CHILDHOOD friends Sebastien Gibert and Rashad Rodriguez made a pact when they were just kids in school that one day they would open a clothing store.
Fifteen years after meeting, they opened The Hideout Clothing Store in 2012 and now have two locations, one at Long Circular Mall, St James, and the other at Gulf City Mall, La Romaine. But that’s not all: they now have some 40 retailers in the US.
Gibert and Rodriguez spoke with Newsday in an online interview on their unique journey. They have since come out with their own Hideout Clothing fashion line, inspired by the store.
Currently in China on store business, the 29-year-olds recounted how as teenagers they used to talk about opening the store, but when in their late teens they noticed that many hot brands were not being sold or properly represented in Trinidad, they felt they had an opportunity to bring something fresh to the local street-fashion scene.
They got serious about opening a store after they both attended college and returned to Trinidad. Gibert got a bachelor’s degree in marketing at Florida International University (FIU) , while Rodriguez attended Humber College in Toronto and got a bachelor’s in international business.
Back home, the two used capital they had saved up over the years and also some financial assistance from what they termed as “business angels,” then sourced different street-wear brands by visiting major trade shows in the US, most notably Magic and Agenda in Las Vegas.
They said: “We studied the foreign market to decide what was poppin’ at the time and what would be worth carrying in our store.
We were the first store to carry many different brands in Trinidad and were one of the first to have accounts and be official retailers of these brands on the island.
“We also have remained vigilant and current with new trends and upcoming brands. Buying is a full-time job and needs to be studied, just as much as selling is.”
The experience and knowledge they gained from visiting trade shows such as the Agenda trade shows in Las Vegas as sellers let Hideout Clothing align its brand among top urban/street-wear brands and helped in getting them many initial accounts.
Gibert said: “Most established and popular brands are very strict before opening new accounts. They want to make sure their brand is properly represented. “In the start, before our doors opened we had a lot of convincing to do, but once our stores were open it became much easier to open new accounts and carry all of the major players in the street wear game.”
They added: “Everything happened organically for the clothing line.
“We never really planned to make our own clothing line, but it grew out of the stores. We started simply by printing tees to wear to work for us and our staff, and customers continuously asked for them. So we started making a few to sell.
Each time we would sell-out. That’s when we realised we were onto something and that our logo and brand held weight. As time passed we continued to make collection after collection, continuously selling out each time.”
With a high demand for their product they headed to Istanbul, Turkey to do production and manufacturing after all of their more complex collections were sold out. They said: “Our plan was to do everything in Turkey, but our relationships went sour due to political instability in the country and also a drop in quality from what we had expected. That set us back a good deal, but we persevered and never gave up. That’s how we ended up heading to China.”
Asked how they managed to sell themselves as Trinidadians in the business, they said to break into the United States market they drove up and down the entire West and East coasts. And upon entering every store and speaking to owners/buyers and employees, the first thing the two say is “My name is … we are from Trinidad in the Caribbean and have our own clothing line – The Hideout Clothing.”
They said: “Many were blown away that we are from such a small country, far away, making these strides and taking the risk to pursue our dreams.
“Also, some like our Caribbean flair and charisma and accents. It’s always good to be different. Most buyers have never met anyone from Trinidad. In some cases we get lucky and they might have a friend from Trini, which makes them want to hear us out even more.”
The Hideout Clothing Store now carries many of the top international street-wear and urban brands, which the owners associate with their own personal style.
Between Gibert and Rodriguez they’ve been all over the world.
Gibert was born in Nice, France, but by the age of three, had moved to Paris, France, India and Jamaica, before eventually settling in TT. He has since visited a number of Caribbean islands, England and Canada, among other places, while Rodriguez has been to the US, Turkey, Jamaica, Barbados, Panama, England, Canada, China, Aruba, Curacao, St Vincent and other Caribbean islands.
Gibert said: “I think that our travels and experiences have helped a lot in our influences and inspirations for our designs, making us a more diverse and global brand for The Hideout Clothing with retailers in USA, Canada, China, Hong Kong and Turkey.”
The retailers in the US include Karmaloop.com; Shoe Gallery, Miami; Foot Soldiers, Miami; Threadz, Atlanta, Georgia; Premium Kicks, Atlanta; Pursuit,Virginia; Sneaker Bar, Bronx, NY; and Superior, Tenessee.
“We also have one retailer who picked us up from Japan, and well, online – www.TheHideoutClothing.com. We can sell anywhere in the world – the world is ‘flat’,” Gibert said.
Asked how they go about their designs they said: “Ideas come on the fly, sometimes they just hit you without putting any real thought into designs. We do not limit ourselves to be a Caribbean-themed brand. We take a wider global approach while remaining true to our core values and ethics of the brand. We also stay very knowledgeable of fashion trends and the fashion climate in various markets. We try to remain current, edgy and distinct.”
They added: “Many buyers often say what we offer is different, something they haven’t seen before. We also get designs from our store staff and young designers who pitch in ideas, most notably Zues, Yohann, Anthony and Rahim.”
Gibert insisted: “We are also not traditional designers, we never went to fashion school or have any extensive background in designing clothes. I would never categorise us as that.
“We are really hustlers who make and sell cool clothes for the streets and mainstream. We have also recently began listening to what buyers suggest as well. They are the ones that know their clientele and what sells, so we also take their tips and advice into consideration.”
What inspires them?
Gibert said: “Life. I take inspiration from the world I see and hear. Colours and patterns that I come across on my travels. Noises and words that I heard or affected my everyday life or stuck with me.
“Also, I take inspiration from my upbringing, my French background and Caribbean influences. I try not to limit what we do and try to bring something different to the game, try to find out own lane and manoeuvre it well while making an impact.”
Rodriguez said: “I try to draw inspiration from everything around us. As Gibert said life is a big factor. Emotions, current global events, trends, family, friends and popular culture are just to name a few. Once you can notice and pull inspiration from anything around you, it makes this game a lot easier.”
Currently in China Gibert said: “We are doing the manufacturing for our collections which we have gotten pre-bookings for, and also currently doing the samples for our Summer 18 Collection –Flourish, while doing the production of our Spring 18 Collection –Growth.
We are also working on “quick-strike” samples of fast fashion items that might be an immediate success and good seller and we now have a collaboration with a top Chinese brand –Viishow– that we are working on. They are one of the top three fashion sellers on TaoBao (Chinese amazon), and have worked with numerous famous designers.”
While in China too the guys are also staying in contact with the buyers to secure more orders and as well, run the two stores in Trinidad.
Article by Joan Rampersad