A conversation with the founders of a collective on the verge
Image via: Ta-ku

Image via: Ta-ku

Depending on whom you ask, Team Cozy is a hashtag, a community, a movement, a creative agency and a lifestyle brand. The correct answer? All of the above. It started as an inside joke between photographer Silas Lee and producer Ta-ku, self-described sneakerheads who prize comfort above all else. It grew along with the explosion of social media among sneaker aficionados who want to share their prized kicks with the rest of the world. Like works of art, what's the point of collecting sneakers if you can't share your treasures with like-minded admirers? And these are community members who are makeshift artists themselves, constantly looking to one-up each other when it comes to the layout and composition of their snaps.

For Silas and Taku, the energy and creativity of Team Cozy is distilled with a burgeoning apparel brand, even as the movement continues to gather steam. We recently talked with the guys behind a collective on the verge.

Image via: Ta-Ku

Image via: Ta-Ku

Ta-Ku & Silas Lee = Team Cozy

How did you first meet?

Ta-ku: Me and Silas first met in Hong Kong when Silas was working for Hypebeast magazine, and I was in Hong Kong visiting the Hypebeast and Hypetrak offices due to my music. We actually jumped on the street and did a Street Snap, and that's the first time I met Silas and we kind of just gone on straightaway. We definitely had a likeliness and similarities in the things that we like to wear, and that's how we started our friendship and ever since then we've kept in touch.

Your backgrounds are in music and photography. How do your skill sets complement each other?  

Silas: We both have a very similar aesthetic, we both came up with very original ideas when it came to Instagram. We like to generate creative ways of posting our photos. Another thing is we're both colorblind, and we both have very moody, dark photos. We love grain, we love the aesthetic you get from old-film photography, and I guess the moodiness of our photos kind of created that cozy aesthetic, and it all went hand in hand.

Image via: Silas Lee

Image via: Silas Lee

Can you describe how #TeamCozy evolved from a hashtag into a full-blown brand?  

Silas: We basically created a language. People have been wearing sweatpants and sneakers forever, but there wasn't a catchphrase for it. So now when you see someone wearing a full tracksuit you say "Oh, that’s Team Cozy." That kid's wearing Nike Tech Fleece Pants and Flyknits, that's Team Cozy. It became a language for something that already existed, and that's what kind of kicked off the whole community. And it made sense to become a brand after that, because it's an additional passion of mine and Taku's to be in fashion.

Ta-ku: The hashtag started as a joke when me and Silas would use it in describing comfortable streetwear or comfortable clothing. A huge community just evolved from that. And we met a bunch of really talented photographers and creatives that started repping Team Cozy and then doing amazing work themselves, and then we just became a family, so we thought there'd be nothing better than to make our own cozy clothing. And that's how it blew up into a full blown brand.

Image via: Ta-ku

Image via: Ta-ku

Sneaker shots have become ubiquitous on social media. What does it take to grab your attention nowadays?  

Ta-ku: Sneaker shots have become ubiquitous in social media. It doesn’t take a lot to grab my attention these days and I feel like that's why we're always switching it up, but that doesn't take anything away from a really good sneaker shot. It takes skill to take a good shot of a sneaker, to showcase its features, its unique style or silhouette. If there's a good eye for composition, and the right features of the shoe are put on display, that's something that has my attention. I feel like less is more these days.   

Silas: Not by choice, but just the willingness of a lot of our photographers in the community … I didn't ask all these kids to go to rooftops and start shooting pictures of sneakers on skyscrapers. It just happened that way. Obviously, me being in Hong Kong, it's an urban jungle, and access to rooftops was easy, so it naturally became a place to shoot sneakers high up. Right now, I think our aesthetic is to keep things super clean. Our team, we're all sneakerheads, we pretty much edit our sneaker shots a little differently, but it still maintains that moody, gritty feel. We're always looking at new ways of shooting sneakers. It's always fun to try to push the limits.

