The stereotype of angst-ridden, 30-something-year-old men who own a la mode streetwear lines is all too often true, except in the case of Trikoâ€™s Hector Estrada. Proud to be conscious of environment and social factors that affect Trikoâ€™s industry and its surrounding affairs, Estrada places morals before profit, sort of â€“ business is business.
â€œOur ultimate goal is to inspire and to help you in your daily pursuit of life,â€ says Estrada, adding that Triko clothing is made for people look, feel and perform to their best ability, â€œNot just look good for the sake of it, but to feel good.â€
While several companies in the fashion industry choose to manufacture in cost-effective facilities in Communist China, Estrada â€“ who admits to manufacturing overseas, specifically Hong Kong â€“ enforces five Triko standards for overseas manufacturing: non-poverty wages; no more than 48 mandatory work hours per week; â€œprotection from discrimination, harassment, abuse, forced contraception and pregnancy testing and forced overtime; zero forced child labor; and fair and safe labor conditions,â€ he says.
Currently, Triko is due to release its spring 2008 line.
â€œIf for some reason you get arrested while participating in a peaceful rally, weâ€™ll bail you out.â€
Format: Triko does a Native-American print for one of its sweaters. A lot of streetwear brands did Native-American throwbacks in 2007. What attracted Triko to Native-American imagery?
Estrada: We have incorporated Native American elements into the collection before â€“ in 2002 and 2004 â€“ and I have included Native American elements into collections I have worked on as far back as â€™98. My grandmother is a direct descendent of the Arawaks and I grew up surrounded by Native American art and culture. The Native American subject is part of my life and youâ€™ll see it in our designs from time to time.
Format: Does Triko consider itself streetwear?
Estrada: Triko is guided by the principles of quality, innovation, performance and beauty as applied to our eclectic and progressive lifestyles, to label it as streetwear â€“ even though the streets are part of our everyday lives â€“ will neglect the diverse character of the brand by narrowing it to just one part of the whole.
Format: Youâ€™re a former designer of Ecko and Mecca. How has your experience at Ecko and Mecca transferred to Triko’s creations?
Estrada: I gained great experience working for these brands. And it helped elevate my overall knowledge of the industry, design and culture. I traveled the world with both these brands, visited many garment facilities, met people in many countries and designed numerous collections. But most importantly, they confirmed my likes and dislikes, thus increasing my sophistication level.
Format: In a previous interview, you say Triko works with Defenders of the Wildlife and the Coral Reef Alliance. Please describe Triko’s experience with these environmental groups and how Triko’s experience with these groups relates to how Triko practices business.
Estrada: Weâ€™ve had mixed experiences with these groups. Some are welcoming while others are a bit bitter. But it is always rewarding to know that we are trying our best to do what we feel is needed to ensure a safe environment for generations to come. We have donated our time and energy to this purpose by raising awareness about these issues and helping increase their memberships and donations. We have also attended rallies and contributed financially to these and other groups.
Everyone at Triko is expected to conduct themselves in an environmentally responsible fashion by recycling, being aware of the issues, and minimizing their impact on the environment. As part of the crew you are allowed to take days off to attend peaceful rallies. If for some reason you get arrested while participating in a peaceful rally, weâ€™ll bail you out. We have already managed to inspire a good number of brands to get involved in the environment. We realize that there is much more we could do and are committed to improving our efforts.
Format: How are Triko’s adopted tiger, Pinstripe, and penguin, Bowtie, doing?
Estrada: We adopted them for a year, meaning that we gave a financial contribution to help pay for their annual upkeep. They are in great hands thanks to the heroes at Defenders.org. This year while still contributing to Defenders, we focused our efforts on alternative energy by purchasing services from Native Energy.
Format: Triko proudly manufactures sweatshop free. Does Triko outsource its manufacturing to foreign countries?
Estrada: Yes we do. And while the only way to be 100 per cent sure that products are sweatshop free is to manufacture them in your own facilities, we are still an independent brand with very small runs. We have the luxury to only work with a few â€“ two or three â€“small factories outside of our own sampling room in Hong Kong, which handles most of our overseas production. These vendors have agreed to obey by our standards. We also send un-announced representatives to these factories, to check on them from time to time.
Format: How does Triko determine the workplace standards their manufacturer practices with its employees?
Estrada: We are currently exploring the possibility of contracting a third party to certify our products under Fair Trade Standards. Here are our own standards: non-poverty wages; no more than 48 mandatory work hours per week; protection from discrimination, harassment, abuse, forced contraception and pregnancy testing and forced overtime; zero forced child labor; and fair and safe labor conditions.
Format: Triko uses organic materials like coconut shells, organic cotton and tagua in its clothing. How and why does Triko use organic materials?
Estrada: We choose to incorporate organic materials into our products in order to reduce the use of harmful pesticides and to inspire others to strive toward environmental responsibility.
