Interview by Thomas Bradley
Freshness x Heron Preston - interview with web designer / clothier / marketer / thinker expounds on branding and blondes, HUF and Warren Buffet (HeronPreston.com has a link to the Berkshire Hathaway web page. . . Let that simmer.)
Heron has recently written for the "Untitled" book that accompanies the exhibition bearing the same name as it is shown in Berlin and Barcelona. Other contributors include: adidas, ALIFE, Crooked Tongues, DC, Evil Monito, Ezekiel, JB, Kostas, Nigo of A Bathing Ape (BAPE) , Nike SB, SSUR plus, Stash, Stussy, The Most Influential, Twelve Bar, Upper Playground, UXA, Todd Jordan, and BEINGHUNTED.
Full interview after the jump
It is a strong statement to pick up and move from Cali to NY. What did you cling to that helped you cross the continent?
I had ambition. I had confidence. I had a vision that NEEDED to become a reality. I was hungry so I did it. It was time for me to make a move in my life. A big move. Just living in this city opens you up to chances that other people don't get, and I knew that. I interviewed A-Ron from aNYthing which you can watch on my website. He spoke about New York being a "paradise of opportunity". He was right. This place actually has too much opportunity. You just have to work for it and not be scared. Shit, you can make it out here by going out on a nightly basis. Those are what I call socialites. You don't even have to do shit and you can still be somebody. Me, I want to be known as a person who did something significant in their life. I want to be known as someone who made a difference in the lives of others. I had no fear before coming to New York man. I was young and ready to attack. Anxious. I'm the only child, and have grown to learn to be on my own. I just clinged to my natural instincts.
Your father being such a strong influence in your life both stylistically and intellectually, how do you think he perceives the site and what youve done with yourself so far?
My dad is excited, but he knows I still have more to go. He pumps me full of inspiration on a daily basis. HAHA, he's even trained me to never sound sleepy on the phone. He'll call and be like "Wake your ass up!!!". Even though he might catch me in the middle of sleep, I'll change my voice and act like I'm wide awake. He knows I'm doing the right thing. He put me in this technology high school in Napa, CA. It was group-based learning. We did a lot of presentations. Every classroom I sat in, I'd have a computer in front of me. My first design teacher was from DreamWorks. I inspire my father, and he inspires me. It goes back n forth. He lives vicariously through what I do. He has confidence in me. He shows my site to people back in S.F., so I have to keep in mind that what I share on the website has to be on a mature level as well. I not only get 15 to 35 year olds, I get 40 and 50 year olds. He's basically proud and that puts pressure on me, because I do not have room to fail. I don't want to sound like the guy that only works for what other people want, but he's built a machine that continually wants to progress and hates losing.
You've expressed the idea that in spite of everything one must "keep on steppin". In addition to this idea you have expressed a need to "Live Above Mediocrity" in your clothing line and on your web page. What are you doing, what should we be doing, to rise above?
Live Above Mediocrity. I heard a preacher say that one Sunday in church about 3 years ago, and had to use it to define my lifestyle because it was something I felt really described my mind state and the way I carried myself. Why be mediocre? I'm a leader, not a follower. It's in my competitive blood. I'm not a normal person, and never have been. I've always been like the weird outcast guy, and have learned to use that as an advantage. Like I said, I'm the only child. I didn't have an older brother to back me up during beefs at school. No sisters to help me out with girls. I had to do everything myself, learn from the older people around me. I try and out think people all the time and if you've ever had a class with me, you'd notice that. I won't tell you what you should do to live above mediocrity, but I'll tell you what I do, and maybe you can adopt some of my ways, and apply them to your life. What I'm doing is changing the way people perceive young black men. I'm educated, and I'm capitalizing on that. I'm the only black dude in some of my classes. I don't want to look like a black guy people expect to see. It's me versus the stereotypes. I want to flip the script, and show the world that yes, we are amazingly smart, can speak proper English, can make moves like anyone else and make money legally. I'll wear some slacks and tuck my shirt in at a Retail Mafia party. I don't care if people call me corny. I smile and laugh when it happens. You'll never hear me use the word "nigga" unless I'm reciting a song. I carry myself with respect, and treat people with respect when others are treating them like they don't even exist. I can make friends with anyone. I have the ability to operate in any world. I can politic with thugs and I can politic with Warren Buffet. It doesn't matter. I was born and raised this way, that's why I perform this way.
