We Interviewed The Founder Of Up-And-Coming Streetwear Brand RezaReez
"Despite setbacks I learned to just keep going. Resilience is everything."
In 2018 Reza (34) the creative mastermind behind streetwear brand RezaReez came from Jakarta to The Netherlands to pursue his dream of starting his own clothing line. We talked to the entrepreneur about genderless clothing, what it’s like to launch a brand without a formal education in fashion, and his vision for the future.
Reza, you have a big passion for sneaker collecting culture. Can you tell us more about what this means to you?
When I was a teenager I really loved sneakers so I started buying and collecting them. From there I jumped into fashion and streetwear. I still collect sneakers and have around 500 pairs at this point. I used to have even more but because I couldn’t wear all of them I sold a few. I know it’s crazy.
How did your passion for sneaker collecting culture start?
It started in elementary school. I was in love with Michael Jordan and my mom bought me some Nike Air Jordan's. You were probably the coolest kid in school with a pair of those. I didn't know about sneaker culture then, but as I got older it stuck with me. So then I started buying more shoes and growing my collection, I also found a sense of community which has continued to this day.
What do you think is a must-have in every closet?
I love colors. I like basic items that come in colors because you can express yourself. I don't really like to wear black, black on black, everything black. I prefer combining colors.
Let’s talk about your brand RezaReez. I read that you’re aiming to produce sustainably, have you managed to find a factory to achieve this?
Well, I went to Indonesia to find a factory. I visited some factories and I finally found one that really took a place in my heart. I connected with the workers and I saw that everything was clean and in good condition and they receive fair payments. So then I was thinking, okay, let's do business. And luckily they were willing to do business with me too. I’m close friends with the people at the factory now.
What about the materials? That's a whole different story in terms of sustainability, right?
Yes. I only use organic cotton for t-shirts but being 100% sustainable is still difficult and I'm doing my best to do that. I also deliver by bike in Amsterdam. We are going to deliver it according to your schedule, make an appointment and come straight to your door. I don't send plastic bags that are wrapped in another plastic bag. We just wrap the clothing once to keep it clean and put it in a tote bag which we then put in a paper envelope. It's just small steps but you need to start somewhere.
Absolutely. So you had this passion for streetwear and sneaker culture, but how did you eventually end up creating a clothing line?
Well, I've got so many clothes and I kept buying them. At some point, I was thinking, "Hey, I could actually make it myself and inspire people" so I did some research and that's how it started. I went to Indonesia for production, but I started designing over here.
It all sounds really nice when you say it like that, but when you suddenly have all these items in stock, how do you start things off and get people to buy them?
Yeah. I know a lot of brands in the streetwear scene, but then I started to think about how I can make my brand slightly different. I want to have a message in most pieces of clothing. I want people to feel happy when they read it. One of the designs is about surviving 2020 for example. I know Rezareez has a lot of potentials.
So how did you feel when you held your first piece of clothing in your hands?
Nervous and happy. It was a lot of mixed feelings. The best thing is actually when I see random people wearing my clothes. Sometimes I also get a message from my friends saying they saw people on the street wearing my brand and that just feels great.
I can imagine. You mentioned you convey a message through every piece of clothing. Can you tell us more about that?
I work with my friend, Rosyad, he translates my ideas into designs. We made a design about equality for example. The message behind this t-shirt is that no matter who you are, how different you are, where you're from, or what your race is, we are one big family on earth. I want people to wear my clothes and feel happy. I'm also inspired by the comics and Indonesian puppet shows I watched as a kid. Almost every item has a bit of storytelling behind it. When I share a post about an item on Instagram I also add a slide about the puppet show for example to show people where the inspiration was drawn from.
Interesting! Something I was wondering is whether the pandemic has affected your creative process. Would you mind telling me about that?
Yeah, I tried to keep my thoughts as positive as possible. I'm just working every day to create the best pieces. I contacted the factory almost every day to speak about designs and how the production is going and yeah, they are optimistic that it's getting better.
But, now with having to stay inside a lot and not being able to do as many things, where do you get inspiration from?
Uh, almost everything I do a lot of research online, also like nature, wildlife, anything really.
What do you do when you encounter a creative crisis?
I create a mood board and like to draw a little bit and just put everything, together, all the colors, composition and stuff like that, all the graphics, the message. It's always my goal to make the next collection better than the previous one and that's what keeps me going.
So your brand is all about streetwear, but how exactly would you describe the style of your items?
I want to create items that are timeless so you can wear them in the next couple of years. In terms of the fitting, I want the items to be regular size, so it's not oversized or tight. I want to create happy items, that are simple, and at the same time, notable.
And you have items for men and women, right?
Um, basically it's unisex. So I don't really have items that are specifically for men or women but all the fittings are regular male. But I use a lot of models so, it's not 100%t male or female.
Why did you decide to make it unisex?
Because I think a lot of girls or women like wearing men's clothing as well. And nowadays everybody wears what they like and there are less boundaries in terms of gender anymore.
What was the biggest challenge that you've encountered in terms of starting your own business so far?
I think to really structure a brand. It's a process of learning day by day, you learn from mistakes and it involves being rejected by a lot of people as well. But the biggest challenge is to publish and show people that your brand is out there. Getting known is the biggest challenge. I also don't have any childhood friends here in Amsterdam because I didn't grow up here so it was challenging to create my own community here.
Is there anything that you wish you would've known before starting this business?
You learn everything day by day. So basically you don't know anything, you just have to put in the time and effort to do your research and get better. But if you have a dream, you have the motivation to make it happen, no matter what it is. Despite setbacks, I learned to just keep going. Resilience is everything.
Any downsides you experienced in the fashion industry?
It's hard to be accepted by a big audience. It's difficult to set up a brand in a way where you can exist and to make your brand well known. You need a big capital for marketing as well.
What is your vision for the future?
Wow, that's heavy. I want to give inspiration to other people, also in terms of creating a brand. That's actually one of my dreams. I want to inspire people and show them that while it is a long shot and lots of hard work it's possible to jump into the fashion industry.