Since 1991, team XLarge has held down fashion sense and fashion function. Team XLarge is: Eli Bonerz, owner; Dave Chmielewski, business manager; Rory Wilson, art director; Jenni Bell, design assistant; and Paul Kim, marketing.
Chmielewski â€“ the initial XLarge and Format contact â€“ is 30, originally from Buffalo, New York and has spent 11 years with XLarge â€“ Chmielewski can literally walk to work, but he rarely does, instead, he drives his `98 VW Beetle to work, a car heâ€™s thinking of retiring for a practical vehicle. â€œProbably a four-door of some sort that will make it easier for me to take my two dogs to the beach on the weekends,â€ Chmielewski says, adding an Audi, Volvo or Subaru hybrid wagon would be ideal â€“ if those companies made one for America.
XLarge is environmentally conscious. â€œHaving our catalogs be a part of our Paper Defense Force allows us to send out images and catalogs to anyone in world almost instantly,â€ says Chmielewski, who, along with the XLarge team, is 100 per cent behind Internet publishing and cutting down on print materials.
â€œOur business partners in Taiwan designed a shirt â€“ years ago â€“ that encouraged their consumers to only purchase product from authorized dealers. [â€¦] Then someone bootlegged it!â€
Format: With the boom of street fashion companies herding to trade shows like MAGIC, is there opportunity to build relationships with retailers?
RW: More brands at the shows means more retailers at the shows. It makes it easier to meet with new accounts, but, at the same time, you really have to work harder to make a lasting impression. Thereâ€™s always going to be more products to sell than there are customers. That’s the nature of the business.
DC: The opportunity to build relationships at trade shows is definitely there. You can accomplish a lot online, these days â€“ or even over the phone â€“, but the in person aspect of this business is absolutely necessary. Though, I’ve always felt as if companies’ trade show allowance should be put in the advertising and marketing budget. The presence is important, but most of the real business that happens as a result of a trade show, happens after the trade show.
Format: The Internet blog makes awareness of street fashion skyrocket, compared to the time when word of mouth or physically seeing the product, spread awareness. What are the pros and cons in street fashion being cataloged by third party blogs?
RW: Immediacy is both the biggest asset and the biggest hindrance to blogs. You see a lot more, but remember a lot less.
DC: My newly adapted philosophy is: actions speak louder than blogs. I saw that on a T-shirt. Anyone know where I can get one of those?
Format: Does XLarge consider itself streetwear?
RW: True streetwear is utilitarian first and fashion minded second. In that sense, XLarge has always considered itself streetwear.
Format: The Unity Mansion Show is unique and XLarge, recently, played a large role in it. Please explain the Unity Mansion Show experience and how it is different than other trade shows.
DC: The Unity Mansion Show was unlike any other trade show event I had ever been a part of. My opinion is that an event like Unity provides a more productive environment for doing actual business. Almost every account that saw us at Unity commented about how more trade shows should be that type of environment. A concept like Unity also allowed us to do much more than just show our products. We set up a showroom and art gallery that really tied the room together.
Format: Recently, communist China has attracted a lot of negative press for its exports: poisonous pet food, tainted seafood and lead paint on children’s toys. If relations between America and China were to halt, how would your industry, the street fashion industry, recover from its severed connection to cost-effective manufacturing?
JB: I think it would be hard to recover from not having a China connection. However, at the same time, it may be good to get other countries, such as the U.S. to be more proactive and competitive in that sense.
Format: Bootlegging and counterfeiting are an increasing problem for street fashion companies. How does XLarge protect itself from bootlegging and counterfeiting?
DC: It’s nearly impossible to stop counterfeiting, globally, but we take each issue one by one and do our best to control it. Our business partners in Taiwan designed a shirt â€“ years ago â€“ that encouraged their consumers to only purchase product from authorized dealers. They got several different brands involved with the project and produced these cool shirts about being loyal to legitimate shops selling legitimate product. Then someone bootlegged it! Sorry, Stan and Yiling! We love you for trying!
