Last month while in Boston, I got an opportunity to sit down with my good friend Marcel Angol, Founder and CEO of street wear clothing brand Society Original Products. As a company with a long history and strong ties to the hip hop community, Society has climbed the ranks as a premier brand worn by the likes of J. Cole or Kendrick Lamar in publications from Rolling Stone Magazine to 2DopeBoyz. Check out the full interview, where Marcel speaks on founding Society, his inspirations, and the company’s ties to the entertainment industry after the jump.
How did Society SOP come about?
Marc Ecko. That is the short answer. To further explain, I have been drawing and creating art my whole life. Around the ages of 15 -16, I began to notice people wearing these particular T-shirts. The prints on the tees really stood out and caught my attention. I wasn’t really into fashion design back then as I am now, I liked having fresh new gear of course but it was just the raw nature of the artwork that really grabbed me. Also, the graffiti based characters and illustrations on the tees looked just like my drawing style at the time. The more I saw these tees, the more I loved them. No one was doing anything like it then. I decided to investigate to find out who made that clothing. I had to really dig deep. Social media, websites, and blogging were either non-existent or were no help at all for what I was searching for. When I finally found out that a young man named Marc Milecofsky (Marc Ecko) was behind this new and expressive form of art, I had an “Ah-Hah!” moment. I thought to myself, “why can’t I do that? I can do that! His drawings are just like mines, so I can put mine on tees and sell them too!” I have been on a mission ever since.
Growing up, I was always told that “you can’t make money doing art” and I foolishly believed that, so when I found something art based to focus my talents on, and I could potentially make a little money doing it, I became extremely passionate about it. Fast-forward, a handful of dues paid and years later, I started my first T-shirt line under the name (Marcel Angol Brand clothing co.) This was when I was just learning Photoshop and screen-printing, so I designed a few tees myself, somehow gathered a few bucks and had them printed. I sold these to all of my friends and their friends. This lasted for about a year and I got a little recognition for it. I wanted to change the name of the brand because I felt my actual name held little weight, because it didn’t have a “fascinating” enough story that came with it. I thought, “I’m not rich like Ralph Lauren, no one wants to wear my name across their chest.” I noticed a word I drew in one of my sketchbooks one day, it was drawn was backwards, the word was Society. I eventually designed the backwards logo on the computer, Had some printed neck labels made, and designed a graphic for the first shirt under the new Brand name, “Society Clothing Company” Which eventually evolved to the name Society Original Products. This was around the time I met Brendan Boyd. I explained the vision I had about the company to him and asked for his help. He answered back “what do you need me to do?” I said “how about be my partner?” he said ok. We shook hands, and here we are today.
What’s the significance of the SOP (society original products)? Is that just a name?
It was originally (Society Clothing Company) but I figured “clothing co.” was too commonly used and it wasn’t original enough in my opinion. After all, the whole idea was to be different and original, so the name change made perfect sense.
How have other cultures (e.g. music, urban, hip-hop, Boston culture in general, etc.) influenced designs or branding?
Music, culture and fashion are synonymous with each other, and feed off one another to continuously evolve. I think its sort of a never-ending cycle. Society as a brand is influenced by the classic aspects of all those things, and mixed with my design style and aesthetic.
Who actually designs the gear?
I still conceptualize and design most of each collection.
What does your position as brand manager entail?
My official title and position is Founder/Ceo, and along with being brand
Manager / designer, there are too many responsibilities to list! Haha.
Who has worn your clothing? And how do you get them to wear it?
A lot of today’s top musicians, athletes and a handful of actors have been supporting us by wearing our stuff. We either build relationships with these people and give them selected items or they buy it themselves.
Who were you most excited about seeing in SOP?
I get excited when I see regular folks and supporters wearing it that I don’t know. I usually don’t say anything to them though. I just watch from a distance and have a moment to myself.
Where do you sell Society?
We currently sell to roughly 160 accounts domestic, internationally and online.
Are you looking to expand from Boston? What’s your business plan?
Expanding and moving out of Boston is a possibility Brendan and I have discussed before.
We have a few goals to reach before that becomes an option though.
Why the logo is backward?
A few reasons, society is backwards because our society is backwards, it is meant to be different, it is meant to be a conversation starter.
You’ve gotten a lot of music-related press (e.g. FADER, XXL, Rolling Stone, etc.) What does that say about SOP and how does that feel? Is it the kind of press you want?
It says that we love music, all kinds of music. It was never intentional to gravitate towards music as we have, but we naturally follow what we love and the brand ultimately reflects that. Yes we do want this kind of press but we make sure to monitor it so it wont get out of hand and redundant.
What inspired you to start and what inspires you in developing the company today?
I have a deep seeded desire to share my art, thoughts and ideas with the world. It has been a dream come true for me to see my artwork leave my sketchbook, become a tangible item and become a part of people’s everyday lives. What inspires me today is to see just how far I can take this initial dream, see where else it can take me, and try to reach my highest potential with my talents.