KING APPAREL - Fit for a KING
King Apparel has been making moves in the UK and Europe for some time now, staying true to their ideals and philosophy since its inception. With the likes of KSI, Wretch 32, Plan B and even the King himself, Lebron James wearing their product. Yes! Even LBJ…Holy shit!In addition to this they have recently featured in Drake and Netflix’s successful TV series TopBoy and the UK Box Office smash hit Blue Story Movie that hit theaters on 22nd October 2019. So we joined Tim Hoad and Paul Linton, KING’s co-founders, on their most recent collab with UK drill’s new, up and coming superstar POUNDZ, to get more insight in how they have reached the levels they are at now and how are impacting the UK urban scene.
KING co-founders Paul Linton (left), Tim Hoad (right)
A KING was Born
Established in 2003, it has been a full on life sentence since KING Apparel first launched itself in to the street fashion game. A homegrown brand birthed out of Stratford, East London, that arrived on the scene before there was much streetwear hype, well at least not in the UK. "A market that was dominated heavily by our US counterparts" as Tim likes to say. Identifying a gap in the market, an opportunity presented itself and Tim and his partner Paul took it with both hands on the wheel. The creative vision was simple and has always remained the same even all these years later.
“To build a brand that has unquestionable authentic integrity”
Tim, a former pro snowboarder with strong ties to skating would spend his free time off the slopes and skate parks, designing for his snowboarding sponsors, so the move into streetwear was a virtually natural transition. When he met Paul, a talented aspiring graphic designer, their ideas and knowledge aligned perfectly leading to a healthy and strong partnership that is very much evident in the present day.
In the early days, it wasn’t so easy to launch and money was hard to come by, infact the KING team paid themselves no salary for 3 years! To make ends meet they both had to work really bad temping jobs and work on their dream during lunch breaks and staying up grinding out late nights. Talk about dedication to the hustle!
Risky decisions had to be taken and even in the tough times like the global recession of 2009, KING stayed true to their ambition and brand philosophy, not taking any conventional methods, the only way - was their way, and it has been integral to their success as a reputable name in urban fashion.
As things improved and developed more contacts were made, more networks formed and the accessibility to artists only flourished.
“There was a natural synergy between a new, up and coming brand and artists that were just starting out - who would later become household names in the future.”
Tim Hoad inside KING HQ, Stratford, East London
The 5 Principles of KING
To remain competitive and become a prominent brand throughout the UK and Europe, King has had to maintain 5 principles that define their entire ethos.
Exclusivity - KING only create limited runs on all their drops. That means once it’s sold out, it’s really gone, no reruns, and no repeats. Each item is made in quantities of 300. The reason you ask, KING feels it’s important that the brand remains special, personal and unique to the customer.
Quality -The world may be in a fast fashion craze right now, but KING pride themselves on creating products of the highest quality. Clothing that’s built to last and feel great every time you throw it on for every occasion.
Innovation - This has been key to the brands success to keep a loyal customer base and being successful despite the crazy changes to the fashion game in the last 15 years. They truly changed the game when they became the first company to work with Starter and New Era. Yup, that’s right, those dope snapbacks and baseball caps we love to rock, these guys were the geniuses behind it.
KING were the first independent brand to work exclusively alongside New Era and focussed their talents on modifying the classic design. Introducing multi panel embroideries, ear flaps and headphone pockets. Between 2003 and 2010 King Apparel released over 200 New Era 59Fifty designs and over 60,000 caps distributed in Europe.
New ERA and Starter x KING SnapBacks
KING x Starter was born in 2010, and KING began manufacturing caps in New York. KING were the only UK brand who had a partnership with Starter and effectively brought SnapBacks into the UK. The first set of style was limited of course in true KING fashion, and sold out within the space of a week. These snapbacks were high in demand and anyone who was anyone tried to cop. It became so popular, King created new styles every 3 months until their deal ended in 2012 as Starter began to partner up with other companies which went against KINGs core principle of exclusivity. By this time however KING gained enough experience and know how in the headwear domain and now create their hats with the same essence and style paying homage to the Starter design that made them so successful.
Authenticity - Being true to the culture and their strong love for creating quality clothing is something that’s evident, especially when you walk in to KING HQ in Stratford. The whole place just has that aroma of cut fabrics, edgy artwork and photos with top tier UK grime/rap artists and actors. Groundbreaking designs for future projects on the work desks, fresh garments straight out of the packaging, not to mention some fully hard beats playing throughout the building setting the right ambience - the spot is truly a fashion lovers dream. They live, breathe and feel all that is the streets and that’s why so many rated musicians, actors, TV personalities, YouTube stars you name it, have partnered up with the brand on numerous projects.
Independence - Do not be mistaken, this isn’t your average streetwear brand. There’s no high fashion mentality here or corporate types calling the shots. Every decision that has been made is from a handful of selected individuals who all share the same love and appetite for making the coolest shit you’ll see out there.
