Scifen

Scifen

“The aesthetic looks like some kmart/target cartoon bullshit that came out a bag of skittles” – so goes just one of the many comments that Format’s 2006 interview with Barmak Badaei of Scifen spawned. Unphased by anonymous Internet haters, Scifen has been hard at work: re-launching their website, expanding distribution, releasing two albums with Yak Ballz, and opening a flagship store in Hollywood, CA are only a few of the brands notables over the last 18 months. Format sits down with Barmak, the outspoken Scifen founder again, who gives some answers sure to inspire even more controversy than our last feature.

“If anyone has ever migrated into this culture in the sense of it being big, cool, or marketable at a moment in time, then I would love for them to migrate the fuck out”

Format: We last interviewed Scifen in December of 2006. Please run down some of the projects you’ve launched since then.
Barmak Badaei: Well for the most part, I’ve just been focusing on the continued growth of the brand, product line, and distribution. We are the epitome of an independent business, so handling our day to day operation is a struggle and ultimately our biggest project. However, we have had numerous projects since the last interview, such as the Scifentology I and II albums with Yak Ballz, our website, and the opening of our flagship store in Hollywood, CA. With that said, be sure to pick up a copy of Yak’s new album Scifentology II–a lot of work went into this project and it’s been exciting to be a part of it.

Format: Scifen strives to maintain substance in its designs and business model. Ironically, many people within the streetwear community label the brand a sellout. How do you respond to these accusations?
Barmak: I think you put it best: it’s ironic. I wouldn’t even know where that is coming from as I feel it’s a completely unwarranted accusation. I don’t even know what you’re referring to when you say “the streetwear community…” What the hell is that, who is it, and how could it be a community? It’s like saying, “the active-wear community are labeling Champion a sellout.”

However, I will say that we do strive to maintain a high level of substance in our designs and business model by staying in line with our culture. I would hope anyone of a viable culture would respect it to the utmost with good ethics and preservation. It’s like saying, “I know you’re Russian and we really respect your heritage, yet some other ethnicities like Mongolians living in Moscow are calling you a sellout.” Then why the hell are they living in Moscow? Take your ass back to Mongolia! So for anyone in the “streetwear” community that has no viable place amongst hip-hop should worry about themselves–this isn’t for them. Although keep in mind, if you go home bumpin’ Masta Ace or Planet Asia, or get hyped watching b-boys getting down, then you are in our territory and I think it warrants a certain level of respect. Don’t get me twisted, someone could flatout hate our designs and products, but I don’t think sellout has anything to do with it. That’s just a matter of taste. Don’t know if that makes sense….

Format: You mentioned in our last interview that Scifen is “possibly the only hip-hop brand” and that “a lot of these brands claim hip-hop but are just fans of the culture, they don’t live it.” Name names–the people want to know.
I think the right people know what I am getting at. It’s not hard to understand when it’s spoken amongst your peers. They know who and what we are referring to.

Scifen

Format: What is your opinion of the general streetwear climate at the moment?
Barmak: I wouldn’t know or be in a position to make a solid comment to that question. It’s like asking me, “what is your opinion of the climate on planet Mars?” I wouldn’t know the answer because I live on Earth at the moment. I think at this point what I traditionally understand as streetwear has changed or might not even exist. Maybe I don’t even know what streetwear is–please explain the category. What I do know is that the US economy is in huge trouble and has been drenched in a recession. I think everyone is scrambling to stay afloat; whether you sell tube socks or own a bakery, shit is really tough out there. Hell, the price of gas per gallon is almost $5.00 in the US. If you know anything about basic economics, high gas prices lead to a lower money supply in the economy thus less disposable income for people to spend on clothes and such. So I have less of an opinion on the streetwear climate at the moment, and more of an opinion on our economic conditions and direction as a country.

