DAVID BENDAVID ON CONSTANT EVOLUTION
DAVID BEN-DAVID IS THE DESIGNER AND ABSOLUTE POWERHOUSE BEHIND THE BRAND SPRAYGROUND, A BRAND KNOWN FOR ITS BRIGHT COLORS, FUNKY DESIGNS, AND UNIQUE COLLABORATIONS. BEN-DAVID AND HIS TEAM TRULY HAVE CHANGED WHAT IT MEANS TO DESIGN A BAG, THEY NEVER MAKE ANYTHING DERIVATIVE OR DULL, INSTEAD THEY ARE ALWAYS PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES IN ORDER TO PUT THE ART OF THE BAG FIRST.
CREATIVITY AND ARTISTRY ARE CLEARLY PRIORITIZED IN THIS BRAND, THEY PUT THE STORY ABOVE CASH GRABS, UNIQUE BAGS ABOVE MILKING EACH PIECE FOR AS MUCH AS THEY CAN. THEY ARE ABLE TO DO THIS BECAUSE OF BEN-DAVID'S INGENUITY, THE BRAND STANDS PERFECTLY WELL ON ITS OWN TWO FEET SO THEY NEVER FIND THEMSELVES COMPROMISING THEIR VISION FOR COLLABORATORS. COLLABORATIONS HAPPEN ON THEIR TERMS AND ARE ALL THE BETTER FOR IT.
IF YOU CAN TAKE ONE THING AWAY FROM A BOOK OF’S CONVERSATION WITH DAVID BEN-DAVID, I HOPE IT IS LISTEN TO YOURSELF AND YOUR CREATIVE VOICE. THIS IS SOMETHING HE STRESSES GREATLY. DON’T ALLOW NAYSAYERS TO PREVENT YOU FROM FULFILLING YOUR CREATIVE DREAMS.
How do you stay inspired and fresh amidst your busy schedule?
Good question. I think traveling has definitely helped. I can see new places and do some people watching. I'm from New York so just literally sitting outside during a lunch break or whatnot is a great inspiration. Part of my schedule is finding that inspiration. I have to really try to stay fresh, I’m, always on non-stop and constantly try to outdo myself.
That's a challenge, right?
Yes, because I love the bags so much. I actually love the product so much so I'm always thinking of it all day long. How am I going to innovate, how am I going to make it better? What am I going to do to make a difference? Because there are many bag brands out there...
Are they innovating? Are they being creative? I don't know. That's something for them to decide—their path. But here, everything's limited edition. I want the fan or the consumer to feel like they're buying something that's unique to them, so they feel the individuality. They feel individual. But how do I keep it going? As I said, I’m just always thinking of how I'm going to outdo myself. And I also often look into nature.
Nature. I saw that there are a lot of nature inspirations in the bags.
Yes, tons. On every bag, there's a little red triangle. And that little red triangle is because I was in Hong Kong, at an aviary zoo, and there was this beautiful blackbird and when it opened up its wings to fly, there was one feather on each side of the wings that was red. That made me think that it would be cool if I created an all-black bag and just put a little piece of red in there. And that has become so iconic to the brand. It is one of the reasons people notice Sprayground, because of that little triangle red piece.
Wow. That's a cool tidbit, a fun fact.
Seeing people wearing it in the streets, it's such a blessing. I'm also noticing how they're wearing it. A lot of kids like to wear it with love. So that's also helping me create the next evolution or whatever collection I'm working on.
And in line with that, what's next for Sprayground?
What's next? My vision is to go travel, but plans are so boring, boring, boring, boring, boring...
Because they all look the same.
Yes, I’d like to add some flavor. My philosophy of design has been turning the mundane into the insane. I started off with backpacks and where can I go with that next? I'm also going into footwear because I see a lot of kids with matching bags to their shoes. There's a demand for that.
Yes, I mean, there's some footwear that you guys’ released already and it sold out right away.
Yes, yes, just two times I did a boot. So, after seeing that reaction to it, I thought, hey, let's go more, more into that. And our perspective is very different from what's out there, which makes it exciting.
How would you describe your brand's evolution throughout the years?
