Talking with Alex Berenson of Kikwear

Many may recall fond memories of the booming rave scene of the 90s, wearing phat pants and dancing to thrilling beats. Tightly linked with the scene was Kikwear, the clothing line of choice for EDM fans and fashionistas alike. We had the chance to speak to CEO of the company, Alex Berenson, on the resurgence of the subculture, and the company’s new developments.

Do you mind introducing yourself?

My name is Alex Berenson and I’m the CEO/Co-founder of Kikwear, Inc. I started the company in 1991 with my closest childhood friend Gregg Ostrow, who is still my partner today.

Tell us about Kikwear – how did it begin?

Kikwear came onto the clothing scene in 1991 with one product that we basically invented called “Longy Boxers.” We hated traditional boxers and so did all of our buddies so we started making a really kool below the knee style in plaids, stripes and tons of different fabrics. They were super comfortable with their plush back elastic and roomy fit. By 1992, we dropped a complete line of gear including pants, shorts, t’s, hoodies and head wear. We also had a very iconic character named “Chucky” that was a rasta looking dude and was the emblem that we put on just about everything. From there, we started to focus on pants primarily and it was sort of by accident that we got recognized in the rave scene. Our retail accounts were asking us for wide leg bottoms and we had no idea that they were going to capture the attention of ravers. One thing lead to another and soon started making super phat pants that became incredibly popular with ravers. The combination of our wide leg silhouette and “K” embroidery on the back of every pant launched us into unchartered ground with the EDM culture, and our pants became staples for ravers around the world by 1995.

When, and why do you think, did Kikwear begin to be identified with rave culture? Were you personally already a part of that scene?

The rave culture is all about freedom of expression, individuality and P.L.U.R.R. as we see it. Nobody should be judged for how they dress, dance or anything else that is important to that person. The idea that people can really let it all hang out and be natural is so cool. There simply isn’t any culture or scene that remotely compares to the rave way of life, and it is a way of life for those who are embedded in it. They wouldn’t have it any other way and are driven by the epic music. The kandi trading also adds a layer to this scene that is sacred and can be a very emotional aspect. People have tons of stories about each piece they’ve got and that defines a huge part of what this culture represents.

Kikwear started to infiltrate the rave scene in the mid 90s as the rave parties were in full swing. We were one of a small group of companies that constantly made gear that was fresh and amazing for dancing. Our fabric, fit and logos became recognizable in a big way, so we were accepted as a brand that was always evolving. We loved pushing the envelope with phats that got wider every few months. We listened to what our fans wanted and made sick merchandise that they could relate to. I wasn’t a raver before Kikwear, but once I started making clothing for this scene I hit up my fair share of parties. I wanted to see for myself what it was all about to better understand who our customers were and why.

Kikwear fits great with the rave scene today because we’re all in. We aren’t just a clothing company selling pants, but one that stands by the “family” element of the EDM culture. We have a global presence because our goal is to have everyone involved. There’s an international street team, resident DJ team, and we sponsor a lot of parties. We want to be close to our fans and have them feel part of what we are. Our social media platform helps us involve the Kik fans around the world, especially our Facebook page, which we try to make a lot of fun and interactive. We love the feedback on what our loyal fans like and want to see from us in the future.

What other music genres and subcultures has Kikwear been connected with?

The beauty of Kikwear is that we seem to have attracted fans from multiple EDM genres. Our resident DJ team comprises of several hardcore artists, but we feature techno, house, trance, trap, breaks, house, dnb and many other genres on our Kikwear Morning Mix FB segment. We love giving exposure to both well known and unknown artists. Every artist has his/her own sound and can use a little extra love so KW is here to support them.

You have close relationships with many artists, like Zoe VanWest, and as you mentioned, have a resident DJ team. Could you go into that, and describe the importance of those relationships?

We have a close knit family and I try my best to get to know everyone on Team Kikwear. Developing a great working relationship with our resident DJs is critical. They give us so much advice and knowledge which helps us tremendously. Without their support and dedication, I honestly don’t think that we would have re-emerged as quickly. They’ve helped educate the new generation of ravers about the iconic standing of our brand as has our insane street team. You ask about Zoe VanWest, who has been with Kikwear since the middle of 2012 when we were in the very early stages of rebooting. She’s a sponsored artist, street team leader of Florida and also our Kikgirl designer. Kikgirl will drop in the Spring/Summer of next year and we’re really stoked to bring Kikwear’s little sister back to the stage.

You also sponsor lots of events. What will you be involved with next?

We sponsored a lot of events this year and plan to continue that in 2014. What better way to reach our fans than through the party circuit we support and vice versa. They’re awesome for the company and the ravers who attend them. Part of our sponsorship entails supplying the promoters with stickers and give away gear which adds an exciting layer to these events for the ravers. We use our social media to promote the events and feature artists playing them on our Kikwear Morning Mix. The ravers can walk away from a Kik party with some of our gear and get to know who we are too. In 2013, we sponsored events in the States and Canada only. Going forward, we’d like to be involved with parties in other places around the world. We’ve got a presence in Australia thanks to resident DJ S3RL and our street team there. The same thing goes for the U.K. and Sc@r who’s a sponsored DJ. We will continue building our DJ team internationally and see where that takes our sponsored events.

What can fans of Kikwear expect from the new line?

Kikwear’s mission has and always will be to make the most epic EDM gear for an affordable price. We are never going to be satisfied with what we did yesterday and will never become complacent. The scene is on the move and so are we as a brand.

Thanks so much Alex! Check out their site now, and first time shoppers who join their mailing list will enjoy a 10% discount.

For more about Kikwear check them out on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.

 

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