Format: Scifen’s blog exposes the brand’s ties to many hip-hop artists. Recently—among others—Opio, Planet Asia, Killah Priest, and Yak Ballz have been featured. How important is it to Scifen to solidify ties with hip-hop artists?
Barmak: Actually we aren’t trying to solidify any ties with anyone, like “hey, look at me and my friends.” This is our daily lives and these are the people we interact with, respect, and want to promote. It’s obvious there is a huge generation gap in hip-hop and a lack of knowledge about the culture. All we try to do is share with those that know, and educate the ones that don’t know about these people and principles that embody hip-hop. We all have our own tastes and opinions. When you eat at a good restaurant or watch a good movie, you’re likely to share it with people.

Let me use another example with food as an analogy: So let’s say you’re Italian. Born in Italy, migrate to the states as a child and raised very cultured by your family. Now you’re all grown up and your friend invites you to an Italian restaurant called The Olive Garden, which is a nasty commercial restaurant chain. For some reason, your friend swears The Olive Garden is good and that it is quality Italian food. You would flip out, knowing your grandmother can cook more authentic and better quality dishes from her hip. You would naturally educate your naive friend and introduce him to some real culture. Ultimately, this is what we strive to do as a brand within hip-hop, and this is what keeps us motivated. The funny thing is, there are tons of artists we still haven’t had the opportunity to build with and connect. No matter what some may think, hip-hop is vast and world wide.

“anyone in the “streetwear” community that has no viable place amongst hip-hop should worry about themselves–this isn’t for them.”

Format: Although hip-hop is still alive and well, there is no arguing that as a genre it is relatively stale compared to what it once was. Culturally, not just musically, people are migrating. How will Scifen remain relevant as a “hip-hop brand” when hip-hop is no longer big, cool, marketable, etc.
Barmak: “People are migrating?” What the hell does that mean? Migrating to what, another culture? That makes absolutely no sense in the terms of a culture. Honestly, I think this question is completely ass backwards, but I am glad you asked it.

I can’t just migrate away from being Persian by saying “hi, I have officially moved myself into being a German.” That sounds retarded. Yo, Rakim is not going to migrate into a rock artist and stop being a 5 percenter. If anyone has ever migrated into this culture in the sense of it being big, cool, or marketable at a moment in time, then I would love for them to migrate the fuck out.

I never wanted to b-boy because it was marketable or big. I simple loved it from the minute I was introduced to it. It defines who I am as a person, as it was instrumental to me growing up. I never wanted to be like Michael Jordan or go to high school football games as a teenager. I was busy listening to Diamond D, mastering my six-step trying to be like Ken Swift. Hell, I even had a tag and wanted to get up.

Look, when I started b-boying, I naturally did everything I could to learn about its history and foundation–this led to the same appreciation for the music and graffiti. For us, we don’t know anything else.

Scifen

Format: Obama recently became the democratic nominee for the US presidency. What is your opinion of the current political climate in America?
Barmak: I think it’s great and we have a great opportunity for some real change in this country. I feel like I am part of history, living through it. This country hasn’t had a significant social movement since the Civil Rights Movement. I feel that was the last time people had to fight for a revolution. We have had a lot of issues since, but nothing that has driven people to stand up for one common cause. The current administration has done a lot of damage to the economy and welfare of the US and the other countries abroad. Our generation is extremely unique and far more equipped for change than I think we realize. We have the power to change the future and that is an amazing feeling. I think a lot people are starting to wake up and realize that we can’t afford to miss another opportunity.

Format: An unanswered user comment in Format’s 2006 interview asked Scifen about their position on involvement in unfair labor practices, contributions to community programs, and plans to promote sustainable clothing. Please respond.
Barmak: We don’t use sweat shops, period. I personally visit all our vendors and factories. I am a human being and would not tolerate such a thing. I don’t even know where these factories exist or how these major corporations get involved with it. I wish there was more this country could do to enforce strict labor codes on foreign countries.

We just held a fundraiser and mentoring event this past weekend at our store for the Los Angeles Youth Network. Check our site for more information about this event.

As far as sustainable clothing, I highly promote brands like Livity Outernational, which is a completely sustainable collection and sourcing company for developing green goods. We are in talks with them about introducing some items into our product line. I think a lot more opportunities will arise as we grow as a company and it’s truly exciting to be able to work toward goals for the community and environment.

