Upon leaving Supreme in 2015, Brendon Babenzien has no doubt revitalized a number of his own imprints, namely Noah and footwear line Aprix. In a recent interview with Sneaker Freaker, the former Supreme creative director dished on just that: changing the culture with Supreme, becoming the face of Noah, and relaunching Aprix.
See below for some key excerpts from their conversation, and then be sure to follow on over to Sneaker Freaker for the entire interview. And don’t forget, Aprix is relaunching globally next month.
On growing up in Long Island as a kid:
“I loved it. It’s like another universe. I was a real kid in the 70s – the world was totally different. You could do whatever you wanted and it all felt safe. Nobody had to worry about us going out on our bikes and skateboards and disappearing. I think one of the things I discovered later in life is that if you grow up in the suburbs in close proximity to a city – a good city – you have a weird advantage.”
On becoming involved with Supreme:
“I did two runs at Supreme. The first one was probably around ’97, in the early days when Supreme was developing their stuff. The shop was there, James was making stuff and it was already probably the coolest brand around. He was growing and was looking for help in developing product. It was kind of everything. I don’t even know if you’d call it design. It was conversations with James, but it was also sourcing, building relationships with factories. It was everything – and certainly wasn’t really glamorous. I did that for six or seven years, then I went out and I did Noah for a little while in a much different time and place. Eventually I wound up back at Supreme for another eight or nine years. The second go around was a much different experience. The world had changed, and I had changed. I’d learned a lot and I was able to bring a focus back.”
On becoming the face of Noah:
“With Noah, of course, because this is my full spectrum. I can talk about punk rock and I can talk about the environment in the same day. We can go to the beach and still be in the city that afternoon. It’s all encompassing. This is a much more realized version of my thought process and the things I’m interested in. I don’t love being the voice of anything, necessarily. My interest doesn’t lie in being the face of a brand or being famous, that’s not what I’m about. But I do recognize that it’s necessary for the business.”
On the emergence of streetwear and sneakers as distinct cultures:
“This is probably going to sound crazy, but I don’t give a fuck about sneakers in that way. I like what I like, but I’m the last guy that’s going to be able to tell you what sneaker came out when. None of that shit ever mattered to me. It almost defeats the purpose. There’s some guys who’ve been collecting sneakers their whole lives, they’re down and I’m all for that.
If that’s your thing, cool, there’s guys who collect fucking stamps. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I’m more of skate kid at heart. When I was 15, perfect sneakers didn’t even make sense – it meant you didn’t skate because your sneakers weren’t fucked. I don’t know if we should be coveting anything like that – let alone sneakers.
If all you’re doing is getting dressed in the morning to look cool and it’s not coming from a culture that influenced your style then you’re just a character. If you’re dressed up like a skater, but you don’t skate – what are you? If you can just buy whatever you want, you haven’t really earned much.”
On the start of Aprix:
“We developed Aprix 12 years ago. A good friend and I developed the whole concept. At that time, Converse and Vans were dead. Canvas sneakers were not what they are today. It sounds funny to say, but we basically just wanted to create a new canvas classic for ourselves and for people who were like-minded. We wanted it to have this really simple elegance. The idea of it is a really simple kind of luxury, having less to do with money and more to do with time. Footwear was the introduction to a bigger kind of lifestyle that we have planned – really simple things. My buddy who helped me work on this, he calls it ‘trivial pursuits’, these things that fundamentally don’t mean much, but life is really all about them. He sails and he’s a race car drive. He does all these crazy things that aren’t technically important, but if you’re not out doing things that you love – what the fuck are you doing? That’s what the brand identity is all about.”
On relaunching Aprix with two styles:
“It was a combination of things. There are some practicality issues – I don’t want to start with ten styles. We’re only a small business, we’re only going to sell in a handful of places so we can’t really come out the gate with all these different styles. This is the best presentation of what the brand is about, which is a very simple thing, and I felt that these two styles do that. The 001 which is the canvas and suede combo with the toecap and the heel patch, that’s probably the most culturally relevant shoe – it’s the core of the brand. The 002 is a classic shape that’s very tennis. I love that silhouette. I really just wanted a vehicle to be able to drop in fabrications and colorways over time and have it constantly evolve and change based on how we’re feeling.”