We've always stayed true to the crazy. When something sells very well, we don't reorder it like a normal company would to try to milk it. We cash out instead. These limited editions are never produced again. Keeping up with that ideology is the biggest challenge, because if you create something so wonderful and then there’s a demand for that and what do you do? Like I said, the normal thing would be to just milk it, but here we stop to keep that originality, that limited edition, and make a new version of it, a new colorway. We force ourselves to create something different, a different story or continue that story. It’s like a book, each bag could be a book, for example, the sharks in Paris I made many, many years ago. The demand for that was massive, but I only made a limited amount. Then I made new variations of it and also of the shark mouth, which brought up the question how do you evolve the shark mouth, it's just a three-colored shark mouth? I wanted to see how I could take the shark's mouth and develop it. Always evolving like that.
So, what are the challenges and the highs that you've experienced so far throughout this whole journey?
Maintaining a good team. Internally, it's not always about the design. It's about also having a great team because a great team can win championships. There are so many steps to making a bag. There are like 70 parts of the bag to come together, all while also keeping good quality. I pride myself and my team on always improving our quality. Yes, things happen. I mean human-made product has error, but we are always working to find and work out those kinks.
What has been a major highlight so far?
Seeing people wearing the products in the streets, and not just local in New York but in Miami or London or Italy and Tokyo or Hong Kong. That's the craziest thing I've ever seen, it’s the most beautiful blessing.
Do you have a memorable moment where you were especially surprised to see your bag somewhere?
Yes, I think it was in Hong Kong because I would just go there just for manufacturing purposes. It took ten years, but one day I saw these two girls at the hotel I was checking into with my bags, and I was like, what the heck?
How does that make you feel?
It’s so cool, it's a very personal thing. Yes, it's euphoric.
Now collaboration is something that's very evident in the brand, how important is collaboration for you?
I've only collaborated because I'm so hands-on. I literally touch everything in the company, every design, every idea. So, I have to work with someone that's going to be like-minded and easy to flow with. For example, today I was shooting and photographing Soulja Boy. I met him years ago and he was like one day we're going to collaborate. So, seven years later, today we're shooting Soulja Boy. Not only that but even when we started talking about the ideas, it was exciting, there was a story. I always want to create a story with the person I'm collaborating with. And there's been a lot of opportunities with various musicians or athletes, but sometimes it's dry when it comes to the creating part. And thank God, we've been fortunate, we don't need to rely on collaborations. That's why when you see our collaborations, they're really well curated. From Shaquille O'Neal to Spike Lee to the Game to Soulja Boy, to Young Thug, to the NBA, everything is well-curated. Even with working with the NBA or SpongeBob, they have their specifics on how they work with their partners. But I told them that if we're going to work together, your property is coming into my world, so I need to have fun with it. And if they said, sorry, we can't do that you have to follow our ways, I'd be like, hey, that's fine—we don't need to collaborate.
So, you don't compromise the brand's DNA at all, that's great.
Yes, because we've built something. Our characters are some of the best-selling bags. The fun personality of the brand is what draws people. We have our own assets to rely on, we don't need to rely on anyone else. But if you want to work with us, and we're going to flow, then you get the red-carpet treatment.
Out of all your designs throughout the years, is there a specific design or designs that resonate with you the most and why?
I think there were interesting moments, for example, when I put wings on a backpack. When I showed my partners at the time, (they're not my same partners today), I put the bag on the table, and they're like, no one's buying that, what is that? They weren't creative, or visionary-type people. They're like no, no, this is just crazy. But our fans want crazy and the more crazy I can make it, the more exciting this brand is going to be. This was back in like 2013. I said just trust me, try it. And then we launched the backpack and when we did it was the most popular item at that time. Those are interesting moments where, as a creator, you have all these people around you that might not support your ideas. You have to ignore that and really go with your gut. It happens all the time, unfortunately, with any popular creative. They have a great song and then they asked the wrong person, hey, what do you think?
And then they listen to the negative feedback.
Yes, and then they listen to that person. Overcoming obstacles like that, those design obstacles, is difficult.
What's a valuable lesson that you've learned throughout this whole experience that you always carry with you?
To always listen to your gut, listening to that inner voice is really, really important. I think that voice is a little gift that came with us when we were all created.
Final question. If you're a book, what book would you be and why?
If I was a book, what would it be? I think it'd be like a 10-part thing all in one hard shell casing. It'll definitely be like an adventure type of book. It will be a comic book with big photos. A comic book, then lifestyle photos.