I'm excited to be doing my first AMA on Reddit. To be honest, I usually prefer one on one conversations with people so this should be interesting. There is lots to talk about, so feel free to ask me anything, whether it be about running a small business generally, or more specifically in the middle of this whole mess we're all in together.

We can discuss the design process or the state of the clothing business. Some of my favorite things to talk about are music, running, skating, surfing, movies, or books. I'll do my best to entertain and answer honestly. Looking forward to hearing from you all.

EDIT: Thank you to everyone for the great questions. I apologize if I didn't get to yours. I really enjoyed this, see you soon.

Proof: https://i.redd.it/78sxiuk3hos41.jpg

Comments: 236 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

freewillstudios17 karma

Hey Brendon,

Thanks for taking the time to do this AMA! I am a young designer with a line of small run and one off pieces and am interested in positioning myself as a sustainable brand going forward. How do you recommend incorporating sustainable design and fabrics into my products as someone not necessarily having access to some of the specialty manufacturers and R&D that brands such as yours have access to?

BrendonBabenzien60 karma

Its not easy. Textile mills generally have minimums and when you buy fabrics from the secondary market they get costly. We have some leftover fabrics we can help you out with. Send us and email and well be in touch. Youll be helping us make sure we dont waste cloth.

terryacki16 karma

I see that Noah sources beautiful fabrics from all around the world, is there any fabric you want to work with but haven't found an affordable or sustainable factory?

BrendonBabenzien22 karma

The real issue for us is the price of fabrics I love. We have access to the best mills in the world. However, if I used all of the fabrics I want to, our prices would be much higher than they are today. I meet a lot of resistance from my COO who is looking out for the bottom line.
With that said, generally speaking you get what you pay for. A great cloth costs more to produce an generally will probably outlast and outperform a cheaper fabric. The only problem is the average person cannot afford the cloths wed love to access.

popwar1387 karma

Hi Mr Babenzien, thanks for doing this ama! I’ve got 3 questions for you:

  1. How do you feel about the vegan perspective on sustainability, in terms of ethics and sustainability when it comes to products you work with, and the different stances you take on your blog posts about the oceans etc?

  2. What made you choose to work with Vans on collaborative products? I understand their skate heritage and your own history working with the brand and having probably bought their products in eras of better quality but in my own experience I found them to be cheap crap from China, so I was surprised when I saw collabs coming out with them. I read an old interview that you were working on a shoe with Adidas using recycled plastic and that seems more in line with your business philosophy and also a more interesting, progressive product, what happened with that?

  3. Looking at your work history (Pervert, Supreme) you seem to have made things that really encapsulated the style and ideas of the time, very modern in a sense let alone setting the trends and tones themselves. I see how that’s evolved for you personally to now and you’re still speaking your mind in your work. As you hand the reigns over to a younger generation as the driving creative force for modern culture and a new era, who are some artists/brands/musicians/etc that you see as being genuine spokespeople for the current up and coming generation that are learning from your foundations?

Thanks! J.D.S.S.

BrendonBabenzien14 karma

Im not Vegan but that has more to do with my upbringing than anything else. I didnt grow up with vegetarianism or veganism in my life and I developed some pretty awful eating habits. I think its complex. Id like to move in the direction of eating better and eating less meat as well as having less animal products in my life generally I respect those who are already there. When it can enter the space and be used effectively I think its a victory. I think we all need to do better to use less animal products in order to be more compassionate and to lessen the strain on the environment. For me personally its a process and one that is taking a long time to achieve my goals. there are many reasons for this. Probably too many to address here.

We all choose our battles. I have chosen the oceans mostly because I love the ocean and feel the need to protect it if I can. I think each of us can choose the thing we are most passionate about to be effective

Regarding Vans, we dont live in a perfect world and I dont get to dictate where Vans are made. I love Vans as I consider them one The Skate Shoe. In the case of Vans, Im willing to recognize that as a large company, they may have made decision in the past that will take a long time to change. My hope is to work with larger companies and influence the thinking of those companies. I am a pretty harsh critic but I also recognize that we need to be understanding that in order for things to change it will take time and we need to support companies trying to move in the right direction.

koalayan6 karma

Hi Brendon,

I want to preface this by saying that I love Noah and am a devoted consumer (bought the new tees yesterdays!), but I’m curious what concrete steps Noah’s taken to becoming a sustainable company. Many of Noah’s marketing campaigns, clothing lines, and capsules revolve around themes of sustainable living, environmentalism, and political activism. This is clearly a HUGE part of Noah’s ethos.

