Before their weekend pop-up, the clothing designers talk inspiration, DMV style and lack of sleep.
In 2011, Davin Gentry and Tyler Hundley founded PREMIUM Co., originally a jewelry line of handcrafted necklaces and bracelets made from gemstones and precious metals. Since their handcrafted jewelry occupied such a unique niche, Gentry and Hundley focused on it for two years before ever considering branching into menswear. However, in 2013, the fashion-forward duo decided to design a few clothing mock-ups and gauge the response of PREMIUM’s followers.
Reactions to their mock-ups were overwhelmingly positive, and PREMIUM’s small run of t-shirts almost immediately sold out. From there, PREMIUM never turned back from clothing and the brand’s jewelry line subsequently faded out of focus.
Just as PREMIUM made its switch to a menswear clothing line, Gentry met Kevin “Scooty” Hallums, a Washington, D.C. native with a wide network of connections in the region. Their friendship soon turned into a business relationship, and Hallums joined the team to assist with sales and marketing. Three years later, both Gentry and Hallums are now based in Washington, D.C. and PREMIUM’s success has grown exponentially, with the line manufactured in Los Angeles, New York City, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C., and sold in 15 stores worldwide as well as online.
This weekend (Jan. 29 and 30), PREMIUM is hosting a pop-up at Union Market’s Maurice Electrical warehouse and debuting a collection exclusive to the pop-up. In anticipation of the pop-up, Washington Life spoke to Gentry and Hallums to discuss D.C. style, design inspiration and advice they have to offer other fashion entrepreneurs.
Washington Life: How would you describe Washington, D.C.’s style? What do you like and dislike about it?
Kevin Hallums: When I think of D.C. style, I think of diversity. D.C. is like a baby New York; it’s a melting pot of a lot of different people from a lot of different places. Therefore, you get styles from everywhere. You see a lot of New York fashion, L.A and hipster, and Capital Hill with business suit and blazers.
Davin Gentry: When I think of D.C. style, I don’t think of one particular person – I think of everyone. D.C. style often gets overlooked because it’s not New York or L.A, but I think D.C. is still just as stylish as those other cities. D.C. doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, and that’s where we come in. We’re trying to make D.C. style a little bit more visible to the rest of the nation.
KH: I also think that there’s a lot of confidence in the D.C. style. Everybody is really comfortable with themselves and their individuality, whereas sometimes when you go to these other cities, you can see someone trying to emulate that city’s style even if it doesn’t work for them.
WL: What do you think is the key to having a bi-coastal, or even international, presence? How do you appeal to several cities at once?
DG: Our brand specializes in iconic, classic silhouettes to begin with. Whether you’re in L.A. or Paris, these are silhouettes any fan of fashion can appreciate… I think that’s what helps us reach both coasts. We try to make so many different pieces because every piece in a wardrobe is key, especially in this day and age where layering is so popular. Our wardrobe just fits into any closet no matter where the customer lives.
WL: Where do you draw your inspiration for PREMIUM? Do you look to other designers?
DG: I have my personal favorite designers, but I don’t draw inspiration from them for my designs. I’m inspired by design in general. When a designer inspires me, it’s more likely to be something they did in a runway show. And not particularly the clothing, but maybe how the models’ hair was styled, or their facial expressions, or the build of the runway and the actual show all together. I’m inspired by how creative brands can be. Virgil, from Off-White, is probably one of the most inspiring designers out right now, just because he pushes the envelope in all aspects of design, whether it be the invitations to his fashion shows or his look-book photo shoots.
As far as design and inspiration for the clothing, I try to see what’s missing from my personal wardrobe and design based on that. Traveling obviously is where I get most of my inspiration, just seeing so many different cultures and how they wear clothes, how the fabric of the clothes affects each garment and the weather in that area.
WL: What does Premium have in store for the near future?
DG: We plan to do more pop-up shops. We don’t plan on having a brick-and-mortar shop right now. We’re pretty focused on our online sales and our wholesale accounts —that’s our main focus. We plan to take the pop-up shops to other cities this year: Portland, New York, Atlanta, L.A., Miami and so on. After that, we plan to do New York Fashion Week, but that will most likely happen next year. However things grow organically is the direction we want to take.
KH: The inspiration for the pop-up came from the year that we had in 2015. We started doing more of our manufacturing in L.A. and the whole process of going to the different dye-houses and learning about the different washes and things of that nature was a huge learning process for us. It was all more on the industrial side, so I started thinking about old laundry mats and dry-cleaning services. You’ll see a lot of that reflected through the art.
WL:What advice could you offer to young entrepreneurs and designers?
KH: Never give up. If this was meant for everybody, everybody would be doing it. It takes a certain type of person and a certain team to be able to do what we’re doing. It’s not easy. I could go down the line because there’s a list of 100 obstacles you’ll have to overcome to become a success. I don’t even think we’ve reached the peak of what we can achieve, so we probably still have a long way to go and a lot of other things to get through.
DG: Even though I’ve been working with PREMIUM for five years and we’ve reached some level of success, I feel each year is harder and more stressful than the last. I might sleep three to four hours a night. My body is aching. I have bags under my eyes the size of a duffel bag. We’re flying across the country, spending days and weeks away from family and friends. I haven’t been home to see my mom in over a year and a half. It’s a tough industry to try to tap into. The one thing I would say to a young designer would be to just be different. Look at the industry and see what’s missing, and if it makes sense for you to make something, fill that void.
WL: What three words would you use to describe PREMIUM?
DG AND KH: Comfortable, long-lasting, timeless.
PREMIUM’s launch party and pop-up preview, which took place Jan. 22, featured notable guests including Washington Wizards point guard John Wall and R&B singer Raheem DeVaughn. Sneaker designer John Geiger, Mike McAdoo of the Dallas Cowboys and rapper Chaz French were also in attendance. The pop-up’s Laundromat-themed art installation has been created by No Kings Collective with unique social media components. PREMIUM’s pop-up, notably sponsored by Asics, will feature a 15-piece collection exclusive to the event, along with a capsule collaboration with sneaker designer John Geiger.