Trapstar – The Brand Behind The Mask

“We didn’t want any celebrities wearing the clothes at a stage because we come from a background where it’s against that. At that time this new wave of fashion sense was non existent.”

Tego Sigel

4 years ago

By Tego Sigel

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From humble (and admittedly selfish) beginnings to a recognisable brand on a global scale, Trapstar has defied the odds and what was once meant to be a secret, is now well and truly out. Initially known for their logo adorned beanies, snapbacks, tees and sweats, Trapstar, co-founded by Mikey, Will and Lee refused to be boxed in and began creating concept pieces for their ever growing client list, alongside pop-up shops or as they called them invasions across the country. Music has played a big part in the presence of the brand too, having showcased everyone from A$AP Rocky to Nipsey Hussle, way ahead of the rest of the game. 2013 saw Trapstar become a mentor for vitaminwater, showcase a capsule collection in Selfridges and let’s not forget the power move of becoming an official partner of Roc Nation. As far as 2014 is concerned, Mikey breaks it down simply as, “there’s gonna be quite a few game changers.”

Words Nardene Scott
Photography JPH

“I thought my first collection of tees was the best ever when I was wearing them, but then I look back and think I was slightly gassed,” Mikey begins, trailing back the journey of the brand, which really began as a reaction to the generic streetwear scene. “The vision first started on a selfish aspect of making exclusive clothes for ourselves and our peers, on the basis that we wasn’t really happy with what was out there. So we were forced into starting something for ourselves and not for financial gain.”

Like most upstarts, the name circulated via word of mouth and soon deliveries out the back of the car via bespoke pizza boxes were all over west London and in serious demand. “The monumental stage of the brand is when we got our first queue around the block in 2009 at 1948 London. It was the same time that the Yeezy’s first dropped, so there was a queue for them and then a Trapstar queue; we’re no Yeezy’s, especially at that time, so it was like, whoa people do actually care. It touches you.”

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It made sense in 2010, after a string of successful invasions, to take up more permanent holdings in Shepherds Bush Arcade; still a small space in comparison to their fan base, the team have never com- promised their premium and limited ethos, constantly reflecting the reason why they started the brand in the first place. “Before then, there was hardly any profit, it was just passion that was driving us; the selfish want of just being fresh… Every year, every little thing was a sign of progress,” Lee explains.

A$AP Rocky donning the concept bullet proof vest, Rita Ora and Cara Delevingne rocking the logo beanies to death, Rihanna styling up pretty much the whole collection and now Jay Z casually spotted in the White Noise Irongate sweater have all done wonders in terms of publicity but don’t start thinking there’s some type of massive marketing machine behind Trapstar. “We never really interacted with people on the co-sign thing,” Mikey starts to break it all down, “we didn’t want any celebrities wearing the clothes at the stage because we come from a background where it’s against that. At that time this new wave of fashion sense was non existent.”

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Instead they took it as pure flattery; it seemed like more than UK fashion fiends felt like ‘trapped stars,’ which is where the brand’s name originated. As the trio will tell you, they were fashion fiends before they were fashion hustlers, always riding a wave that was yet to land anywhere near your average style obsessives. “We started wearing skinny jeans and Jordans in ‘05 and people were like, ‘What are those space shoes and tight arse jeans?’” So it’s no surprise they found an affinity with Rihanna, who felt no way about busting a beanie and tee with her Louboutins. “When a celebrity or someone with a bit more influence is on the same wave as you, you warm to them anyway,” Will confirms. It’s hard in this cynical age to think such things can be organic but they swear it’s simply a meeting a minds, “we wouldn’t go for someone with a million Instagram hits, it’s about being part of the same culture. Everyone we mess with has that same non-conforming mentality.”

That has been noticed throughout the fashion scene too, beyond the streetwear enthusiasts and also by the likes of Selfridges who invited Trapstar into the contemporary menswear section to showcase their 18-piece capsule collection in December 2013; just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to spreading the word of Trapstar.

“We want to branch out over the US and get our names out there properly, they believe in the mes- sage of the brand and we’ve got the same aesthetics as they do.” Refusing to provide specifics on their American exploits – “The things we’ve done [in 2013] wouldn’t hit as much if we started bragging about them before they happened” – you’ll just have to consider that with the power of the Roc behind them, there’s no doubt it’s bound to take flight stateside. What they will allow us to take heed of though are their plans for more invasions, hopefully more shops and the big move into womenswear.

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Feeling understandably positive about the steps they’re taking in 2014, nothing will faze Trapstar. “You’re gonna see the brand have a more inter- national presence. We came from not being allowed in any store to taking it to America so we can’t say it’s a challenge; what’s a challenge? The industry has hardened us so much so it’s a pleasure, not a challenge.”

Make sure you keep an eye on iamatrapstar.com and follow the journey on @trapstarlondon