But Noah simultaneously totes that they are “not a sustainable company.” So how sustainable is Noah? What efforts has Noah committed to besides donating 1% to 1% for the planet? There seems to be a lack of transparency, from where exactly materials are sourced (chain of production), to actions Noah’s taking, to factory production and ethical labor, and this seems to be excused by the “we’re not a sustainable company” disclaimer which leads consumers into thinking that Noah’s sustainable and woke enough that we don't need to ask any more questions.

I'm curious what concrete measures are being taken. Thanks!

BrendonBabenzien18 karma

Great question. There are a few parts to this. First off, in the current manufacturing environment, being sustainable is a bit of a myth. Lets say you only use organic cotton, but you produce a million pairs of jeans, and those jeans get shipped all around the world on airplanes. Whats the footprint. Its incredibly complex. So we have taken a simple idealogical approach. First, we try to produce better products that will last longer. Part of the life of a garment, a big part, is cloth. We use better cloths. All of our cloths come from suppliers based in countries with reasonable environmental laws. Between the fact that the mills have to meet certain standards and the qaulity of the cloth will last longer, the garments themselves become somewhat sustainable. At the same time, we actively encourage people to buy less and buy smarter. We mean that. We, as consumers can change the types of things we buy and can decide to keep things longer. This is not a new idea. Its how people used to live. People had less and got more creative with the little they had. We have become a society who just buys everything our hearts desire. The move to manufacturing in countries who dont have strong labor laws allowing companies to benefit at the expense of the work force enabled us to buy anyting and everything as prices dropped. This is the issue we are trying to address. So to answer your question, besides donating to 1% for the planet, we operate in the best way we know how to create items that people will use for al long time. Additionally , as previously stated, we dont think of ourselves as a sustainable but more of a responsible company. That allows us to go beyond sustainable ideas and build human policies for out staff and customers. It allows us to take on human right issues if we choose.
Im not sure where the lack of transparency comment comes from because we have featured fabrics and where they are from. Weve featured factories we work with. But I guess the easy answer is this.
We buy from mills from countries with strong labor laws and environmental laws, and produce in countries with those same strong laws in place. If you have any suggestions about how much more info you would like to see, please email us and we can discuss. I could go on for days here but time wont allow for it.

Badcatchphrase6 karma

Hey Brendon, huge fan of Noah here, I have a couple of questions.

1) As the former creative director for Supreme, what do you think of their current direction and parent company the Carlyle Group?

2) I'm a fan of your choice of musical collaborations, what are the chances we will ever get a 'The Smiths' collaboration?

3)What is your favorite song to run to?

4)Will you ever restock on the olive pleated twill trousers? ( I need a pair)

BrendonBabenzien17 karma

For the first question I have no comment about Supremes direction. Its not my place anymore.
The chances of a Smiths collaboration are probably slim. There are a lot of variables here. One of which is the band themselves. Im also struggling as The Smiths were one of the bands that I felt understood my feelings as a young person. With that said, some of Morrisseys recent antics have me a bit cold on him. I still love The Smiths but hes annoying me with his right wing craziness. Every day is a different day for what my favorite song to run to is. But lately Ive really been into Thin Lizzy. Not sure why but it seems like the tempo is just right.

Jimalo694 karma

Been buying since the first drop of Noah, really like the tee shirts. Will Noah be dropping a Long Island tee again? I beat 2 of mine to death already

BrendonBabenzien17 karma

Great idea. Ill get working on that right away. I often think once weve done something Im afraid to revisit it. But I love the island so its done. Send us your info and well get you one once its done.

denzonit3 karma

Hey Brendon quick question, where do you think you learned more and gained more experience to help you mold Noah? Was it your time at Supreme or Pervert with Don and the Animal Farm family?

BrendonBabenzien15 karma

It depends on what experience you mean. Most of my influences come from my youth so the time before Pervert and during Pervert molded me to the person I am today. My friends from that time and the music I listened to. Surfing and skating. It all grew out of my youth. Thats the time that has influenced Noah the most. And at Pervert, we were focused on maintaining integrity. being who we really were. Don was a visionary and still is today. But for business, obviously my time at Supreme was everything. Its possible that James may be the best retailer pound for pound of our time or any time for that matter. What he does is unmatched. If you think about sales per square foot its insane. I learned a tremendous amount about business and brand while at Supreme.

