Steve Aoki On His Love For Vision Street Wear
March 25, 2018
Steve Aoki: global superstar DJ, cake thrower, possessor of silky locks, Vision Street Wear co-owner. The first three you most likely know about, the latter maybe not so much. But in mid-2017 Aoki branched out of the music biz and into the skating apparel world by coming a major part in the Vision brand, acting as the legendary label’s collaborator and ambassador.
But…why? Why would an extremely successful DJ want to get into technical workings of brand strategy when they could be doing some ludicrously rock ‘n’ roll like building a replica of a Starbucks in your house or purchasing an island (two incredibly weird presents Tommy Lee actually bought for Pamela Anderson). Well we caught up with the man himself to find out.
What’s your very first memory of Vision Street Wear?
“When I was a kid and I first got into skateboarding I would sneak out of my mom’s house, and I would always skate on this corner, 17th and Irvine in Newport Beach, with my friends. I was always looking at what other kids were wearing. I remember this one kid he was definitely the best skater of our crew, and I was into everything he was wearing. I always remember he would rock the Vision Street Wear sneakers, and he just knew how to grind. He knew how to do kickflips and he just was the dude. He was rocking that Vision, so I always remember that logo in my head. It’s a very aspirational logo to look at. That was my very first memory of Vision.”
What is it that makes the brand so iconic?
“It’s a heritage skate brand. It’s one of the tried and true skate brands. It’s one of the skate brands that everyone knows. If you’re a skater and you think back at the brands that really developed with the skate culture it’s Vision Street Wear, it’s Thrasher, it’s Airwalk. Vision was one of the OG skate brands.”
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You’re a busy guy, what made you want to work on VSW?
“When I had the opportunity to join Vision, and become a co-owner, I jumped at the opportunity because one of the first things I think about when I see that logo is my childhood. It brought me back to why I love skateboarding and why I love the culture. It’s part of my identity.”
When you think of the VSW guy, who do you think of?
“Mark Gonzales for sure. He’s still the OG. Everyone knows who Mark Gonzales is. Everyone loves Mark Gonzales. I think of his early skate deck. That iconic photo of him. I think Vision Street Wear posted a photo of Mark Gonzales, of Gonzo skating on that deck, just recently kind of like a throwback. It was one of those first photos you see as a skater looking back on the past of the iconic skate moments by the legend skateboarders of the time.”
Powered by the internet, overnight successes are becoming increasingly common in the music industry. You worked for years to gain recognition – do you think of yourself as a dying breed?
“No because there’s people that grind and they work really hard and they slowly fight their way up to get that success and then there are some people that are able to connect with people in a way that the people that grinded didn’t. I think it’s just all respect to everyone that finds their own success, so it doesn’t matter if you grind or if you’re able to shoot up to the moon like a rocket. It’s all about the way in which we connect with people and the way in which whatever we give out to the world is received. And my way it has always been grinding. I’ve been grinding every little step of the way, and another thing I’ve learned through this process is that the grind is the fun part. I’m still not even at my end goal. The goal is out there, and it’s always going to be out there, but the grind is why I do what I do.”
How important is risk-taking to you?
“Risk taking is absolutely everything. It’s how you grow. It’s how you evolve. It’s how you change up your game. If you don’t take the risk you won’t succeed further than your own status quo. That’s what’s important. We all live in our own status quo. We have to always challenge that and exceed what we think is the norm. What’s life without challenge anyway?”
What one piece of advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?
“When I was 16, I had already picked up a guitar, picked up a four-track recorder and had already picked up a microphone. I was out there recording a demo, learning the guitar, learning how to sing, starting a band. I remember that time, and I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I was playing in living rooms. I think at that point I was finally already playing in living rooms in front of five or six people, and I was loving life. So what I would tell myself is to continue loving what I’m doing and follow that pursuit. But also, I think one of the most important things I’ve learned through the ever changing challenges in life is to evolve from whatever I didn’t do well at and find a different route and then keep growing. So I would continue to tell myself that and say to myself ‘you know what you might not be in a hard-core band the rest of your life. It might be the love of what you do when you’re 16, but it might not want to be something you do when you’re 40. But keep doing it until you find something else that your pursuit leads you to.”
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