Those Folks street wear, a “lifestyle brand”
On Abbot Kinney, one of Venice Beach's most prominent boulevards, a hand protruded above the crowd of designer-garbed individuals and slapped a sticker on a 'No Skateboarding' sign. “Those Folks” was now loudly displayed in place of the “No.” The stickers could be seen everywhere, - shop windows, traffic signs, trash cans – without much more explanation than a website.
But who were “Those Folks?”
Richard Massie, 24-year-old founder and creative director of Those Folks, has lived in Venice his whole life. Though he was exposed at a very young age to violence and drugs, and grew up alongside a prevalent gang lifestyle, his passion and love for skateboarding has been a savior.
Those Folks started in June of 2008 as a simple blog of pictures and entries portraying the beach lifestyle Massie and his friends lived. Now they use the site to promote music events, art shows, T-shirts, sunglasses, stickers, pins, and anything else that they collaborate on or create.
In order to inform people about upcoming events and sales, Those Folks has utilized social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, as well as their blog thosefolks.com. Additionally, they distribute stickers all over Los Angeles as a cost-effective way of advertising, and to create a buzz for their brand.
Four years ago, Massie suffered a tear to his Meniscus while skateboarding in Costa Mesa. It was during a slow recovery that he came up with the idea for the brand.
While unable to skate for over a year and half, Massie stayed busy by helping out at Rogue Status/DTA, a clothing and skateboard shop in Venice, and his main sponsor at the time.
“I wasn’t sure what I was trying to do,” said Massie. “But I knew that I wanted to do something that would benefit my friends and make my family happy.”
The owners of Rogue Status/DTA noticed something different about Massie, and inspired him to follow a similar path as them, fueling the young skateboarder's ambition.
“Those Folks is like a village,” exclaimed Johan Esbensen, co-founder of Rogue Status/DTA. “Whenever you live in a big city, you get lost in it. I've got a village of people I can trust, and Those Folks are those people.”
21-year-old Mike Alsobrook, a fellow member and coordinator of the brand, described them as “a collection of skaters, musicians, and talented young artists of all mediums.”
According to Alsobrook, the term “Folks” was a reference to the group's friends and families. While most of the brand's members grew up together, their circle continues to grow.
“We are a work collective, and all we are doing is chasing our dreams,” said Massie.
Aside from producing product and hosting events, Those Folks has made commercials for their clothing, and skateboarding videos promoting their closest friends which they upload on their Youtube channel.
Massie and his partner/media director, Tiimo Schulze have been developing an online store in order distribute their items through the Internet. Currently, they have been selling their products via various events, and through associates who have their own clothing or skate shops. So far, merchandise has been available at particular locations, and on the release day only, adding to the exclusiveness of the brand.
Alsobrook explained that only a certain number of items are produced. When they sell out, the company moves on to new designs.
Massie added that Those Folks is not a traditional brand, as there is no specific number of members. Friends, family, and anybody else they're associated with are considered “Folks.”
“This family was growing before it even became a brand,” said Massie. “Anyone can start a clothing line, but not every brand is a lifestyle. This is our life.”
At the moment, Those Folks is planning an event with the Santa Monica based rap group Warm Brew, in order to promote the group’s debut album 'Kottabos,' and drop an exclusive collaborative T-shirt.
The event will take place on May 27, and will start with the T-shirt release at Station 26 in Santa Monica, followed by an after party and concert at The Good Hurt on Venice Blvd.
Previous events held by Those Folks included an art show that featured the works of various associates, with a performance by childhood friends and up-and-coming West Los Angeles based rappers, Chill Black Guys.
According to Massie, Those Folks tend to “keep it in the circle,” as they also had CBG perform at the release of a limited edition sunglass collaboration with Crap Eyewear. The glasses would go on to catch the eye of rapper Lil' Wayne, and he proudly sported them in a music video featuring Bruno Mars entitled ‘Mirrors.’
Those Folks is trying to set a good example for younger kids in the neighborhood. “We are trying to push young people to use their talent,” said Alsobrook. “There is nothing worse than wasted talent.”
So far, no personal profits have been made from sales, as every penny earned goes straight back into the brand and future projects.
“New brands are created every day,” said Massie. “You can say there is competition everywhere, but that's only if you choose to see it that way.”