JamesFelli3 karma

As a non-essential business having to close your brick & mortar. How are you dealing with rent and are you able to keep all of your staff employed ? Also what marketing tools have you implemented to increase online sales? What music are you listening to as a stress reliever.

BrendonBabenzien6 karma

Wait. Is this The James Felli from Islip Terrace?

JamesFelli1 karma

Yeah.

BrendonBabenzien13 karma

Ha. Hey. For anyone reading this, James is one of the first people I knew in this world. He loved directly behind me when I was super young. His mother was actually my baby sitter for a while. Hes also an incredible DJ. To answer your question, we did close our store and we had to furlough some people. But weve been able to bring them back already. Rent is being paid as normal but its not easy. Our sales are obviously down but weve made a bunch of adjustments to survive. In a situation like this, you shift gears to just get by and forget any dreams of making money. Weve clearly shifted to online as a focus but we mostly rely on our own content creations and just speaking directly to our customers directly and honestly. Ive been listening to a lot of The Cure as per usual and recently Ryuichi Sakamoto. One song I can recommend is Ryuichi Sakamoto with David Sylvian, Forbidden Colours. James. You still DJing. Do you have a place our readers can hear you playing?

Cinnamon_Mo3 karma

Hey Brendon!

As an industry expert do you believe Corona will really change how peple will consume streetwear? Or will we all go back to normal in a couple of weeks and consume just like we did before?

Thanks pal!

Mo

BrendonBabenzien17 karma

I think this will impact how everyone consumes and behaves generally, not just in the street community. Its a sad way for us to learn about ourselves but Im hoping we come out the other side more compassionate and wise. This was coming for us for decades. There was no way around it. Our leadership was just hoping they could runaway from it. They failed and as per usual we the people are suffering the most. Consumer behavior has the power to push change and we should all support the businesses that look out for us.

Fugupsumcommas2 karma

Hi Brendon,

Yvon Chouinard’s approach to life and business ethics have been very impactful for me in both business and sport. Who are your other business/outdoorsman role models and influences?

Keep up the good work!

BrendonBabenzien8 karma

Patagonia has obviously had a tremendous impact on me. the other person/brand that Ive learned a lot from is LL Bean. I know this may come as no surprise to some people and and a complete surprise to others. The truth is, my personal experiences prepared me for the culture side and the style side of what we do. But both Patagonia and LL Bean taught me about ethics in business and the value of customer service and trying to produce a good product at a good price. If you liked the Patagonaia book, Id recommend the LL Bean one, entitled The Making of an American Icon.

Macsalwayshigh2 karma

What have you learned with Noah over the last 3-4 years? In terms of direction is there anything you want to push more with the brand?

Been buying since the first drop with the “children of a lesser god” tee, always excited to see what you guys are cooking up.

Btw rip to that Lora Piana hoodie being $1200.. most incredible hoodie I’ve ever seen

BrendonBabenzien5 karma

Ive learned that you can do what you want. We were told that trying to do all of the different things we do at once wasnt possible. It wasnt focused enough. But for us, all of the things we do and talk about are genuine so we didnt want to leave any of it out. I guess if anyone tells you that you cant do something, dont listen. I want to find a way to take what we currently do and turn it up even more. Part of the Noahs purpose is to help people and do some good both financially and with the littel bit of influence we may have. Im hoping to increase the amount of good we can do.

superfuturefrenchie2 karma

What were you doing first? surfing? skating? or running?

BrendonBabenzien6 karma

I started skating first in 1976. I learned how to surf after years of body boarding. I was around 12 I think when I first tried surfing. I didnt start running until I was an adult. It was a reaction to having less time to surf and skate. I needed to move so I found it an easy way to just go out in an easy way.

handolo2 karma

By any chance was the surf/skate store Special Sauce? Keep up the good work, best label around.

BrendonBabenzien3 karma

No. The shop I worked at was way before Special Sauce. But Chris and Pete from the Sauce were very good friends of mine. I spent lots of time with them growing up. I worked at Ricks in East islip. This is going bak to like 84.

SisterRayVU2 karma

Brendon! Big fan, been going to the shop since you all started up again. Three quick questions:

  1. Favorite surfer?

  2. Will you ever do a collaboration with or memorial piece of Rick Rasmussen, one of the OG New York/East Coast pioneers?

  3. Who else, whether in fashion, skating, surfing, books, research, etc., do you consider a brother/sister/sibling/like-minded individual?

