Soletron recently released an interview with HUF-owner Keith Hufnagel, offering insight into some history behind the brand, advice to anyone who'd like to start their own line, and what's next on the horizon for HUF. Check it out below, and visit soletron.com to see the full feature.
So tell us a little on the company’s background? How did it get started?
“Well, HUF started as a small boutique in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. We wanted to open up a spot in the Bay Area (where I was living and skating at the time) where you could come to pick up the better brands that the streetwear and sneaker scenes offered at that time. Since it was a pretty small location, it was a really exclusive, handpicked selection of the harder-to-find gear at the time… There basically wasn’t anything in there we weren’t fully backing, because there just wasn’t enough room! Haha.
Once that took off we decided we should try making our own stuff. We came out with just a few simple tee and cap designs at first, and soon that developed into a full blown clothing line. Last summer, 2010, we had the opportunity to launch our HUF Footwear line. That had been a goal of mine since the beginning, so I’m really psyched to now be involved in the sneaker game, and to really focus on that part of the brand.”
What about the name? What is the significance or story behind it?
“It’s basically just a nickname I’ve had for a long time. HUF is easier to say than my last name, Hufnagel, I guess? haha. So when I was growing up skating everyone just called me HUF.
In what region do you do most of your business?
Worldwide… Like I said, we started out as mainly a Bay Area brand, but over time we just grew and grew. We have since relocated our headquarters down to Los Angeles. Now we have accounts all over the US, as well as overseas.”
How many stores are you currently in?
“Hmm, I’d say we are currently in about 150 stores throughout the United States, and then we work with 15 international distributors.”
What advice do you have for someone just starting their own line? Any tricks of the trade?
Work hard, haha. It takes a lot of work to start and maintain a line, but if you really want it, like anything else, you have to work hard for it. In a way, you can kind of liken it to skateboarding. I’ve been skateboarding basically every day since ’87, and I’ve been professional for almost 20 years, so I’ve dealt with my fair share of frustrations. You know, sometimes you may try to film a trick for hours, even days… You keep falling and getting beat up trying, but if you really want it you gotta get back up and keep going for it. It’s the same building and maintaining a brand, much as like anything else. Keep trying and you’ll be rewarded in the end, haha.”
Do you manufacture local or internationally?
“It’s a bit of a mix. All of our hats and bottoms are produced locally, here in downtown Los Angeles, and we have our tees manufactured up in San Francisco. We try to keep it all American made, but some items are done overseas.”
How does your line fit into the sneakerhead movement?
“Well, we started out as basically a sneaker shop, providing collector sneakers to the Bay Area. On top of that I’ve always collected sneakers over the years. So when it comes to design, a lot of inspiration is taken from those sneakers that I like best… With our footwear line, we try to incorporate skateboard functionality with more of a lifestyle/streetwear aesthetic. We take aspects from both worlds, so that both skaters and non-skaters will feel comfortable wearing the shoes. What we ultimately try to make are shoes you can go out skateboarding in all day, and then will feel comfortable going out in at night… just a simple, classic looking design.”
How many designs do you normally come out with per season?
“That always fluctuates depending on the season… This past Fall we did about 50 pieces for apparel, which come out in two separate deliveries. On top of that there are the accessories as well. And for footwear we did seven separate models for Fall, which are available in different colorways. For our upcoming Holiday collection it’s a bit of a smaller line, as we’re offering some special collaboration pieces with that release. We worked with graffiti-artist HAZE for our Holiday ’11 collection, as well as with the French skate company Cliche, so those projects are gonna be sick!”
What do you think your hottest designs are for this season? Why?
“HUF Plantlife socks! Haha, our weed socks are always a hit with everyone… We also did a dope photo-tee collaboration series with photographer Tobin Yelland this season which turned out really good. The photo with Andy Roy shooting the gun is pretty fuckin’ raw, haha. And then for our Fall ’11 footwear collection we did a couple packs. There was the Black Pack, which is a black on black available in the Hupper, Choice, and Genuine models. And for the Rain Camo Pack we took the HUF Rain Camo print and set that to the Hupper and Choice models. Both those packs turned out really well.”
Anybody famous rocking your products?
“Haha, yeah, we’ve seen some pretty good ones! The homies from Odd Future always chilled in our HUF shop on Fairfax, so they’re always rocking our stuff. Lil’ Wayne will rock our hats here and there… Someone actually sent us over a photo of David Beckham chilling in a HUF hat… that one was pretty good, haha.”
What retail stores would you love to get into but haven’t been able to so far?
“Wal-Mart. Haha, no I’m kidding. We’ve had great luck so far, actually… We’re still a pretty specific market, so a lot of thought goes into who we are going to be working with. We are working on broadening our reach overseas for sure.”
What’s next on the horizon?
“Right now we’re really focusing on building our skate team. We have some people in mind who you may see added to the roster soon. We actually just added Joey Pepper to the team, so we’re hyped to have him skating HUF shoes. We’re also planning some upcoming skate trips which you will see go down soon. This upcoming year, 2012, will mark our 10-year anniversary as a brand, as well. We have a lot of really sick collaborations planned out to celebrate that, so definitely be on the lookout for those!”
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