I had the special opportunity to interview Matt Fields back in 2012. He’s the Founder and owner of the world famous streetwear brand Dope Couture.
Enjoy this classic interview where I grilled him on what his ‘everyday’ looks like, and how he too, maintains that fine balance between work and play. Trail closely as there’s a lot of hidden gems to uncover.
1. What is the start-up story behind Dope Couture?
Man doesn’t want to work a 9-5 job. Man gets an idea for a clothing line. Man starts clothing line in college. Man has fairly successful clothing line while in college. Man graduates college and keeps making clothes. Man now has brand and 2 boutiques and will never look back. How weird is it that I just referred to myself as ‘Man’? Weird. Right, I know.
2. Describe your clothing/visual concepts, what is it like? What are three words that best define it?
Clean +Upscale + $wag. I’ll be honest I didn’t put a lot of thought into this answer. Shoutout to CMart. He does all of the graphics for the line.
3. What is your definition of success, and how much of it do you think you’ve achieved?
Success for me is worldwide recognition and support of the things I’ve done. I want to create things that go beyond making people say ‘ oh I had that idea but he got to it first’ to people saying ‘oh yes, this is true innovation or this is amazing’. I’ve achieved a bit. There is much more to accomplish.
4. What are some recent achievements you’re proud of and would like to share?
Opening a shop in Los Angeles, Keeping a shop in IN, and bringing my cut and sew production back from China to Los Angeles.
5. What’s something that’s always running inside your mind lately?
I’m always thinking about how to improve the line aesthetically while keeping it affordable. I am usually trying to think of ways to take streetwear to the next level. My focus also hops back and forth between buying for the boutique and working on the line. My head is usually between those two worlds.
6. What would you spend a million dollars on?
Right now I would invest that into the business. To answer this question the way I think you are intending it to be answered, I would most likely buy property, some ill furniture and an Aston Martin.
7. What’s one incident that would serve as a turning point to your life?
I’ve been incredibly lucky throughout my career and have incidentally had several fortunate turning points. However, the most pivotal moment in my career thus far was running into an acquaintance in Bloomington who happened to be a commercial broker in LA and as a result I found an amazing retail spot in LA.
8. What three pieces of advice would you give to others when it comes to life and career?
Anything is possible if you work hard enough for it. Nobody knows better than you. Trust your instincts. Be prepared to give life and limb if you’re going into business for yourself.
9. What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
As vain as it might sound, I haven’t had many failures. There have been a few projects that haven’t been as successful as I would have liked, but I haven’t had any total failures. In those experiences I stop what I’m doing, evaluate the situation and change direction to get back on course.
10. What’s a typical day in your life like?
There’s nothing typical about my day. I’m all over the place. Everyday is something different especially since we moved out to LA. If I’m working on production you can find me downtown meeting with manufacturers, fabric suppliers and other vendors.
If I’m designing, I’m posted at my office with my graphic designer cycling through inspiration folders, reading books, and conceptualizing designs. Day to day I try to answer emails-I have an inbox that reaches back years lol.
11. What’s one of the highlighting moments in your career? Why is it so?
Before Don C had RSVP Gallery and was designing I used to communicate with him a little bit and send gear to the Pastelle office in LA for the G.O.O.D. Music crew to rock. I never thought about it too much but looking at it now that was pretty amazing.
Kanye is the most important musician of our lifetime and Don C is his manager. The fact that he even acknowledged me was dope. I still communicate with some of the G.O.O.D. Music crew but mainly the younger artists. Also, Chris Julian came up to me at the last Agenda show, shook my hand and told me to ‘keep it up’. That might sound silly but it meant a lot to me.
12. What stops you from throwing in the towel and giving up during those frustrating days of being in this industry?
I am my own boss. I answer to no one. That’s all the motivation I need.
13. Biggest risk ever taken?
Opening a boutique in a town with ZERO streetwear market. I’m Bloomington’s first and only streetwear boutique. It was a sink or swim situation. Student’s were either going to love it and embrace it or they weren’t going to understand it at all. I had my fair share of nay-sayers at first, but now the store is supporting itself.
14. Who has influenced you most and been your greatest inspiration?
I have different people who inspire me in different ways. I was raised by a single mother. She fought to give me the things I wanted. She is resourceful, determined, and courageous and she worked extremely hard for the two of us. She’s the one who taught me that if I worked hard enough for something I would get it.
My employees also inspire me. My team is made up of incredible people who support me to the fullest. Several have been with me from almost the beginning. Seeing them and their work inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing.
From a design point of view, that’s even more difficult to answer. I’m a youngin’ in the game and I’m growing rapidly. The things and people who inspired me a year ago are different than those I look at today. In general, I find inspiration across all facets of fashion, and culture.
15. How do you go about marketing your business or yourself? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
I’m a big supporter of Twitter and social media. Interacting with your market is a key component to success, especially when you’re reaching a younger demographic. The kids that support my brand want to know more about the people behind it than they do about the concept or idea behind their favorite designs. I try to market myself as the brand since the brand is me. I also do it because I feel it makes the brand seem more accessible to my supporters and less like Dope is some big corporate brand driven by P/L reports and margins. At the end of the day I do this because I love it and I love seeing the response of my supporters.
16. In three words, characterize who Matte Fields is.
Ambitious, Fearless, Creative.
17. What other artists inspired you and do you admire the most?
We just finished up a collection entitled ‘Planes, Chains and Automobiles’ It was all pop-art influenced so I would say at this moment it’s Paolo Dallara, Slick Rick, Pierre Satre, Warhol, Gottlieb Daimler, Big Daddy Kane and Jean-Michel Basquiat. I consider all those people artists.
18. How do you achieve balance in your life?
For the first three years I was going really hard and not taking any time for myself. I’ve started taking Sunday’s off, or working a short day on Sunday. I love traveling and I get a lot of inspiration when I travel. Traveling helps balance me out and set me right.
19. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
I would love to answer this honestly but in doing so I would reveal some ambitious plans I’m working on. For now let’s say that in 5 years I see I us with at least one additional retail store. That was easily assumable so I didn’t really answer your question. See what I did there?
20. What’s the first thing you would say to the world if all attention were on you right now?
Dope For President. Peace World.
Oh, and make sure you head on over to Dope Couture to style up for the year!