Paying homage to the earliest pioneers of hip-hop was Adam Bachâ€™s calling. The ability to combine his passion for the rich history of the industry and its many influences with his creative story-telling style allowed The Originators brand to develop. Not only re-introducing these legends to the public, but also giving them a share of the profits is a testament to how close to his heart this venture is. With hangtags featuring a bio of the attributed artist, these t-shirts are sure to teach you a thing or two about industry legends.
â€œHip-hop is a billion dollar industry today and I felt it was time for the architects or creators of the culture to get their shine, so to speak.â€
Format: As founder of The Originators, what was the driving force behind creating this brand?
Adam Bach: The driving force behind creating The Originators was that after 30 years of hip-hop I felt it was very important to look back and give credit to those that helped build it. There were many cats from back in the days that deserved to be acknowledged for their contributions to hip-hop and it was my goal to have brand [The Originators] be the vehicle to expose these great pioneers for those contributions. Also, hip-hop is a billion-dollar industry today and I felt it was time for the architects or creators of the culture to get their shine, so to speak.
Format: Your passion for storytelling stems from degrees in both literature and film. What was it about the hip-hop community that drew you to share their stories?
Adam Bach: I guess youâ€™d call it lifestyle. I have always loved hip-hop. Growing up in Los Angeles in the eighties exposed me to such greats as Eazy-E, N.W.A, Eric B. & Rakim, De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane, EPMD and many, many others. It was through the music that I was exposed to different cultures, different experiences, and what was going on in the streets at that time. I saw hip-hop as a vehicle to bridge gaps between people. It was this love for hip-hop and the great potential it had to bring people together that drew me into it. It was only a matter of time before I decided to do something positive for the culture.
I decided to attend graduate film school at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles because I had a strong desire to tell these early pioneers’ stories on film. I felt that the culture had a definite history but there was no vehicle at the time to manifest that history. After graduating AFI with a degree in film directing I decided why tell one person’s story in a film when I can tell more stories in t-shirts and in clothing. That’s when I got the idea to start a clothing and skate line that would honor the early pioneers of hip-hop.
Format: Your graphics reference everyone from historical artists to athletes. How do you decide on images season-to-season?
Adam Bach: We as a brand are grounded in hip-hop. That is our foundation, and that is where we get a great source of our inspiration. But as people, we continue to grow, learn and be inspired. Sometimes when you ‘do hip-hop,’ people want to box you in and say that’s all you can do. I realized early on that there was strength in being diverse. We will continue to honor more and more early originators of hip-hop because there are so many out there that deserve it!
At the same time we will continue to honor people outside of the hip-hop community that lived courageous lives in the face of adversity. People like Roberto Clemente, Gandhi, and the late great Chick Hearn to name a few. We strive to share these â€˜non hip-hopâ€™ related stories in a way that is easily digestible to our core demographic, be it through our color and/or graphical choices. As soon as I realized people we’re accepting the information we were putting out, I decided why stop there…
Format: You developed a per-unit licensing deal with the original artists represented in your line. Why was it important to you to have this direct and mutually beneficial tie?
Adam Bach: These were the people that helped build hip-hop. In my opinion they had already been scorned by the music industry in terms of not getting any piece of the pie when hip-hop was full-grown and extremely viable. I had too much respect for these cats to not try to get them paid as the brand got paid. I felt like it was the right thing to do, and with all due respect, it was.
Format: What have been some of your top selling styles?
Adam Bach: Some of our top selling styles, to name a few have been: ‘Native Tongues’, ‘Lakers ’85,’ â€˜Shoutout’, ‘Taki 183′, ‘Graffiti Life’, ‘I B*mb NY’, ‘Jordan Grenade’, ‘One Mic’, ‘Kurtis Blow’ and ‘The World is Listening’.
Format: What references have you personally been most excited to bring back?
Adam Bach: I am truly excited about all of the styles that we offer from season-to-season, and I think that is why most of our t-shirts do so well. To be able to inform people about who for example, coined the term â€˜hip-hopâ€™ (Love Bug Starski) or who the first person to â€˜scratchâ€™ was (Grand Wizzard Theodore) is very fulfilling for me.
We recently did a shirt that honored the 1985 Lakers starting lineup. The shirt ordains the names: Magic, Byron, Worthy, Rambis, and Kareem. In the same manner, we also did a Chick Hearn shirt; he was the longtime voice of the Lakers. I am proud to be doing this shirt because being such an avid Lakers fan; I spent many days and nights listening to his broadcast. It makes me proud to honor such a good man with such a great work ethic. At the same time I know no other brand is honoring Chick Hearn or would think to honor Chick Hearn with a shirt, and that uniqueness makes me proud because it sets us apart from the others.
â€œIn a way I feel that by being independent and being under capitalized has helped us, it has made us work smarter and more creative.â€
Format: The line features mainly t-shirts with some skateboards and accessories; do you have plans for expansion?
Adam Bach: Of course we do. This season, we are breaking with a new cut-and-sew line. We always strive to better the brand, be it through design, fabric choices, working with new talented artists and designers, investigating new techniques in the marketplace, creating quality hard goods etc. In a way I feel that by being independent and being under-capitalized has helped us, it has made us work smarter and more creative. We have learned that money doesn’t solve everything, but being innovative and working hard has its place. It has allowed us to grow at a healthy pace, thus not over saturating the market, creating a greater demand for Originators product. It’s funny how that works sometimes.
Format: Your first retail location, The Originators L.A. recently opened. How has the response been?
Adam Bach: The response has been great. We are in the Fairfax district, which is nice because close as we are to the main boulevard, where many streetwear stores currently reside, we are just off of it – again, that sets us apart. We have been sponsoring many DJs, MCs, dancers, and artists since our inception in 2004, and I think for many of those people they take great pride in seeing our growth as a brand. We also now have the opportunity to support, promote, and entertain people and causes that we feel strongly about. This is all helping to build the brand in a positive manner.
Format: Youâ€™ve said you want the brand to grow ‘organically’ but have you done any direct marketing to get the concept to the consumer?
Adam Bach: Direct marketing is crucial when you’re trying to reach a target audience. We spend countless hours per week trying to reach our demographic about whatever it is we are involved in at that time, be it new products offered, a new store, events, accomplishments by some of the people we honor in the line, celebrities and athletes that support the line.
We use the technology that is readily available to accomplish our direct marketing goals. It is intelligent, creative people using the technology that is available to come in contact with our core audience. I know it sounds funny but sites like Twitter, Myspace, and Facebook help to accomplish this. Also, many of the events that we put on and sponsor around the world also help to identify the Originators brand to our core customer. Thank God for the Internet.
Format: Who have you found to be some of your biggest competitors?
Adam Bach: I know this sounds clichÃ©, but I don’t look at ourselves as having competitors. I believe we are our own best competitor. We must continue to work hard, smart, and with passion – everything else will fall into place. We have a lot of respect for the other brands out there because this whole game is a struggle and one must really love it to do it.
Format: Where would you like to see The Originators in 5 years?
Adam Bach: The top streetwear brand in the business, worn by trendsetters across the world. I would love to still be in our flagship store located on Hayworth Ave in Los Angeles and maybe even a couple more stores in places like New York, Tokyo, etc. Because we work and dress so many music producers, musicians, DJs, and MCs and because the music business is ever-changing, I would like to eventually start an independent label called the Originators Music Group. Maybe one day we’ll even get an opportunity to tell some of those stories on film.
More Info: www.theoriginators.com