Though you've been accepted by the NY scene, you are still a being that has formed its opinions, ideals, and methods outside the NY mentality. With that in mind, how do you view the NY scene?
The NY scene is interesting. It's full of intimidation, and that holds a lot of people back. People out here will act like they don't know who you are, when they really do. It's a big act. It's a game and I'm in it. Image is everything and people have taken "cool" to the next level. That's how powerful this environment is out here. I've seen people not walk into stores, because it would ruin their image. A lot of people out here who you think are hard asses are actually really really nice once you get to know them. I want to be friends with everyone, and I don't care which brand you're associated with or where you work. As long as you treat me with respect, I'll return the favor. That is big with me, and I just had to cold turkey this one beezie for disrespecting me. Had to let the birdy go, fly away on her own. My dad is the same way. If you know him, or know of him, the last thing you want to do is disrespect him. That has rubbed off on me. I try to be the first person to say hi and shake hands. I'm the type that doesn't get into beef. I don't talk shit. I'll express my disagreements about someone or something, but I wont talk shit. This is a small world, so what you say will eventually make its rounds, so speak wisely. I avoid that shit because it's not worth it. To make it here, my theory is to walk with your head up, and be your own man, seriously. Do your own thing and you'll do great. Don't be afraid to open your mouth and be aggressive. People form strong opinions and can be so harsh on the next man trying to make it. Even if I don't like your style, I'll still respect your hustle, because like you, I'm a hustler myself. We are an ill breed, and a breed I've fallen in love with. New York pushes me. There are so many of us out here. This is a Thank You to all of the hustlers in New York, and a Thank You to all that have paved a path for the young entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
The site is basically a representation of your "self" and your vantage point. With business advice on how to make and distribute product or website protection for novice internet users you are breaking new ground by discussing the behind the scenes work that is usually left edited from the success story columns. What do you think the value of your work in this area will be?
I've come to learn that major media today have not realized what a lot of the youth really want. Every fucking magazine and online blog focuses way to much on the latest trend or product line that's about to surface. I don't even care about that stuff anymore because there is so much of it. I will hear about that from my friends, and if it interests me, ill then look into it. The entrepreneurial bug is striking at an earlier age these days, but no one is supplying the demand to the business hungry youth. What I'd like to see is what these companies did to become who they are today, and what these companies are doing to stay in business. I want to read about, and visually see that process. Everyone loves success stories. They are so inspirational. People are nosey. They want to see a behind the scenes look. The only piece of media in our culture that I've seen take this step into the business arena has been The Royal Magazine led by David Gensler. A magazine here and there will do a piece on what I'm talking about. They'll do a "HOT JOBS" section, and focus on someone like Steve Stoute or Come Chantrel, but that's it. I'm glad to see what David is doing and he is going to be a leading character in pushing this movement. I'll get emails from kids asking me HOW they can start their own t-shirt line. Major companies that have great followings don't show kids how to turn their creativity into business realities. I used to be that kid, and still am. What if FUTURA taught a business class? He's not just a world renowned artist, he's also a successful businessman. How popular do you think it would be? In my opinion, it would be genius!! How successful would the learning outcomes be for the students? I think they'd be priceless. What if James Jebbia started a monthly zine on business in creative atmospheres, and got a gang of young influential designers, business owners and hustlers to be the contributors? It does not have to be on some complicated business jargon because sometimes the best way to communicate is to keep it simple. There is so much opportunity out there to change lives and make money. I don't know what's going on. I'm disappointed. I want to make a change and that's exactly what I'm up to with HeronPreston.com. I want to show people that yes I am like you, and yes, it's ok to be different in such an intimidating arena. I party hard, but I also go to school, do my work, and stay intelligently productive.
From Warren Buffet (100% gangster, no chaser) to Keith Huf, you cover a wide spectrum of the marketplace. Discuss why Huf and Buffet make sense together on heronpreston.com?
