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Last week, when we arrived at the Chateau Marmont for an interview with Karmaloop founder Greg Selkoe, we got there a few minutes early and decided to play a little game: Spot the Guy Who Owns the $100 Million Company. Harder that you'd think, for several reasons:
The hotel was filled with people acting like they're all that.
Greg wasn't even there: owing to ghastly traffic on the Sunset Strip, he was a few minutes late (and profusely apologetic)
Greg is probably the most low-key mogul we've ever met.
Totally flies below the radar, both in terms of his style (in a lemon-yellow cashmere sweater, light gray seersucker-ish pants, and black lowtop sneaks, he made us think of what Dennis the Menace would be like in prep school); and how he presents himself and the company. Sure, there's big money and prestige on the table, but he's really into what he does. He's passionate about the clothing, the lifestyle, the music, and the people he's selling to.
Selkoe told us he was out on the West Coast, doing a bit of reconn as well as strengthening relationships. "Most of our biggest brands are based in Southern California?Crooks and Castles, OBEY, Lrg, RVCA. We're also looking at doing more private collections, which have done very well for the site."
Ha, which lead us to ask what he thinks of the notion of the East vs West fashion debate.
"There's no other city like New York; it's pretty much the center of the world," he said. "But then again, there's no other city like Los Angeles. Right now, everyone's watching what's coming out of the LA street scene. Including the major fashion brands in New York."
"So the country's big enough for the both of us?" was our followup question
"LA should stop comparing itself. New York is New York; it just is. There's so much creativity in LA; people should focus on that and forget about who's watching."
We talked about the DTLA arts scene, which lead us to ask if Karmaloop was going to be involved in the (now finished) Project Equality art show. While not actually involved in the show, Greg is a big supporter of the cause, and civil liberties, in general. Greg and Karmaloop creative director Dina Selkoe use Karmaloop's Globaloop as a platform his customers engaged in and educated about the important issues of the day: gay marriage, Darfur, Afghanistan. The obvious challenge is to present something that's smart but catchy enough to captivate a short attention span,
We asked him about the things that he was excited about in the new year—the brands, the Karmaloop developments, the music. He mentions brands like Black Scale and Joyrich, while telling us that OBEY continues to expand, mature, and make really exciting clothing. Karmaloop is also expanding its offerings, what it's capable of: with the launch of PLNDR.com, a site that will handle the Karmaswap functions, as well as add flash sales and boutique liquidations. Then there's JungleLife, a site that will combine elements of FaceBook and MeetUp to help cultivate online creative communities—and link real-world ones together.
And if all that's not enough, Karmaloop could maybe, possibly, probably get in the music business. They've already unleashed the Bad Rabbits on the world; while Selcoe and Karmaloop have the pull, cache and bandwidth to make it happen, they're taking this development slowly.
It's clear that Karmaloop is going to be a company to watch. And we obviously aren't the only ones watching: many of the brands that were initially exclusive, or very early to the site—like Blank Denim and Melissa shoes—have been picked up by big, blue chip retailers like Saks, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales. It will be interesting to see how Karmaloop's manifest destiny unfolds?Selkoe for Prez in 2012, maybe?
· Karmaloop [Official Site]