Watch the Throne
As most of you are aware we live in a world where social media has allowed anyone and everyone to create and build new business in a short timeframe. Which is great? Right? In a way it is but in a way it’s not. Today customers have an enormous task of identifying which brands have the essence of the culture and which ones are just another fast fashion brand looking to make some quick bread with some influencers and a high street shop looking to cash in on them.
KING believe that this type of campaigning and structure will not leave a long lasting impression on its followers, instead they choose to grow organically, only selecting the most ideal people to work with that truly represent what they are all about. Only the dopest and realest have the opportunity to work with them – it’s really what defines them from everyone else.
“The most important thing is to retain your unique identity. Then you build some nods to trends etc., around it. Keep on top of the game but make sure you are offering the point of difference. Remember - the story is the most important thing”
Ashley Walters aka Asher D in Bethnal Sweatshirt and Cap (left), Risky Roadz in Manor Windrunner Jacket, Manor Tracksuit & Progress SnapBack (top right), Wrecth 32 in Progress Sweatshirt and SnapBack (bottom right).
To be a KING affiliate, the process is quite simple. Most of it truly comes from instinct and authentic knowledge of what’s cool and what’s not, and really that’s because Tim and Paul just handpick people who they like. Trust me, these two are cooler than a Tango Ice Blast! Frosty!!
They must be talented and fit the profile of what the firm is about. KING like to pride themselves on working with unknown grassroot talents who people may not know yet right now, but they sure will in the future. KING are proud to lead the movement to give the bottom guys a chance.
“Everyone starts at the bottom and it is our responsibility to champion those on the come up and show trust and confidence in those people when no one else will. That's the difference between us and your corporate bandwagon jumpers.”
Although, KING have collaborated with a few A-listers every so often, such as 50 Cent, Maluma, Neymar and of course LBJ! Who can blame them, these mans are iconic.
Nike Lifetime Athlete Lebron 'King' James in Aldgate Tee for GQ Magazine (left), YouTube and TV Personality KSI in Manor Hoodie (top middle), Mogul 50 Cent in Stepney Pinch Panel SnapBack (right), Rap legend Bun B in Stepney Curved Peak Cap (bottom).
Kings recognise KING
KING has found major success and they just continue to grow, 2019 has been a successful year with the brand featuring in major productions – Netflix’s TopBoy and Blue Story Movie. Both are an authentic depiction and illustration of what the ‘roads’ are really like in London, and have received rave reviews from critics and audiences.
Now to me, I would have expected them to be fully gassed to be featured in the two hardest projects of street art expression for 2019, however the guys at KING although humbled and honored with the collab, seem unfazed by it all. It’s all apart of the day to day as they explain.
"The reason is that these projects are worked on firstly 12-18 months in advance before anyone knows about it, so we have already had time to take it in and when you do something the right way, people will eventually notice."
Can’t really argue with that, fair play!
Writer & Director of Blue Story Movie 'Rapman' wearing Wapping Hoodie (top left), Sean Sagar 'Skits' in Tennyson Hoodie (top right), Shane Romulus in Bethnal Curved Peak Cap in TopBoy, Ashely Walters aka Asher D in Manor Hoodie and Manor Pinch SnapBack (bottom right).
POUNDZ x KING Collaboration
POUNDZ is a UK artist that’s blowing up on the scene right now. His video 'Opp Thot' has over 5 million views on YouTube and over 6 million streams on Spotify, this kid is clearly doing something right and only just starting out in the game which KING have recognised. To find out more about POUNDZ please see our Xclusive Xclusive articlewhere we get to know the man behind the music.
POUNDZ in - Bethnal Hoodie (left), Imperial Tee and Monarch Mesh Trucker Cap (middle), Tennyson Hoodie (right), The Royal Injection Cap Range (bottom)
He is a baadmaaaann!
- Tim Hoad on why KING wanted to collab with POUNDZ
KING of the PEOPLE
KING isn’t just your average brand. It is also a brand that cares about the community. Back in the noughties, KING carried out a campaign with ‘Want Respect? Use A Condom’? In order to do this, they created 3000 pairs (staying true to their philosophy of limited pieces), with a special pocket to place condoms, (definitely better than a wallet!), with the WR logo on it. Each pair came with 3 condoms as well. The inspiration was to promote safer sex with the government amongst teens and young adults. A respectable and very important issue especially amongst young people globally.
KING x Want Respect Jeans (top left), Circle Collective Store in Hackney (bottom left, top right), Want Respect Marketing Campaign (right)
That’s not all, KING have always prided themselves on giving back and CSR programs like the Circle Collective in Hackney is another example of that. It is a store and also a social enterprise where they help and guide young people with their education and employment needs. The KING team work alongside them in workshops, selling their product in stores to raise funds, and providing education to young people on how to start your own business, offering guidance and support. The Circle Collective has delivered nearly £1.44 million of value to society. Community is massively important and its a crucial aspect of their ethos to give back.
Simply put KING Apparel is not your average clothing brand they are
“More than Clothing!"
Words by Ali Walji
Instagram - aliwalji17