Just shy of a month ago we previewed the high-end streetwear line with hip-hop influences dubbed HSTRY; a collaboration between legendary emcee Nas and the New York-based lifestyle brand Grungy Gentleman. Today however, we bring forth an exclusive interview with the fashion imprint’s founder Jace Lipstein as we discuss how his partnership with ‘God’s Son’ came about. In our discussion, Lipstein speaks on his initial connection with Nas, this season’s theme, where Nas fits in, the difference between HSTRY and other rapper-endorsed lines, the manufacturing process, and much more. HSTRY and its 33-piece collection will begin retailing this month via Grungy Gentleman’s webstore.
Can you introduce yourself and your role?
My name is Jace Lipstein and I’m the founder of Grungy Gentleman. Grungy is a multimedia, design and merchandising hybrid as well as a web destination for what’s hot in men’s culture. My passion is creative direction, but I lead up web content and product design.
How did the dialog start for a collabo with Nas?
I initially wanted to get some of our Eton gear to the GOAT himself. Coincidentally Nas was looking to get into fashion but didn’t want something typical. His now Creative Director, Kiran Goraya, is an avid follower of Grungy and connected us, feeling confident we could create something dynamic and memorable.
What does Grungy Gentleman bring to the table in this sort of collabo?
Grungy’s been doing collabs for some time – Eton, Cohesive and Del Toro to name a few. The great thing is that we have both design and media avenues. We’re talking product concept, sourcing, manufacturing, market placement and PR. But we can promote through our web channels too. We’re bringing these collaborations to market directly through our online store and retail placement.
What does Nas bring to the table?
Nas is an international icon and, in my opinion, the best emcee of all time. But it’s not just his name that helps. Nas is a businessman. There are a lot of celebrities doing whatever just to get their name out there, and he isn’t one of them. He wants it distinct and well thought-out.
The Theme and Execution…
What’s the overarching theme of the first collection?
Streetwear meets high fashion. We took classic, comfortable sportswear and gave it a modern edge… even a bit of menace.
Predominantly utilizing leather in your debut collection, what other materials are you looking at/can we expect?
We’re working on SS ’14 now and there are some exceptional concepts so far. As far as next season, I have this fascination with shooting Adrianne Ho and Cara Delevingne together as the campaign. Probably will never happen but I wish.
What is the core purpose behind HSTRY and bringing Nas on to the project?
The core purpose: to help Nas create a foundation for his brand. The HSTRY brand name didn’t exist prior to our partnership. It was created after we got a better pulse on what the brand was about and where Nas wanted it to go. It is going to be a monster.
Does HSTRY pave the way for future collaborations with other artists?
This partnership is definitely one-of-a-kind. Nas is a king. I do think it will display Grungy Gentleman’s capabilities to other artists and athletes who are looking to make their own unique mark in menswear. Feel very humbled and blessed for that.
Hip-Hop and Fashion…
What are your thoughts on menswear’s fascination with hip-hop and vice versa?
“Snapbacks and tattoos. Nice whips, fly chicks, all that cause cash rules.”
Is it purely coincidental or are there deeper similarities between the two worlds?
Both are appearance businesses, forms of expression and used in everyday life. I once was asked by GQ India, “What is the most American menswear accessory in the industry?” My reply, “Hip-hop.”
How does the collaboration between Nas and HSTRY differ from the long history of rapper-endorsed fashion partnerships?
HSTRY is rad because Nas isn’t just slapping his name on something. He was involved in selecting leather and silhouettes for the collection, among other steps throughout the process. This brand was started from scratch. Hip-hop artists are wearing luxury brands like Balenciaga and Tom Ford. HSTRY is that cross between luxury and street.
Sportswear — and a fascination with streetwear and techwear — has been creeping into men’s fashion over the past few years. What are your thoughts on this “trend”?
Well sportswear is believable. Real guys wear it. I categorize fashion into two categories; believable and playful. Although I respect playful and at times can be the driving force for keeping our industry innovative, believable garments are what sells.
What was the thought process behind manufacturing the goods in the USA?
I thought it was important to keep it close to home so we could keep an eye on quality, but we source globally for the best materials out there. Our leather is all from Torino, Italy and all ribbing is cashmere-wool. We want HSTRY’s excellence to be in line with respected international brands like Givenchy or Balmain but made right here in the USA.