What are the models that would occupy your personal pantheon of comfortable sneakers?  

Silas: Honestly I have flat feet so I haven't been too fussy with what sneakers I wear. Right now my go to is Vans Sk8-His and adidas Stan Smiths. I've been wearing these Blends Sk8-His, and Raised by Wolves/Off the Hook Sk8-His as well. If we're talking like tech and super comfortable sneakers, the NikeLab Lunar Flyknit. And NMDs are very comfortable, and Boosts, obviously.

Ta-ku: The Pure Boost, Ultra Boost … Just the Boost. adidas is really killing it with the Boost technology. All those sneakers are just really comfortable. They hug the foot and the materials used are quite malleable, which make them easy to wear, not restrictive. The same thing was true for the Flyknit Racer, which has become more or less a staple in anyone's wardrobe. Those two are definitely at the forefront. But personally I love the Mayfly Woven. That for me is the one. I wear them all the time, but to each his own.

Image via: Silas Lee

Image via: Silas Lee

Conversely, were there any sneakers you liked on an aesthetic level but were put off by how uncomfortable they were?

Silas: The Nike Sock Dart. That shoe just looks amazing but when you put it on it's so flimsy.

Ta-ku: There were sneakers I liked on an aesthetic level but definitely put off on how uncomfortable they were. Because that's the integral purpose of a shoe is, to make sure that you're comfortable in them. You know, they say fashion is pain … I don't know if they do say that, I don't know if I just made that up. (laughs) But I don't agree with having to put up with pain just because it looks good. There are many options out there where you can get both, and that's what Team Cozy is all about, feeling comfortable and looking good at the same time.

Do you have a dream sneaker that you wish you collaborate on?  

Silas: One of my all time cozy shoes is by Celine. It's a pull-on shoe that's a wool jacquard. That shoe is all kinds of cozy.

Ta-ku: I mean, I would love to have a Team Cozy Boost or Flyknit, or even Air Max -- you know, some of the legendary pioneering silhouettes. But to be honest as long as it's comfortable, it doesn’t have to be a popular silhouette. As long as it's comfortable and has some cozy paneling I'm good.

What was the impetus to start your apparel collection?  

Silas: Me and Taku were already pretty set on doing something with regards to apparel. It's always been a passion of mine, and it's always something that Taku has been interested in doing. The real kickoff point was that we had a business opportunity to find a really good factory, which basically pushed my move to Los Angeles, and that really jet-propelled the brand into existence. I have always been into fashion and always had a dream to have my own brand. And I think the community was waiting for it as well. A lot of the kids were passionate in sneakers and clothing anyway, and that's basically the DNA of the Team Cozy name and hashtag. It made sense for us to come up with our own thing.

Ta-ku: I think people really identify with Team Cozy and the hashtag. And the audience that we built, it's just natural to be able to rep that on a more tangible level.

Image via: Silas Lee

Image via: Silas Lee

Where do you see the line headed in the future?  

Silas: I want it to go beyond clothing. Once the clothing is locked in and most people know our quality and aesthetic, I definitely want to grow into a lifestyle brand. It could be a Team Cozy table, a Team Cozy chair, a Team Cozy rug or carpet. For example, a 35 or 40-year-old dad, who walked into a Team Cozy store ... that when he's about to purchase a hoodie, that he would know this was the brand that was behind that dope movie, or that dope music video, or this gallery. That we're the guys that inspired his kid to pick up a camera, that he would know the back story behind the brand. I really want it to grow, experiment with tech. I want it to be a very functional brand, especially for photographers. I want to go into the whole world of new pockets, new materials that protect shooters, stash pockets for SD cards, little customized details that cater to photographers.

Ta-ku: I think the line has a broad future, which is what most excites me. We can branch out into so many different things and so many different kind of collabs, and work with different people which makes it so exciting. I don't want to pigeonhole the brand or the line in any way, I just think that we're going to continue to grow and feed the need of our audience, which I feel is the most important goal.