Format: XLarge is based in Los Angeles, a city that defines people, companies and industries. How is Los Angeles part of XLarge, as product and company?
RW: You absorb a lot of the environment that you live and work in. Iâ€™ve come up with a lot of ideas while sitting on the freeway, which is pretty exclusive to Los Angeles.
DC: Eli, the owner of XL, was born and raised in L.A., so I think a lot of XL’s original design concepts reflect the surroundings he grew up with. I think that can be said of the companiesâ€™ products over the years, as well. We all live here and are constantly influenced by the environment around us.
Format: Recently, XLarge did with Afro Samurai how did this opportunity materialize?
DC: That project was set up by our long time business partners in Japan. They rule the school over there â€“ nice work, guys.
Format: Celebrities play a large role in brand recognition. If XLarge could choose any celebrity to floss its gear, what celebrity would XLarge choose and why?
EB: Tay Zonday.
DC: Is â€˜flossâ€™ up on Urban Dictionary? It should be. We feel that celebrities should floss with XLarge gear, daily.
Format: What qualities does XLarge look for in its retailers?
RW: Cash on delivery!
Format: What has the celebrity of Mike D. done for the brand, XLarge?
EB: No Mike D., No XLarge. He’s our spiritual advisor.
Format: XLarge created XLarge Nation, a site is one part social networking and another part blog. How did the idea for this site materialize?
PK: XLarge Nation combines social networking and blogging so consumers aren’t just being spoon-fed. They can actually participate and have a voice. We all liked the idea of that.
Format: XLarge has created a gallery series with talents like Dez Einswell and The London Police. Why is it important for XLarge to organize these events?
DC: The Gallery is great exposure for our flagship L.A. store. The thought was to increase the flow of traffic through the shop and at the same time give us an opportunity to work with artists that we respect and admire.
Format: XLarge was established in 1991 and had the opportunity to grow with its industry. How has XLarge’s industry transformed since 1991.
DC: We can transform from a T-shirt, to a car, to a robot, to a jet and then back to T-shirt, now â€“ couldn’t do that before.
Format: “Save the trees, use the Internet” is the XLarge philosophy. What challenges does XLarge face by not using print materials?
RW: None. Nowadays, itâ€™s more difficult, expensive and time consuming to print catalogs. We can design a catalog in the morning and have it sent to customers or posted on blogs all around the world by the afternoon. But itâ€™s important to keep in mind that when the â€˜Save the trees, use the Internetâ€™ campaign was created, things were a lot different.
DC: Agreed. Having our catalogs be a part of our Paper Defense Force allows us to send out images and catalogs to anyone in world almost instantly.
Format: The end products of XLarge’s project with Michael Lau and Fingercroxx are interesting. How is a collaboration project for a vinyl toy, different than a fashion collaboration?
PK: Toys are more of a specialty item for collectors, so the product targets a more specific customer.
JB: Elves are also much easier to work with than apparel factory owners.
Format: XLarge collaborated with Fuct for two T-shirt designs, Industry Heavy Weights and X-Fuct Store Logo. How did this collaboration materialize and which party did the design work?
DC: XLarge and Fuct have a long history together. Part of which was an XFuct store in L.A., years ago.
EB: I designed the original XLarge Fuct store logo with Slick and Erik Brunetti. Industry Heavy Weights is Erik’s design.
Format: Brand collaborations are go-crazy and that is fine, however, the practice is becoming commonplace. What characteristics does XLarge look for in the people or brands that it collaborates with?
PK: We meet, we get along, we respect, we collaborate. I think thatâ€™s how it goes for most people. As for bigger collaborations with corporate companies, no one can say itâ€™s not an honor working with companies like Reebok, Casio, Timberland, Sprite, etcetera.
More Info: http://www.xlarge.com/