Recently, Complex Magazine released a list of The 25 Most Powerful People in Streetwear. I was graciously ranked at the number 5 spot.
When a list like this comes out, people will argue and disagree. They will mention all the people that were omitted but deserved to be on there. They will mention all the people that were ranked too high or should not have been on the list at all. But this blog post isn’t about that.
What immediately struck me when I first looked at the list; was the idea of “student & teachers”. Let me explain…
I met Hiroshi Fujiwara in 1998 while I was the art director for The Fader Magazine. I did a story on Nike Japan and he was the key subject for it. After I interviewed him, we immediately hit it off and became friends. In fact, I often think of him as one of my best friends. But he also became my mentor without ever announcing it as so. I never asked him to be my mentor nor did he offer the opportunity. He just was. I often get weirded out when someone comes up to me and asks if I can be their mentor. Like, “How do u know I’ll even be a good mentor for you?” Trust me people, your best mentor in life will not be the one you ASKED to be mentor. It’ll be the person, that 20 years in, you say, “Wow, I learned a lot from that dude.” So for me, Hiroshi is that dude.
Professionally, to see HF at #7 was dumbfounded. The man literally invented street culture. To me, if it wasn’t for him, this Top 25 list might not even exist! But I digress. What dumbfounded me even more was that I was ranked above him! That was really not right to me. It felt like a violation. Anyway, I kept clicking…
#4 on list is Angelo Baque, Head of all marketing for Supreme
. I’ve known Angelo for even longer than I’ve known Hiroshi. I knew Angelo when he used to hang around as the smart talking street kid in Bobbito’s Footwork—one of the most important and earliest street culture shops founded by none other than Bobbito Garcia. Angelo may have worked there for a moment as well. He was also an aspiring photographer. At the time, Staple Design had a good amount of magazine clients such as Sportswear International, Dime Magazine and The Fader. He interned for me at these publications working as a photo assistant as well. I remember the day Angelo confided in me about an offer from James Jebbia at Supreme. He had other great job opportunities as well though…some at very highly established brands. At the time, Supreme and Streetwear in general was not so much a career choice as it was a cool thing to do…for a minute. Back then, nobody really thought they could raise a family and buy a home off of streetwear. Anyway, he took the offer at Supreme and the rest is history.
What’s interesting is that while I was clicking through the list and felt so put off by seeing HF at #7; I immediately felt so happy for Angelo that he was #4. And even happier that he was ranked above me. Then I had to check myself. Well if I was happy for Angelo, my old intern/assistant to have superseded me, why would I feel guilty for superseding my mentor, HF? Mind you, I haven’t talked to either person about this… this is all shit in my head so I have no idea what they think or if they even care. Haha.
But to me, it’s a classic life lesson served up vividly in a public forum. In order to become a master, you must first become a student. It’s not enough that a teacher merely passes information to his student. The teacher must…it is his duty…to make his student better than him. If the teacher doesn’t make the student better (or doesn’t wish to) the craft will die. Because anything that doesn’t move forward—dies.
It’d be really fascinating to see if there are any other such connections like this on this list (or just in general). Anyway, do the math. Share the knowledge. And also, the youth really shall inherit the earth.