ have been developing for years and years and years. I think that Iâ€™ve try to describe it in many ways, but itâ€™s the whole subconscious connection, like rumors for example, but not necessarily applied to being the typical bully, getting bullied in the playground type of thing, it wasnâ€™t necessarily that. It was the idea of creating the bullyâ€™s bully. Itâ€™s sort of a duel-layer of having an alter ego of this bully that is out there generated in a figurative sense to bully the other bullies around. And, that was a direct superhero relationship internally, for me, and thatâ€™s how I look at drawing. In general, itâ€™s definitely a path that you have all the direct connections to your emotions and you can take it on as many paths as you want, and that specific one it was generated to be the bullyâ€™s bully and be that tough guy who is out there with or without you, protecting the world from the bully mentality.
In terms of was there an instance in my life that triggered me to generate this particular character and therefore title it as The Bully, as if it were a reaction to a long-term childhood bullying type of thing, thereâ€™s nothing directly related to that stereotype. I just think that life in general would be better off, if such a character existed, so now he does.
Format: On the JB Classics website, there are several video clips. Can you explain how those video clips were created?
JB: They are a direct relationship with my man Shaun Roberts. We founded a company called Triplewide Collective in 2001 and how it spawned, we were all working on a nine-month long interactive scratch DVD with music, techniques, boom cams, etc, etc, a DJs type of thing called Bay Area Exports. We had the project fully in motion although we didnâ€™t have a title for our crew.
The idea was to come up with a name that would apply to us all, but also work individually as we branched off to do our own personally projectsâ€“the concept of Triplewide Collective was perfect.
There were three of us, thatâ€™s were Triplewide Collective comes from: Shaun Roberts, Alex Tarrant and then myself. Towards the end of the filming and editing we started feeling the pressure that we needed to group ourselves under one name for presentation purposes. Little did we know that weâ€™d end up winning an Adobe achievement award on this DJ/DVD thing and would get flown out to the Guggenheim NYC where they do their ceremony and award thing. At that same instant, Iâ€™m developing the footwear line and this was around 2001-02. Shaun and I started working more closely on abstract videos or abstract lines of communication based around footwear. Heâ€™s always down to taking on 60-second to three-minute clips that has a high-impact and abstract story angles, and thatâ€™s when we just started building these clips. It progressed into this very nice, I guess now people call it organic viral marketing tool, this was five or six-years-ago, now, and it was definitely prior to the whole YouTube boom!!
Format: For one of the videos you do a collaboration with Frank 151 Magazine, Ride Snowboards and CAP ONE. Please explain that experience.
JB: CAP is definitely a mad man as you could imagine and Vegas was pretty historic spot to be kickinâ€™ it with CAP. I had great time working with him, Frank Magazine and Ride Snowboards. We collaborated live there and it seemed like the SIA Snowboard Industry and Ride Snowboards were pretty stoked to have us be a part of it.
Format: How has a writer like CAP ONE or other old school Style Wars writers had on your designs?
JB: I think itâ€™s not necessarily in design or imagery; itâ€™s more on the truth, passion, emotion and respect behind the scenes, or I should say, keeping a leverage on your identity and building on your identity, to always work in a way that you know, there are going to be ups and downs. You know there will be that battle, constantly reinventing or restructuring your images per collection, etcetera, etcetera. I should also say, outdoing yourself every time you do something. Thatâ€™s definitely a core part of those legendary heads and itâ€™s definitely something that I was in touch with back when I was young as well as today. Iâ€™m from the Philly area so a lot of the old writers Iâ€™ve seen were when I was super young, it was defiantly impressionable and something that I watched progress and never removed myself from what I saw and experienced.
Format: JB Classics is a current selection in the Sneaker Pimps exhibition. Explain what Sneaker Pimps has done for JB Classics and for the entire sneaker industry?
JB: Both M-dot and I are very passionately connected with the arts/freedom of expression and are also artists ourselves. With that said, I believe Pete, the Sneaker Pimps Founder, is as well. It just worked seamlessly with him since the beginning of his Sneaker Pimps tour concept. Weâ€™ve progressed with him as he continues to step-up his show. For example, weâ€™ll fly out and do installations where itâ€™s, both myself and M-dot painting or doing an live installation for his show. There really isnâ€™t any other footwear company doing it where the actual heads are doing it, itâ€™s more or less theyâ€™re outsourcing credible artistic talent to do it for them. So the response has been truly amazing and fully rewarding.
Peteâ€™s show has now grown to be something much larger than just sneakers, itâ€™s a culture that is ever going from retro to futuristic and back again, As weâ€“Pete, De, M-dot and Iâ€“talked a few weeks back, his plans are to collide music, skate and footwear right into a complete block party and festival extravaganza will most defiantly be a refreshing feel for 2007.
Format: The JB Ripperâ€™s are unique, because theyâ€™re oblivious to current pop culture. Why did you chose to do a Jack the Ripper sneaker?
JB: In late-2002, 2003, I was traveling every three months to East London. I had some relationships over there and at that time I would pass by The Old Truman Brewery where the official Jack the Ripper tour goes down, which was always swamped with a good four to 400-500 people a pop, twice a day. As a Westerner going there and not really knowing what was going on from the first time I saw these people walking around following this pretty dark-sided guy standing up on something and telling a story, until I finally slow down enough to hear whatâ€™s going on and I realized that heâ€™s actually describing the victims that were killed in this particular area by Jack the Ripper. At that point it was like, â€œLetâ€™s make a novelty shoe.â€ It was a direct influence from a direct encounter of a life experience. It definitely wasnâ€™t any sort of pop trend research plan that needed to be passes through the board tables!
Format: Can you describe your workspace set-up?
JB: Itâ€™s tough, because we are almost always traveling somewhere, weâ€™re working seven days a week and somewhere between 12 to 15 hours a day. It doesnâ€™t necessarily feel like work or a working environment because itâ€™s our life.
Our environments, they could be in a hotel, they could be in our office surrounded by sample kicks, they could be in our warehouse office surrounded by cartons of kicks and thereâ€™s usually music involved and thereâ€™s different zones involved; sometimes headphones, sometimes not, sometimes airplanes, sometimes airports, sometimes coffee spots or whatever gets the job done.
Itâ€™s organic and chill and we like it that way for now. It feels refreshing to know that we have an evolving routine, where weâ€™re surrounded by sneakers and creativity, for the most part unless weâ€™re traveling and then weâ€™re surrounded by people who are into shoes and creativity. Itâ€™s pretty much a constant creativeâ€“footwear point of view.
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