More Info: http://www.scifen.com/

Scifen

Shane Ward

Latest posts by Shane Ward (see all)

12 comments

  1. bboy charles scmx... says:

    ive known this cat for over 13 years!! he led are bboy crew to have an international rep and i feel he is doing the same with SCIFEN..take to wake up the dead people…peace bboy charles climaxsoulcontrol international 08……..

  2. Thats was dope. Its obvious there just seems to be some bitter brands that would love to see scifen fail at what they do. Scifen is a threat to all these other shitty brands, that why I think theyre hatin.

  3. Say word. Scifen is one of the only brands out there trying to wake people up with some useful information. As well as actually sponsoring B-boys, Graff writers and Hip Hop artists. People crying about the sellout shit is just typical of anybody making moves, its just another sign of progress.

    Word!

    -Jaesism.

  4. I agree, Scifen represents Hip Hop, other street wear brands come from the surf and skating culture which is great, but there isnt any streetwear brands that represents that real Hip Hop shit, Barmak keep doin your thing, Let the haters keep hating… I see you..Peace SHABAZZ Owner…The Bassment World Famous HipHop Shop

  5. Streetwear is a trend… and a fading one at that. Hip Hop is a culture, and a thriving one at that! Scifen has been grinding in the real streets since day one repping Hip Hop to the fullest; not this candy coated digi hype blogs shit that all these kids try to act all big on such as The Hundreds. A great group of kids, but that’s all they are is kids. They talk tons of a culture they know nothing about… are they hip hop, punk, metal, emo, hipster or just a glorified cereal box as a tshirt. actually Freshjive already has that covered, and has had it since they were in diapers so you might want to add biters to the list as well. I understand talking about your influences and how your brand got to where its’ at, but Scifen has lived it and continues to live it… most others just continue to dream about it and type away on the blog like they’ve lived it. You know what the streetwear community calls those types of brands and kids… POSERS!

  6. Frank The Butcher says:

    Big up to Barmak and Ewok for continuing to provide a dope product with integrity, substance and originality.

    While other “street wear” brands only acknowledge their hip-hop influence when it helps sell a tee shirt, Scifen roots are firmly planted and there is no question what they represent. Other brands are so ambiguous when it comes to what they are saying or promoting with their clothing, almost hoping to just play the fence to make a buck.

    One more point… to all those that recognize graffiti art’s contributions to the “street wear” market with artists like Slick, Kaws, Haze, Futura and Stash, which are all legendary and HIP-HOP, need to do there homework on Ewok.

    Peace

  7. “If anyone has ever migrated into this culture in the sense of it being big, cool, or marketable at a moment in time, then I would love for them to migrate the fuck out”

    haha.. official. respect to the true heads and actual practitioners of this culture putting it down on the business tip. scifen 08 +

    peace,
    paulskeee.

  8. Memo | Bomb & Systems says:

    that was the realist interview i’ve read. barmak is a real cat. i rep SCIFEN everywhere i go. Big ups To Everyone @ Scifen!

  9. Say WERD! To support is a pleasure…. Rep’n SCIFEN till I drop!

    People always talking this and that…. This newer generation if you will not knowing, or never bothering to research and do homework to realize its NOT all about fat gold chains, ill pimped out rides, 5 sets of diamond crusted grills, having a mansion in the hills etc… Take some time and listen, those that know should help educate….

    To many haters out there then when you so happen to ask “WHY?” Heads get bent out of shape speaking mad garbage and really cant back anything up intelligently. Its like if some hypebeaster on a forum says XXXX is wack then all the spineless jellyfish jump on board but don’t know why… SUCKAZ!

    Barmak, Dmitry, Ewok, hold it down!

    The hostile takeover is here, hold on to your seats world its about to take it all by storm!

    ..QBArawkwell..

  10. What a gr8 interview, Id like to hear more from Ewok tho. Not sure who Barmak is. good rean none the less.

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