King Apparel was founded back in 2003 by Tim Hoad and Paul Linton in the humble surroundings of their bedrooms in East London. Their goal was to create a cutting-edge, independent streetwear brand, and with support and funding from The Prince’s Trust charity, they were finally able to make the brand a reality, with King Apparel’s first collection launching in June 2003. Early on, the brand collaborated with musicians, including Plan B and Wretch 32, and released collections with headwear giants New Era and Starter.
King Apparel is still owned and operated independently, and have stayed true to their roots, with their offices still being based in Stratford, East London. Their products are produced in limited quantities, and even though the brand has grown considerably, the quality of their clothing and accessories has never been compromised.
Earlier on this week, we were lucky enough to have a natter with Tim.
We’re excited about the latest King Apparel drop! What inspired the SS15 collection?
Hello! Thanks for being excited. Well, over the past few seasons you would have seen a continuing development and evolution towards a more refined and considered aesthetic with a clear focus for each collection. SS15 explores the relationship between street fashion and travel within our urban environments. So, we’ve combined performance fabrics, reflective 3M applications and weatherproofing with our distinctive cut and sew, design and graphic processes, so you get a functional yet also an on point line of clothes and hats style wise.
You’ve been in the industry for over a decade now. We’d love to know what made you take the leap into developing a streetwear line – how did the brand start out, and what inspired you?
Well, it was kinda new at the time we started – streetwear that is. I’m not even sure it was called streetwear back then. But we wanted to develop a company that represented all that was good about London and the UK and the things we were into culturally. Clothing that had loads of details that we wanted to wear but that no one made and that would make all the similar people to us want to wear it too.
What was your background before launching King?
I was a professional snowboarder. That’s where I learnt about developing clothes with my sponsors and also took an interest in marketing and graphics from a lot of the up and coming snowboard brands. All the pieces fit when I busted myself loads of times one season and we looked into setting up King.
You pride yourselves on the quality of your clothing. What do you feel sets you apart from streetwear brands that are not fully independent?
Well, we are able to react a lot quicker to the market and trends than a lot of bigger brands, plus we can continue to make our own decisions when it comes to direction, who we stock with, designs etc etc. If you have someone to answer to or financial burdens to hit that can compromise the creative and manufacturing process as well as where your brand might end up.
You’ve collaborated with loads of urban artists previously; do you have any plans to collaborate with anyone again soon? Do you feel that music influences streetwear culture?
We are working on a few things, States wise mostly as the brand is growing quite a lot there. You’ll see the people when it happens – can’t reveal anything yet, ha ha! Music and fashion go hand in hand. I think they influence one another, there is a lot of synergy between artists creating trends with their own looks, but also brands creating trends by using artists as the vehicle to showcase their lines. Music and fashion go hand in hand. I think they influence one another, there is a lot of synergy between artists creating trends with their own looks, but also brands creating trends by using artists as the vehicle to showcase their lines.
As well as your past brand collabs with Starter, Asics and New Era, we’re loving the latest collaboration with Criminal Damage. What do these collaborations say about you as a brand? How did they come about?
With New Era and Starter that was more of an instinct thing. We saw the emergence of these ‘styles’ as opposed to brands (fitted hats and then snapbacks) before a lot of other people and then used our nous to actually put developing product with them into action. So we did the first ever 5950’s independent brand collab back in 2003 and then did the Starter black label collabs direct from NY before anyone even knew what was going on. I remember stores telling me they weren’t interested at all in what we had developed with Starter. They missed out when that first line dropped. Two weeks and the whole lot had sold out.
What have your highlights been?
I’m not sure really, probably the collabs when they came out. No one can ever take those innovations away from the King brand. To be honest, I think the next two years are going to be telling from a brand perspective. Internationally we are in a position to make a serious dent. We just need to keep our heads down and work on it.
What have your favourite collections / lines been so far?
Probably the two East London Kings hats we made with Starter before everyone jumped on it. Classics to this day. This season we made a t-shirt called the Script perf – it’s a long line graded mesh tee. I think it’s the best tee we ever made.
Where do you think the UK streetwear scene is heading?
It’s hard to say. I actually think streetwear as we have grown to know it is dying out through over-saturation and exposure. Too many brands, all making the same stuff and not really having any substance to back it up. That’s why we have made a conscious move towards more fashion based streetwear, which is more intricate, detailed and requires a craft in fabrics, patterns and cut and sew. It’s what we know and it’s important that we make that distinction between what we do and what people make using off the shelf product. The best brands are all moving in this direction I think.
Are there any up and coming brands you’ve been keeping an eye on, or any brands in particular that you’d like to work with?
Not really. What I mean is, we concentrate on our own thing, we don’t really look at what other people in our sector are doing. That keeps things fresh and different. There are a handful of good brands in the UK right now. If I like them I follow them on Instagram…
What’s next for King Apparel?
Need a new tea maker, if you can make tea – get in touch. Seriously though, we are looking for interns, so if you’re in London and what to get your hands dirty in the fashion world then get in touch. I think we are doing a high summer capsule line and then AW15. I’m very happy with that collection, I’ve already shotgunned quite a few samples.
Check the latest drop here.