The pigeon: a symbol of a true resilience and perseverance. Considered once as pests in the NYC environment, the pigeon is now heralded as one of the most iconic characters in streetwear, thanks to one man’s vision.
That man is Jeff Ng AKA Jeff Staple. Just last week, we spent two days with The Sneakpeek crew for the Staple X The Sneakpeek Air Max Zero launch.
The first day was spent with Jeff sharing his knowledge to eager media figures and sneaker bloggers and fans. It was also spent with Jeff introducing the latest Staple clothing lineup. The man was all over the place, from organizing the models down to the music for the event. Also present were the guys from Sneakerfreaker and Sarah Meier hosting the press launch.
The second day spelled total excitement for everyone present as the Staple X The Sneakpeek Air Max Zero was distributed to 70 lucky fans via raffle.
We were a part of the lucky bunch as we got our mitts on a couple of pairs. Signed with a smile by the man! It was history in the making and the excitement was infectious.
The day was capped off with a talk- a very insightful one which brought the attendees right inside the Staple creative process. It’s inspiring and definitely a 2 day event to remember. Below is our one-one-one talk with the man himself... read on!
The Staple Interview
Can you share with us the very first sneaker that resonated with you in terms of design?
The first one was definitely the Air Jordan 3. I was already into sneakers before that. I was rocking Air Jordan 1, 2 and the Airforce 1’s before that, but the Air Jordan 3 was really so different and unique and the shoe design stood out design-wise. They kind of looked like skate shoes but skate shoes weren’t invented yet. That was the shoe that made people look at footwear from a design feel, same as architecture. Tinker Hatfield is the man.
Based from your observations, is there a big difference from the sneaker scene then and now?
Huge difference, I can tell you the biggest difference from then and now is that the sneaker companies were not making shoes for people like us. They weren’t making shoes for fashion people. They were making shoes for athletes and sports. People into fashion were buying them and remixing it with our style and turning it into a lifestyle.
Today now, sneaker companies don’t really make shoes for sports. They have a small division for sports but the large majority is made for aesthetics and design. It’s a huge turning point. On one hand, when I was in highschool I would walk into a Footlocker, take may paycheck and buy sneakers based on my choice alone and how I would remix it. Nowadays, with influencers and celebrities and social media and blogs now they tell me how to mix it all up. That’s a huge, huge difference. I don’t know if it’s for the better or the worst.
Can you share with us why you drew inspiration from the pigeon when you were tapped for a NY inspired shoe?
I wanted to find a mascot that really made a connection with me and I always loved brands that had animals for a mascot. Like from Polo, the horse, to LaCoste the alligator, Le Tigre, the tiger, Ecko, the rhino, Puma, the cat. I loved animals as mascots.
A pigeon back then was seen as like vermin, a pest, like a rat with wings but me growing up in New York City there was always something that really resonated with me about pigeons, how they survive and what their hustle’s like, they’re not afraid of people or anything like that they were like survivors and I like that mentality. I felt that I was living my life as a pigeon back then, scraping by, trying to make a living, trying to survive, trying to find my way and my purpose in this world. So it just made sense and I think pigeons visually look really cool, like their colors are really nice.
When we started the pigeon very small amount of people were into it also and that was cool , like it was underground and like a code, as time grew more and more people respected what we were doing.
We own this bird from literally a trademark standpoint, the people know we own it, I have people from social media telling me that they can’t look at a pigeon and not remember the brand now. So powerful because there are so many pigeons. It’s so cool you know.
What’s cool is when you read the comments, “This is pigeon, this is Jeff Staple.” I like how people are like protecting it.
It was a spontaneous thing, it started from a special place in my heart, good things happened because of that you know.
Tell us more about Staple design... We know it's not about sneakers and shirts anymore.
Staple Design is our creative agency where we do design work for clients, Staple Pigeon is our menswear line, I also own the Reed Space which is a retail store and a gallery, so those are the three things that I do.
Do you still collect sneakers? Can you share any pair that resonates with you as of the moment?
I recently bought a pair of Kendrick Lamars, his collaboration with Reeboks. That was the recent pair that sort of hunting for, I couldn’t find it in stores. More effort than usual.
I actually contacted my friends at Reebok, they couldn’t get them for me anymore, I sort of forgot about it, and stumbled on it from an online store for $180 and I was so happy to get them.
I’m in the position where I get a lot of shoes for free. Your readers are gonna hate this but I probably average getting one shoe a day from a company.
I’m on a week long trip right? When I get back to the office on Monday, I’ll have pairs waiting for me. Me going out for a pair is rare So actually buying sneakers is rare, it’s fun.
I know you’ve visited the PH a lot of times (the 5th time), so far what can you say about the Philippine sneaker scene?
It’s amazing that everytime I come here, the sneaker scene and the street culture scene keeps growing and growing everytime. When I first came here, it was like 50 people. Now all these stores are open, so it’s really cool to see the Filipinos embrace this culture that I helped pioneer.
I’m not Filipino, I’m Chinese but I always really resonate with Filipino people so it’s always great for me to come back.
If you were to apply the pigeon colorway to an item other than shoes or clothes what would it be?
Yes, an airplane. I wanna do a collaboration with American Airlines, like a pigeon plane. I don’t wanna own the plane 'cuz it’s too much money. I just wanna do a collaboration and see a flying pigeon plane in the air.
I think big man! (Laughs)
Take a closer look... is that a Dunk Hi?
What are we to look out for from Staple Design?
Recently, what I’ve been concentrating my time on is outreach and help the next generation of designers start their own brand. I’ve been doing a lot of talks, I do online courses I teach at universities, it’s important to me like the next generation is more successful and takes them shorter than it took me to have a successful brand. I want them to learn from my mistakes. The reason I want that is because if Staple is like the best brand out of like one brand, it doesn’t mean anything. Staple has to be the best brand out of a thousand brands and I need the competition, I need people to come in so that the whole industry rises.
I want an industry, street and sneaker culture to be a powerful voice. I wanna help everyone to come in and help this culture get a job and realize that they don’t need to be a lawyer, an accountant, they can do something else and follow their passion and we can build an industry out of this.
Like skateboarding, there was a time when it was all a bunch of derelicts. Because of people like Tony Hawk, Tony Alva they pushed skateboarding now it’s a billion dollar industry so I’m pushing for street and sneaker culture.
Message to fans?
Yeah I hope you appreciate what I’m doing, watching what I do and enjoy the ride. Create your own thing, be patient and try not to care about social media and the hype. Focus on what you want to build more than the likes.