A mixture of eclectic music played in the background while I roamed around his intimate sized downtown pad, “How do you take your coffee? Sweet, not too sweet?” he asked. “Sweet,” I replied. While he prepped for our interview, my eyes wandered around his mini loft-style suite; I was immediately intrigued by the setup of his place and astonished by the many stylish little knick knacks that completed the space. He admitted that a lot of it came from The Art of Reuse shop, where Brown also plays as creative director. The Art of Reuse is "A modern day thrift store that is meant to cater to both the fashion conscious and the frugal consumer alike." Its initiative is to re-invent thrift shopping and the connotation it comes with. The simplicity of candles and Christmas lights set the festive mood, courtesy of Restoration Hardware, a luxury brand in the home furnishings marketplace in the city’s uptown district. Being welcomed in his home for a one-on-one interview, and getting a taste of the unique, artistic, feng shui of his place, I grew more curious and interested in him as a person than just a designer, so I asked him: “If you were to describe Sean Brown in a sentence or less, what would it be? How would you describe him?”
“An eclectic, old soul that is connected to the culture… I think it’s evident in my musical taste, in my taste of design, and in my deportment— like how I carry myself…” he replied while sipping on his freshly brewed coffee.
As Pharrell Williams’ “Let’s Get Blown” remix plays in the background, he describes his musical taste as ‘bending’ or ‘genre bending’ to be exact:
“I like really really old stuff, I like progressive stuff, I like off beat stuff, I like melody a lot. I really like melody that’s why I think I like cheesy RnB songs. I like hooks; I like sounds that I’ve never heard before. Those kinds of things stimulate my mind.”
On the topic of what stimulates his mind, I asked him what stimulates his sense of style because he seems to consistently mesh a little bit of his own individuality with a little bit of modernization in today’s fashion. His response was genuine, strategized, business oriented and unique:
“I’m on Tumblr a lot now since this whole NEEDS & WANTS thing and it’s a bit of nitpicking for inspiration and seeing who’s reblogging our photos and it allows me to see where NEEDS & WANTS is falling in [and] where The Art of Reuse is falling in— mainly NEEDS & WANTS now but it’s allowing me to see where we fit in, in the marketplace; what kind of person and personalities we’re attracting and then that in turn feeds me to say: ‘Okay, this is who I’m becoming, this is the kind of stuff that’s attracting me, this is what I’m doing that’s attracting other people…’ And it’s just that revolving door of this reciprocal inspiration.”
Noticing the 1980s and 1990s Vogue magazines and photography books, Brown adds that he keeps all of these things around him for inspiration:
In terms of Pinterest, he finds it 'weird' that one would share their own inspirations but not have their own work to be presented to the forefront or on the world state. “That should come first,” he said. “Share more of you, don’t share what’s already there. I mean, everybody has their own inspirations but I just think you need to attach your own work to it as well.”
Speaking of one’s own work, I used this opportunity to segway into his modern-contemporary brand of NEED/ W A N T S varsity jackets. “The varsity jacket is in, it’s always been in, it’s always recycled and timeless but why or how did you come up with the concept of the one leather sleeve?” I asked him. Brown opened up and confessed:
“I walked the grounds of Harvard in 2011, and saw all the IVY League kids… Ever since I was young I was into the whole Harvard and Princeton kind of lifestyle, ‘Carlton Banks’ lifestyle because I would never be apart of a IVY League school— I didn’t have a dad who was destined for Wall Street so I was always fascinated from the outside; like that kid peeking in.” he said.
Brown admits that having a close encounter from the perspective of real American students had him thinking and to be frankly honest, he thought the whole thing was generally ‘cool’ but admits there’s something time stamped and ‘tacky’ about the whole varsity look, “There are logos here and there… Just that look… We all know that look so I was like:
Brown decided to name his brand ‘NEEDS and WANTS’ because it’s something relatable to everyone. “I’m faced with that kind of decision making every single day: Do I need this? Do I need to spend money on this? Do I want this? Is this something I’m going to have forever?” he said. And much like him, those are questions we are all faced with on a daily basis.
After designing his first jacket, the response from his inner circle was positive and from there, he designed more. Sid, who’s not only his friend but also personal photographer and creative director, ended up wearing the jacket to Holt Renfrew and received a reaction from what he would consider a more ‘wealthy crowd’:
“ I was like: ‘Okay, I get it. I get where this is going. I get what this could be. I’m understanding that language now.’ Ever since I was young, I had jobs at wealthy stores like Harry Rosen… I was always that fly on the wall and I’ve been able to pay attention to how wealthy people behave, how they act, and I came to understand…”
“I always say, ‘I feel like the best dressed people don’t know it.’ They don’t know because those are not the things they’re thinking about… The steeze and the outfit are secondary. And I want to get to that point… I want to get to that point where I wake up and regardless of what I’m wearing it’s just going to look ill. I mean, I’m still at a point where at the age of 27, I still think about it. I still have an image and projection in my head about what I look like when I leave the front door, but I want to get to the point where it’s just like: ‘Yo, it just happened.’ … I can guarantee when Andre 3000 leaves his house, it just happened. Or when Kurt Cobain left his house, it just happened."
