Before we start, I just want to say that we’re not encouraging anyone to drop out of school at the first half baked idea that pops into his/her head. What we will encourage are bold business ventures. With that said, today we are featuring a brand started by a young man who created a comfortably lucrative business after a Flosstradamus concert. After seeing the reaction of other concert goers to his friends who rocked some grills, he turned his idea of wholesale grills into a full time job within a month–all to the tune of $22K. You can guess what happened to his college plans from there.
The Jersey native, Brian Roberts, applies simple enough concepts of scarcity, quality materials, and honesty, coupled with social media strategies to separate his brand from the rest. Building on top of a network and knowledge gained from interning at another clothing brand, he worked up enough confidence to contact Karmaloop, the Agenda trade show, and Urban Outfitters. Needless to say, those efforts ended well for him. Now, NFL players, Rolling Stone, and rappers are buying from him. By finding a niche in fashion and cutting out the middle man to give the people what they want at affordable price, one person was able to become bigger than most start up companies.
You can buy your next grill to catch that one person’s eyes you’ve been trying to impress for months at Refinement’s website NOW. And be sure to check out the Dynasty Black set that is being sold in tandem with this Source feature. Check out our interview with Refinement Co.’s founder below and peep the shots of his pieces in action throughout.
For those unfamiliar, New Threads is a fresh column we’ll be executing to celebrate independent fashion companies and the minds behind them. A teenager in an American suburb with a dope idea and a few bucks should be given mad props, if they’re due, just like your favorite luxury brand. We’ll pick a creator that deserves your attention and ask him/her a few questions, including our Final Four questions we ask all of our creators for that month. What’s the requirements to be featured on New Threads? Originality and quality. And please, make something you’d wear proudly. Hit us up on Twitter if you know someone who has or you yourself have a dope brand on the rise. Or send us an email to SYLR@thesource.com.
Believe it or not, grills have a long and rich history in hip hop. The vast majority of our supporters come from the South where grills are more widely known. Out here in the Northeast and far out West it’s more of novelty – but the real style conscious folks still sport them. The demographic of our supporters varies – every color, every religion, every creed from just about every country on earth. It’s crazy. Despite all the differences, I’d say the common thread is love for music and street culture.
What are some of your favorite and least favorite grills in Grills History?
My favorites are the simple styles. Our gold and silver pieces are the most popular and some of my personal favorites. Our new rose gold and black styles just took the cake though. We’ll be releasing those very soon.
Where do you see the future of the accessory game heading? Where would you like it to go?
My hope is that the focus will shift back to quality products and thought provoking concepts. A lot of the stuff I see looks like it was just thrown together cheaply with a pseudo-conscious name slapped on it. Once more thought and care goes back into accessories, it’ll be a win for everyone – brands will last longer, supporters will appreciate the goods more.
What are three pieces of advice you’d give to an aspiring entrepreneur in the fashion world?
First, don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Think about what’s already out and how you can improve on it, make it better or in my case – more accessible. People have been selling grills for decades now. What’s the difference between my product and what’s been out for all these years? Mine won’t set you back a few thousand of dollars and it’s so much easier to use.
Second, get off your a$$. Stop tweeting. Stop emailing. Get on the phone and then get together in person. Go to events. Go grab lunch with people. Interact. A mentor once told me people are the fastest way to cut your learning curve.
Last lesson is simple: fail fast. The more you fail, the more you learn what works and what doesn’t. Once you can piece all of that together, you’ll be in a position to succeed.Why do you think athletes and celebrities are drawn to your grills over the high end options?
The same reason non-celebrities love our grills. No trips to the dentist. No time consuming molds being shipped back and forth. It’s just so easy. For just a few bucks you get a beautiful piece of jewelry and a simple mold that takes 30 seconds to do yourself.
You seem to be heavy in the accessory game with jewelry, bags, etc. Why focus on that instead of shirts and pants?
To create really good shirts and pants I always felt you needed a certain finesse, a knack for design. I never had that and didn’t feel the time and energy to learn was worth it so I turned to accessories. That was a blessing for me because now I can focus on what I’m best at. Interacting with our supporters and building a strong, loyal following.
What rapper would you like to work with on an exclusive piece?
Since your products are sold on huge platforms like Karmaloop and Urban Outfitters, where do you draw the line between selling out and staying true to your principles?
You’ll notice different products are available on different platforms. Everything is quality but different styles and designs are exclusive to certain retailers. If you visit our website you’ll notice we don’t have the products we sell on Urban Outfitters. We avoid the stigma of ‘selling out’ by keeping everything exclusive, irrespective of the source.
What are the next immediate steps for Refinement Co.?
A whole lot of beautiful, new products.
Bryan Hahn (@notupstate)
Photos: Dave Ochoa