Remember the warm, rapturous feeling you used to get after beating the boss on that ridiculously hard level? Apparently, so do the good people at Gold Coin Clothing, whose 8-bit video game-inspired designs succeed in recreating that very sensation. The young label has received a lot of attention for the bold graphics that populate their collection, and show no signs of slowing down, with a slew of new projects lined up for 2009.
Format spoke with Gold Coin’s founder and creative director, Ray “Three” Robinson, to discuss his design process, the exponential growth of his brand, and, of course, video games.
“I have an old remade SNES (no blowing!) at the crib so I can jump back to the classics whenever. My collection is heavy.”
Format: A lot of Gold Coin’s designs are clearly influenced by 8-Bit video games from the 80s and 90s. What is it about this era that most captured your imagination and inspired the brand?
GC: Just as many other 80’s babies can say, I grew up playing these games. I don’t think gaming culture has affected any other generation as strongly as it has ours. As a young artist growing up, I was naturally influenced by all these new characters and pixel graphics. I love playing games and got sucked in at an early age, but it goes way beyond just gameplay for me. I have always appreciated the design aspect more than anything else. That style of comic-book art mixed with anime and cartoon art is the dopest to me. Ever since my first character designs arose, they have always had that look. I figured that since my designs have such a strong game influence, I might as well theme my line accordingly.
Format: Aside from games, what inspires Gold Coin? Walk us through your creative process.
GC: As most folks can see, my designs do look very video game-inspired, but I actually first started getting my art out there on the streets writing graffiti. My second flow of inspiration definitely stems from that. All my art and design is a mix of the two styles.
My creative process doesn’t differ much from most other visual artists. I sketch out all the crazy ideas that run through my head and try to just let it flow. From there, I scan them in and refine them on the computer, but for the most part I still do it the old-fashioned way: pen and paper. Same goes for the Cut & Sew stuff, too.
Format: What are your favorite classic games? What are you playing right now?
GC: My all-time favorite game is still “Super Mario World” for SNES. I’ll never get enough of that one. I like the older side scroll games the best still, to this day. I have an old remade SNES (no blowing!) at the crib so I can jump back to the classics whenever. My collection is heavy.
What am I playing right now? My Nintendo DS & Wii. The DS gets most of the love, though. Side scroll adventures are my favorite so the DS is where it’s at. A lot of the newer 3D games are a bit much for me. Mario Kart for the Wii is off the hook too. If you’re talking arcade games, Street Fighter IV is it right now.
Format: In your opinion, which video game character has the most style?
GC: Zangief. Hands down. [Laughs]
Format: When it comes to video games, a lot of people are extremely loyal to particular companies and systems – either you’re a Nintendo guy, a Playstation guy, or an Xbox guy. Do you think it’s possible for that kind of fandom to exist in the fashion world? If so, how does one go about fostering that kind of brand loyalty?
GC: No question about it! I think that type of fandom is what keeps “streetwear” going. Everyone has seen those lines out front of spots. I think its all about making quality products that people can relate to on a personal level. Once people can relate to a brand, it’s all growth from there. That’s exactly what we try to do with GC – gather fans and grow the brand along as our customers own styles progress too.
Format: Part of Gold Coin’s philosophy is exclusivity – each item is made in limited numbers and is never reproduced. Is it ever difficult balancing that with commercial viability?
GC: I started Gold Coin with limited edition in mind, to keep things special. I’ve always enjoyed purchasing and collecting goods that I know are hard to find. It’s like you’re getting yourself a little present or something. It always feels better than purchasing any old thing. Mass produced products get boring really quickly to me. By producing things in limited runs I think we can keep our product in this category of being something that is special to come across.
Sometimes it gets a little hard when we sell out of an item in a few days, but if we kept on pumping them out and everyone had them; it wouldn’t be a connoisseur’s item anymore. This is why we have stuck to it and run the line with this philosophy heavily in mind.
Format: The streetwear scene seems headed in a more mature, understated direction. Will Gold Coin ever shift away from the eye-popping, colorful aesthetic that dominates your collection, or is it too integral to the foundation of the brand?
GC: As I design each season I try to keep a wide spectrum of consumers in mind. Gold Coin has always had many colorful pieces from day one, but I think certain items that aren’t so colourful are also important to a well put together collection. Not everything needs to be wildly bright – some items look best without the colour. At the same time, not all customers feel comfortable wearing a yellow shirt. This is why I like to produce a mixture of items that many different personalities can grasp. From our tees to our Cut & Sew, I like to have a little bit of it all: some wild, some mellow, and some in between.
Format: What do you hope to accomplish with Gold Coin over the next few years?
GC: Over the next few years we have a lot of great new projects that will be popping up. We will not only be expanding the line but also moving in different directions with other sub-projects under GC.
The first on the list will be the opening of our first flagship boutique in San Francisco, The Golden City Arcade. We have already started planning, and doors should be opening this coming spring. As things move along we will have more info for fans with the launch of our new website and blog. From this point on everything will be fully documented. The new site will be launching within the next month.
Aside from the store, we also have a few sub-labels under Gold Coin that will be launching late 2009. The first will be our toy line, GC Plush & Plastic, and the other will be our accessories line, GC 24komplete, which will produce items from belts and wallets to luggage. Beyond that, we just plan to grow our fan base steadily at a progressive rate.
Format: If you had to choose one game to best describe Gold Coin, which would it be and why?
GC: I don’t think Gold Coin can best be described using any one game. Over time, I’ve taken a bit from every one played. Hopefully one day I can put them all together and make our own.