Interview: Ivan Jimenez of SKULLS

We chat with Ivan Jimenez, the creative mind behind 5-panel label SKULLS

Barcelona local, Ivan Jimenez, has had a super diverse career in the streetwear, skateboarding, and design industries. Now he’s the brains behind SKULLS – an independent brand based on the principles of quality, design, creativity, and fun. The brand was one of the first to create 5 panel hats, in a huge range of out-there fabrics, and has seen success throughout each of its collections. ACCLAIM had a chat to Jimenez about his colourful career, his influences, and why he identifies so strongly with headwear.

What’s your career history?

Everything began when I watched the movie Gleaming the Cube with Christian Slater. Skateboarding took me, and I spent the next 10 years or so of my life with a skateboard. I began shooting skateboard photography around 1996, and by 1999, I was already publishing in Spanish media. From 2001 until around 2006, I was published in nearly every skateboard magazine in the world, while I was travelling all over the world and designing stuff. In 2004, I got hired to begin Nike SB in Spain and Portugal as part of the European OG team. I launched a brand in 2008 called Worldwide that sold in major US accounts like Reed Space and Supreme NY, and in 2011, I decided to choose a different path in life and focused on giving my life a new light. I needed to focus on me and my business, and in October, I moved to New York to study and get a new direction in life.

How did SKULLS start?

As a way to do something that I liked. It started in March 2011, when a friend told me he was working with the same screen-printing facility I used in 2008 and they were manufacturing hats. Every time I was travelling around the world, I would get one or two hats, so it just made sense to make crazy hats. It began there, in Los Angeles, and doing stuff I liked and that I would wear. It was a creative gateway, and still is today.

Where are you based?

Right now, in New York, USA. Brooklyn headquarters!

Do you think this impacts on the brand? In what ways?

Maybe it does. But lately I have been thinking that if I would move to Texas, it wouldn’t impact the brand. Brands get recognized not only by their location, but by how the brand gets portrayed and the quality of its products. I work very hard to make both statements very clear, so ultimately, I don’t think it matters. If you have a great product and you do your marketing job right, you can be from Alaska and be noticed.

Why did you want to focus on headwear specifically?

Because that’s what I have been wearing always. I mean, I used to hunt 5 panels in every city I went to. It was an obsession. I’m really honest when it comes to products. I got many, many requests to make snapbacks, or certain types of hats, but the problem is that I cant wear those, so I don’t think I will make any snapbacks with SKULLS, like ever. I will only make stuff that I can personally wear and be proud of.

What do you think attracts people to hats?

The product first. I mean, I try to do stuff I think is funny, cool, and has a great quality that is undeniable. Whether people like or hate the brand, the SKULLS hats are kind of easily recognisable. Also, right now, a lot of people are getting into the brand ethics and ideas, which is great. It’s not only the product that has traction, but also the philosophy and the family feeling that the brand has too.

There seems to be a bit of a renaissance with caps and hats once again. Why do you think this is?

Certain brands have been focusing on promoting their products through famous singers, which is great, but we cant forget that the 5 panel hat has been around forever, so its not like “everybody” is biting a certain brand from NY, understand? I mean, hats have a great thing going – they are a visible and affordable fashion accessory. They are cheaper than shoes, they are cheaper than pants, and they can create a bold statement for any individual, whether male or female. I think it’s for both economic and fashion reasons that the hats are more noticed these days.

What was the hardest part about starting up SKULLS?

Man…everything. Creating the tech packs, getting fabric, the ideas, the marketing, the site, the webstore, photos, everything. There is nothing easy in starting a brand. Nothing. I encourage people to try but I also don’t want people to think this is easy. I work a fucking lot of hours just to make sure that every single detail in the hats works according to my visual idea. Also, economically it’s a challenging thing. Hat production is harder than ever and new brands will encounter a lot of issues with minimums. I’m lucky to have such a good relationship with my manufacturers so I’m able to create special and limited runs of hats, but that’s not common.

5 panel caps have become very popular over the last couple of years. What are your thoughts on this? What separates SKULLS from the pack?

5 panels are great hats. Why? There are certain answers to that. A) They don’t run by sizes, which make them easier to fit on almost everybody’s head. B) They are easily customisable when designing them. C) They are cheaper to make than the embroidered bulky hats you used to find in some places. D) They are light. E) They are affordable.

Now, what sets apart SKULLS from the rest? Well, I try to do things my way. I have been a customer, and I try to also get the vision of a customer when dealing with questions and emails and such, and communicating with a brand. Just that, investing time in people who support you makes a huge difference. I also try to promote new people who make music or who support the brand, and most importantly, I have nobody to answer to. I have no investors, I have no boss, and I have no partners. It’s me basically, so I do what I feel is right. I try to create hats and products that excite people, that create emotions, and to me that’s the key to working 10 hours straight and still feeling happy. If all of the above makes me special, then thanks.

The material you use is very unique. How do you find it and are you ever worried it’s going to be too out there?

I really dig everywhere looking for new and exciting fabric, and I also get deadstock fabrics, like the Ralph Lauren one I did or the camouflage one I got. I only did 4 hats of the orange camo, and around 12 of the ink camo waterproof. Don’t forget the “Peru” fabric I got from the highest town in Peru. I try to do some unique things, and if somebody made them before, fine, bad luck. I try to have fun, really, and never focus on what Supreme did in 1998. I really want to make hats so hopefully my sources of inspiration and such won’t die anytime soon. I’m also getting into creating my special fabrics and such, so lets say SKULLS has no expiration date.

Tell us a little about the latest collection…

Collection 6.5, aka the Red Bottoms Collection, just came out and it did really well. It was an answer to a lot of people asking for plain coloured hats, and I really wanted to make these colour only hats for a while. It’s basically just good quality 5 panels, with 5 colours, red undervisor, and red eyelets. I’m surprised by how well people all over the world received them. The Collection 7, with crazier stuff and 8 new hats, comes out in late August. That is going to be interesting. Switch from The Hundreds shot the look book in Los Angeles, and more people will be connected to the brand. So many projects!

What are some of your everyday sources of inspiration?

Music, photos, everyday shit and fashion. I really don’t look for a single source of inspiration. I don’t look in catalogues or fashion magazines often, but if sometimes something gets my eye, I will cut it from the mag and save it. It might be a colour combination, or something like a make up colour combo. Then comic books as well. New York and Brooklyn are playing a huge inspiration these days. Porn, sex, skateboarding, fighting… everything makes this mix that I call inspiration.

Lastly, I saw on your blog you’re fascinated by the ‘Ancient Alien’ theories. I’m on board with that. Do you think you’d ever have an alien themed range?

Of course. It’s cooking. Hopefully somebody who never gave a fuck about aliens won’t make some alien themed hats. That’s my thing. 100%!

For more info on SKULLS hit their site here