Format: In fashion, celebrities make or break products. Who is a celebrity Triko would want to wear its product and who is a celebrity Triko would not want to wear its product?
Estrada: We are focused on delivering good products; if a celebrity recognizes our hard work and chooses to wear our products we are honored.
Format: What qualities does Triko look for in its storefront retailers?
Estrada: Our retailers need to understand and appreciate the brand and our customers. They also need a well-designed store, good customer service and proper merchandising. We also prefer to work with friendly people. A few tradeshows ago we received a very moving email from someone we met at our booth. He said that we were the only people on our section that welcomed him with a smile and treated him well. Before meeting us, he believed everyone in our market were assholes. We like for our retailers to treat their customers the same way we treat them.
Format: Internet retailers have transformed the fashion industry by offering a one, two, three shopping experience and reaching nearly every market. What has Triko’s experience been with Internet retailers?
Estrada: Our experience has been great! We knew we represented a global audience and the Internet has helped bring Triko to the world! Our presence on the Internet made the brand available to people in areas where we didnâ€™t have authorized retailers.
Format: Internet blogs are the hype machine behind streetwear. What are the pros and cons of third-party blogs cataloging the streetwear industry?
Estrada: Blogs have also been a great vehicle for us. They cover a huge global audience with the latest info and weâ€™re honored to be covered by most of the blogs relevant to our audience. However, some of them are too cut up on exclusivity for the sake of exclusivity. If one of their boys designs a T-shirt graphic in ten minutes and only prints 24 of them, theyâ€™ll publish a jpeg of a C.A.D. that looks like their pet drew it as if it was something special. They seem to not have any standards, sometimes.
Format: Triko boasts the tag line, “Art of Life.” How does Triko’s clothing and business operations help its customers reach their “Art of Life?”
Estrada: Our ultimate goal is to inspire and to help you in your daily pursuit of life. Our products are designed to make you look, feel and perform well. Not just look good for the sake of it, but to feel good. We think of our products the same way an interior designer thinks of placement or an industrial designer of materials. First if they fit your personality, theyâ€™ll help you communicate who you are to the world. A particular color might contribute to your mood. The right fit might get you noticed. One of our fabrics will make you feel comfortable, while another will keep you dry in the rain. It might also make you feel better knowing that you are helping the environment by wearing coconut shell buttons. We are trying our best to bring forth an inspirational brand with empowering products.
Format: Triko is based in New York City. How does New York City influence Triko’s final product?
Estrada: We are very much influence by the cityâ€™s flavor, from its diversity to its accents, landscapes, galleries, events and ocean of people. We are very lucky to work in NYC. We get to eat any type of food we like, and learn any language, skill, art we desire. You can see the cityâ€™s colors and rhythms in our products and persona.
Format: A popular standard spreading through streetwear brands is opening a storefront location that serves as a flagship for the brand. Does Triko plan to open a storefront location?
Estrada: We would love to, but we have no plans to open a flagship shop any time soon. We are true wholesalers. Once we feel that aspect of the business is well oiled and running, weâ€™ll give retail some thought.
Format: Recently, Triko collaborated with Memes, a store from New York City, to make a T-shirt and a unique hoodie. Please explain how this collaboration materialized.
Estrada: We have a long and solid relationship with the Memes owners as they are also our Japanese distributors and friends. Moreover, we love Yuki â€“ she manages Memes. We communicate often and I visit the store on a weekly basis. One day, I believe over dinner, we casually talked about the idea of a Triko and Memes collaboration, a few weeks later we agreed on a hoodie â€“ Trikoâ€™s infamous Maritime â€“ and a tee. The rest is history.
Format: Triko collaborated with Reebok for limited edition sneaker. How did this collaboration materialize?
Estrada: This was around 2004 at a time when there wasnâ€™t many collaborations going on. My good friend Ryan Cross from Reebok and I thought it would be a good idea. However, he left Reebok for a while and the project was then put on hold. After months my man George Lebossie took over the project and brought it to fruition. We only produced 100 pairs, which sold in about a week.
Format: What does “Tell the children the truth” mean to Triko and how can Triko execute a plan to make that message a reality?
Estrada: â€˜Tell The Children The Truthâ€™ represents a dream of an honest and understanding society. We believe that most of our social troubles are caused by ignorance. Now imagine if our children were to be though the truth and facts, theyâ€™ll be more aware and understanding adults.
Our goal is to create an educational resource for children to have access to these facts. Weâ€™ve gotten our feet wet in the form of a limited edition tee we did with Uplift Jamaica, which built and funds schools in underprivileged Jamaican neighborhoods and with financial contributions to PBS. At the moment we arenâ€™t ready to go at it full force, but hope to create this educational resource in the near future.
More Info: http://www.triko.com/