Warren Buffet and Keith Huf do not make sense together, and that is exactly what I wanted to do with Heron Preston. People will ask me, "What exactly is your website about?? It's just so random." I just read about Jay Z in the December 15th issue of Rolling Stone. Something that really caught my attention was when he spoke about style. He said "The best style is no style. Because styles can be figured out. And when you have no style, they can't figure you out." That is exactly what I'm doing with Heron Preston. I don't want people to figure me out because then I'm boring. They will already know what to expect. If I create a friction with Heron Preston, and do something on Warren Buffet one day, then Keith Huf or Internet security the next, I'll create a certain fascination that will keep people coming back. I am picky with what I share. I won't just put anything on HP. I provide content that I know will work. Don't call me the arrogant guy or anything, but not a lot of people can pull that off. Human branding, this is on some other. HAHA. I want people to make sense of what I'm doing on their own. I want to force them to do some of their own research. Make them form their own opinions and ideas based on what I provide them with. It's like I'm a teacher by just putting someone into a certain situation. I was given a nickname in high school. They called me "random". My web consultant who I work with today, and his group of friends gave me that name. They teased me. I like to keep my life random and spontaneous. I'll change speeds on you so quick you wont know what to think. My style and interests fluctuate on a daily basis, and that is what I convey through HeronPreston.com. So far the feedback has been quite successful. The online culture I am associated with is so typical. Before checking out a website, I can already tell you what it's content will be. There are no real differentiating factors with the online street culture world and that is carried into our real world. The reality and virtual worlds are reciprocated, and it disgusts me. My job is to be that agent of change.
Why is flipping scripts and switching roles the hustle on your corner?
Like I said in the previous question, it creates a friction that will have a lasting effect on you. For example, if I throw these three words at you: blond, high heels and pink lingerie, there really isn't any friction there. But if I say Punk Rock Bitch, Retarded Babies and the European Union, chances are you might not know what to fucking think. It creates a friction. Flipping the script and breaking the rules is what I love to do. Doing what people would not expect is my thing. I enjoy doing the opposite. It works for my personality. You can't find another person with the first name Heron anywhere and I bet you've probably never even met anyone with my name. It took me 22 years to meet another Heron, and that was with the help of Facebook.com. I'm just capitalizing on everything about me. I'm feeling myself.
Scare us all into following your lead by telling us whats next for HP dot com and the brain behind it...
What's next. Hmm, I want to offer more raw footage of the influential people in our society. I love to watch video clips, and I am learning that the rest of the Internet world does as well. I think it's important to hear and see the person live in the flesh. Moving around, talking, hearing them laugh, cuss, etc.. I want to connect and build with people that have like minds from around the world. That is what I built Money$Talks for. I'm about to move out to Paris in January 06, so I want to expose that culture and other cultures in a new light. I also want to show you my adventure. I want to keep it humorous with purposeful material. Something you will enjoy. I want to put people on to the Heron Preston way. I'M ON A MISSION TO START A MOVEMENT OF SOPHISTICATED STREET CULTURE. My goal is to change the way we think. I want to work with everyone, and everything. I don't care if you're one of the Goths that hang out in Union Square, I'll find a way to work with you if I want.
Re-Designing the site. I want to do that eventually but first I need to learn about the new avenues of developing a website. I taught myself HTML in high school, and that is what I used to initially build my site. Yea yea I know, I'm hella old. I just learned HTML when it was hot, and Java script was just moving in to the masses and that is unfortunately where I stopped. Now we have all kinds of coding that I must be aware of, and that is where Kyle, my web consultant comes into play.
I also have a long-term project amongst all of my smaller ones. I need to learn more. I still have 1.5 years of college left. I'm also trying to be patient with this because I want to get some real money and support behind it. I want to build a team of sharks. I need ridiculously smart people ready to fight and eat in the business arena. Rupert Murdoch bought Myspace.com for over half a billion dollars! Myspace was only like 3 years old. So I think, and say to myself, "Heron, why don't you seriously try and make half a billion." Shit, I don't have anything against that. I want it to be right, because I have faith in it. This is something that will have to grow in other areas first before I do anything else. It's like you grow, develop, grow, develop, and then execute when the time is right.
Good questions. I enjoyed it.
Thank You Tom and everyone else at Freshness.