In a materialistic industry, where most brands idea of “getting political” is screen-printing a graphic tee covering whatever the latest news issue is—primarily for shock value and hype, not because of any true desire for positive change—Scifen is a refreshing alternative. Created in 1999 by Barmak Badaei, Scifen fuses hip-hop, graffiti, and the pursuit of knowledge into their designs, offering both substance and style.
Format: Where did Scifen originate? What’s the brands history?
Barmak: Scifen originated in Los Angeles. I started the brand in 1999 while I was in college. Growing up as a b-boy, I was very heavily into the b-boy scene and just hip-hop. Fashion has always been apart of hip-hop culture and I was very interested in it. I wanted to start a clothing company based on social-political concepts that could serve as a platform to express my ideas about life and society. There were a lot of brands in the market but none with any substance, so I wanted to fill that void.
Format: How has Scifen grown since you started the company?
Barmak: Well, that’s a tricky question. It’s all relative. I started Scifen out of my dad’s garage with six designs on a credit card with a 3,000 dollar limit. I was like 19 years old and I was too excited to really know what I was getting in to. It is now seven years later and I have an office, warehouse, and about four full collections per year. Although, we still have a long way to go, I am proud to say Scifen is legitimate clothing company, well, a small one at least.
Format: Who is a part of the Scifen family? What role does each person play?
Barmak: Scifen is designed by myself and Ewok One. Us two are the original team. As far as roles, I am the creative director and Ewok is the senior designer. We work very closely together from research, concepts, development, design, and marketing. Kevin Sanchez is our assistant designer. Yakballz is our superstar rapper. There is a lot of work that goes into apparel design and production. We all work together, but try to handle what our titles imply. As far as family goes, there are many others: all play important roles in sales and marketing.
Format: Scifen has been described as concept based company, deriving from the idea that the sciences of life are infinite, and that by learning about the world, we advance as people. Please elaborate on your concept for those that might not have a solid understanding of it.
Barmak: It’s basically about knowledge. It’s easy to look around and realize the world is not doing so well. Crime, greed, exploitation, manipulation, murder, war, envy, destruction, hate, to name a few, are all very dominate in modern society. This is all due to ignorance, which is a virus and is running rampant. The only way to fight and not get infected is to educate ourselves — an infinite knowledge of the science of life. Hence, Science Infinite: SCIFEN. You can read the manifesto on the website.
Format: How does the concept manifest itself in your clothing?
Barmak: This concept is the foundation for all our themes, designs and direction. It’s easy to see when you are aware of it and look and the line.
Format: How does the concept manifest itself in other areas of the company?
Barmak: Well, for me, it’s how I live my life. It is who I am. This shit is real to me, all I can do is live it. I don’t give a fuck about the fashion game or bullshit social scene that comes with it. I am a b-boy, so naturally I’m down to battle anyone who ain’t in my crew to win the battle. In this case, winning the battle would be exposing the deaf, dumb and blind. I am motivated on belief and I am the same way with all areas of the company. It took me seven years to get this far and I will go another 70 years if it means getting one step closer to my goal.
Format: The Scifen concept is pretty abstract. Stated in a way that people can easily grasp, what makes Scifen different than other clothing companies?
Barmak: Scifen is based in substance. I honestly can’t name many brands that strive to do the same. Also, we pride ourselves on the fact that we are possibly the only hip-hop brand. First and foremost, we are recognized as artists, b-boys and writers. A lot of these brands claim hip-hop but are just fans of the culture, they don’t live it. Since when was a mother fucker in the bleachers of a Lakers game in the NBA? He ain’t. That’s them, this is us. Go make your fan shirts, we’ll make this hip hop shit.
Format: How important is it to Scifen to have an artistic quality to your clothing? How do you achieve this effect?
Barmak: It is the most important thing. Fashion is art.
Format: What inspired the ad campaign with El-P, Cage, M-1, Yak Ballz and Cope?
Barmak: These are our people and who we support as artists. We all have each others back and we do what we can to honor and promote one another.
Format: Your brand symbol, the Scifen elephant, is said to be a metaphor for human society, reflecting the consequences of today’s social structure. Please expand on that.
Barmak: Humanity is doing to itself as it has done to the elephants. We are headed for self destruction.
Format: Have you caught any flack for repping an elephant in the line of other popular brand animals?
Barmak: No. The other brand animals have no meaning or point to anything relevant. We didn’t just use an elephant cause we like it or think its works well for design. There is a reason. Do the other brands have a reason for their popular animal and does it really apply their brand name or concept?
Format: How has the recent explosion of streetwear affected business?
Barmak: It hasn’t affected business. Scifen is the uniform for a certain individual. It’s for those who understand it. Of course their are heads who walk into a store, see it and buy it cause they like the design of particular items. However, we are very thankful for our supporters, family and fans, this is who we do it for. So, as long as our culture is around, we will do our thing, regardless of any explosion or implosion of streetwear.
More Info: http://www.scifen.com