BrendonBabenzien3 karma

Favorite surfer of all time is still Tom Curren. Without him, we really wouldnt have a Kelly Slater. Chris Gibbs in the business. Pretty much all skaters as we share the same understanding that skateboarding is about freedom.

bamboonation2 karma

What movies have you watched and/or what music have you mostly been listening to during this crazy time? any recs?

Just watched the documentary Honeyland. It's pretty beautiful. I'd recommend if you haven't seen already.

BrendonBabenzien3 karma

I just started watching this movie about the little surfer girl who lost her arm to a shark. Shes grown up now and is still surfing. I wont say what shes accomplished as it will give some things away. But its beyond impressive. The film isn't perfect but the story is absolutely amazing. Im trying to get my 5 year old to understand we can all overcome adversity and this film illustrates that point perfectly. I think its called Unstoppable. Her name is Bethany Hamilton.

jjjohhn2 karma

How important is a physical outlet for you? And do you consider it to be vital for a clothing brand? If a brand wanted to reduce its margins in order to reduce the final price of a product do you think that focusing the business online would be the best option?

BrendonBabenzien12 karma

If your only considering margin, than going online exclusively is a good idea. But for us, a physical presence is everything. We wouldnt want to exist without a real physical encounter with people. We are interested in real experiences. We are a business but were also genuinely about the things we talk about or present. If we only did that digitally, that would be strange to me. It would be like watching skate videos all day and never skating. Or knowing everything about fishing without ever having caught a fish.

harryry2 karma

Hello Brendon, hope you're doing good amongst all the craziness. I've got a couple questions if that's cool.

  1. If you ever find yourself in a sort of drought of ideas, whether it be to do with designing clothing, or anything creative, where do you look for inspiration, and how would you pull yourself out of that?
  2. If you could create a capsule collection based off of any movie, what would be your dream pick?

Thank you! Have a great day!!

BrendonBabenzien8 karma

We all have droughts. When I feel uninspired I try to go do something. Run, skate, surf, find new music or read. Inspiration comes from being active. If you sit and try to think through it youll probably just be more blocked. Dont try too hard to be creative. Do the things that you love and inspiration will come. Time away from work is just as important as the work itself. The Phantom Thread. Daniel Day Lewis interacted with his clothing in that move as an extension of his performance. it freaked me out how perfect the clothes were and how he treated his outfits as a true part of his overall character.

Keyboardtyper572 karma

How did you get started in the business, and any tips for entrepreneurs?

BrendonBabenzien16 karma

I got started when I was a kid really. I was 13 when I started working at a surf/skate shop. That was really the beginning. I was more into the things I did, and still am. The clothing part of it is secondary. Whats most important is the culture that inspires the style. My advice to anyone wanting to be in this business is to start there. What are the cultural things that are important to them and use that as the inspiration.

Randle_MacMurphy2 karma

Hello from France and first thanks for your interview to L'étiquette magazine.

How do you feel regarding vintage clothing? Do you buy some personally? Do you think it will grow/what place do you think it has/should have on clothing market?

Thanks and take care

BrendonBabenzien5 karma

Vintage clothing is the foundation for most of what we do. Old clothing is basically better than what gets produced today. Wether we are buying vintage clothing for reference or because we just like older things with story, vintage clothing is at the center of our industry. It helps too that clothing can live beyond an original owner and in a small way, play a role in our overuse of resources. I buy vintage clothing for reference and for personal use. I spend a fair amount on vintage band tees since most of the music I like is from another time.

roba2002 karma

Hey Brendon, what are your favourite sneakers/ sneaker silhouettes? Do you have a favourite Noah piece of clothing?

Cheers

BrendonBabenzien3 karma

Im not really a sneaker head but if I had to choose, at the moment, Ive been wearing Adidas Top Tens and SL72s. For Noah pieces, pretty much anything we make in the Practice cloth. Is the rugby fabric we use. I can wear that fabric in just about anything, rugbys, crewnecks, shorts. Its an incredible cloth.

Jknapp1502 karma

Favorite NY surf memory?