When asked about the future of NEEDS/ W A N T S, he provided a sneak peek and said:
“We’re going to start working with more materials, start implementing more details like double-zippers… the next jacket I’m doing is sheepskin bombers but we’re going to expand the line. My thing right now is I understand… being I’m embedded in the culture, I understand how short of an attention span the Internet has.”
But before expanding, it’s key to be known for something in order to be consistent. “I feel like once you get known for one thing, people know you for that one thing and you’ll be able to expand and brand out, it just has to be the right timing,” he said.
He admits he didn’t have an instant in at GQ or Complex magazine, or that he had an amazing PR company behind him because truth is, he has no PR at all.
“It has to deal with the fact that you have to find something that people care about because there are stuff that people appreciate but they’re not invested in it as yet,” he said and admits that as Creative Director of the Art of Reuse, he realized that it’s something people genuinely appreciate but are not fully invested in.
“People are invested into NEEDS & WANTS,” he continued. “Our biggest market is Denmark. So when you finally find something about whatever it is you’re creating; your brand, your product, your site, your blog, whatever it is you want to do— people have to care— people have to care about it and then it’ll be successful. That’s what I realized in the last 30 days… Is that, when you create something people care about, you’ll see the results you want and it’ll give you freedom to do whatever it is you want to do because we have no rules. Nobody owns NEEDS & WANTS but us and that’s the most rewarding feeling.”
Nonetheless, he says he couldn’t have done it without his loyal followers and consumers because they’re the ones who are the most inspiring; they are the ones who are married to the culture.
“They’re a very inspiring bunch of individuals. I can’t sit here and take all the credit because we’ve been sitting here watching what’s been happening in the culture— I’m inspired by what’s around me. There would be no jackets or nothing for me to share if I didn’t have my eyes open, looking around me all the time. And everybody who I see wear the jackets or post it, they’re just very well dress or very unique looking. They’re people who understand the culture. People who are posting the jackets on Tumblr and on the Internet— these are all the people who are also married to the culture, embedded in the culture and they’re just very inspiring peeps. So I just keep saying, ‘Yo, keep doing it. Keep giving us energy because we feed off each other. It’s not a one-way thing. It’s not we created this and we’re just trying to make money off people. No. We’re inspired by the culture around us.’
When asked, “Is there anything you want to share to the public that nobody would ever think of asking you, or something you never thought you would tell the public, what would it be?”
His response was real, genuine, touching, and inspiring. The kind that'll give you the goosebumps.
“I left high school in grade 11 and I didn’t look back since, and I’ve had so many odd end jobs… But the crazy thing is, I didn’t finish high school but I still got into a private fashion college for fashion design, based off of some portfolio I put together at the time. And I dropped out of fashion school because the professors were saying, ‘To start a line, you would need $100,000. I’ve tried it. I’ve been in the industry so I know.’ They just seemed like school wasn’t setting me up to succeed. It wasn’t preparing me for the world like how I thought it would have. So I left and the best experience has been failing. That kind of internship you can give to yourself; failing and trying again, failing and trying again. All the no’s I was told. And then when you finally prove it to yourself, that you’re not crazy.”
Brown admits that aside from the hype that’s going on with his varsity jackets, or his moments on GQ, or any of his most recent milestones, he admits that the most satisfying thing aside from having no rules is realizing that he’s not crazy, “You can literally do anything you want as long as you put the will behind it and actualize things.”
On the topic of persistence and success, he moved on to music artists for examples.
“It took Drake four mixtapes. Suppose Drake had stopped at Comeback Season… There would be no Take Care but it’s that persistence and then on his fourth one he was like, yes, this is the moment. That Best I Ever Had album… I bet after he recorded that he was like something’s about to happen! It’s those moments that you have to try and find. Find something people care about. He was always good, the potential was always there but it’s finding something, that one moment, and you can’t miss it either. It can’t pass you by.”
Culture is a movement and as it starts to shift, you have to be able to keep up. If you’re unable to keep up then the time is over for you. The key with today’s day and age is, you have to stay relevant and how you do that is up to you. Ultimately, you have to move with the times or else it’ll leave you behind.
“You see it with music all the time, with artists who just can’t keep up and just can’t grow with the culture,” Brown said. “And if you can’t keep up, find people around you who know how to keep up, which is what Jay-Z is good at. He’s getting old but Kanye knows what’s about to come next, J. Cole knows what’s up, and he aligns himself with these people.” And as Brown’s line begins to grow, he admits, “We’re going to have to, too.”
The end of our interview, which turned into a conversation, had me in awe. I was amazed at how much I was able to learn and grasp for myself. I was able to witness a fresh designer as somebody way more and honestly, I am genuinely honored to have had the opportunity to sit down with Sean Brown himself.
His latest collection caters to the ladies who are now able to match their man’s fly, but this time he incorporates more vibrant color ways and textures. For further viewing, visit By Sean Brown for his full holiday lookbook, and Needs and Wants Studios blog, you can also place your orders on Needs and Wants Studios website.