BrendonBabenzien3 karma

Ha. Hey Johnny. Honestly, it probably was pre-surf when I was super young. I was still a body boarding little kid and the fun was just super pure. I remember one day when I was probably in like 5th or 6th grade. We used to get dropped off at the ferry to go to Atlantique. The lifeguards were essentially our babysitters. It was the day after a hurricane and the waves were pretty small but super clean and lined up. I remeber just having the most fun with my friends getting little barrels. We werent surfing yet but the energy was there. A competing memory was a day when Cedar Beach used to break. It used to line up and run straight along the beach. I remember a day when it was just super firing at stomach high to shoulder high. It was only a handful of people out and you know a bunch of them. Mark and his crew and Charlie Bunger and a bunch of local legends. It was one of the days where I first felt like I was actually getting pretty good at surfing.

gwewing1 karma

Hey Brendon,

It is truly inspiring the work you have done at Noah. I recently listened to an interview with Chris Gentile owner of Pilgrim Surf Supply. He talks about how for many years he was reluctant to bring his interests of art music style and surfing under one roof. Once he did it - it became the uniqueness of Pilgrim and what makes that place special.

I feel that with Noah you also brought all your interests under one roof. Cultures that maybe the public one previously considered separate. Preppy, punk, skate, surf, sailing, running, downtown and uptown. Did you have apprehensions of combining them together? Or did it always make sense to you that you could combine these different interests into one?

Best,

George

BrendonBabenzien5 karma

Not at all. It made absolute sense in order for us to build Noah in an honest way. The business isnt just a business. Its our life. With that in mind, our interests cannot be separated from the business. There would be no Noah without all of the things we love.

TheWildHorses1 karma

Hey Brendon, thank you for your continued support to the Noah UK/EU Group.

  1. How has your wife and Co-Founder Estelle's British culture influenced the brand, are there any standout pieces or collaborations that she was instrumental in?
  2. Rugby by Ralph Lauren was a great brand and I see similarities of American influence between it and Noah, would you ever consider being the Creative Director / Consultant if they relaunched?

BrendonBabenzien4 karma

I love the UK. Always have. I was lucky to have ended up with an English Rose(by the way, thats the title of an incredible song by Paul Weller). Estelle has been instrumental in everything we do, not just specific collaborations. Estelle has great taste so she has input into many of the things we work on. Regarding Rugby, many of us were sad to see it shuttered. I was a fan. Id probably pass on a job anywhere at this point as Ive enjoyed building my own company culture and being in control of my time and destiny.

kalfin20001 karma

Do you still have any Supreme pieces that you still wear/display? If not, anything you’ve hung on to over the years?

BrendonBabenzien2 karma

Denim jackets. We made some good ones. Ive also got a North Face pullover. A black on black checkered pullover. The Supreme jeans were also incredible and I have some really good ones that are super beat up now.

LeftHearing51 karma

Hi brendon,

What was the process like of opening a physical store? Did you experience any limitations when it came to finding the right space that would allow your and estelles ideas to come to life?

Thanks

BrendonBabenzien5 karma

Finding a space was pretty difficult. Ny seems like a huge city until you start looking for the perfect location for a store. It shrinks very quickly. We got lucky with ours. Our landlord really was picky with potential tenants and for whatever reason liked us. Honestly, I wouldnt have called the number as the space was empty for years. I thought it must have something wrong. Estelle decide to call and the rest is history. Once we got the space, Estelle was able to really translate what we wanted. The real difficult part of building out a space is staying within budget. It takes a real talent to make something look incredible with limited funds. Estelle has that ability so were lucky.

alysssag1 karma

What are you currently reading / what books do you recommend? (anything fiction or design)

BrendonBabenzien3 karma

Im finding it hard to read right now. Im home trying to continue to run the business and keep sane with a 5 year old that needs attention from my wife and I. But I have been trying to re-read a book about the Knights Templar as well as Fleas Acid For The Children. But I recommend the Patagonia book Let My People Go Surfing for anyone trying to understand how to run a responsible business.

Arex_daLion1 karma

What are your favorite running shoes?

Does Noah have any running shoe ideas in the future?

BrendonBabenzien8 karma

Newton are my favorites. I wouldnt dare try to do Noah running shoes. Its way too tech for me to try and think I can create something new and better than what running shoe designers are already doing. With that said, we do have an incredible collaboration with a sports brand out of Germany. Its running based. More on that to come soon.

areyouthehunter1 karma

Where does the intersection of hardcore punk and preppy aesthetics happen in your mind? I think it's my favorite part of the brand; it's a combo that I wouldn't normally think of but Noah pulls off really well.

BrendonBabenzien3 karma

This isnt something I think about. Its mostly an extension of my youth. My friends were into punk and new wave and hip hop. But if you had to really identify the core of our aesthetic, it sould have to be considered preppy. Over time, as we got older, people around me started being able to make more of their own choices and there was this natural blend of the clothes your parents bought you with your new found style. And since we all skated, that whole style entered the picture and had an influence and rounded it out.