I met Dirty JAX creator and designer Josh Kimerling (above, 1st on left) at University of Maryland in 1997. He was one year older than me, and from the Bronx, and I’m not sure how we initially crossed paths but we became friends pretty instantly. We shared a common love of hip hop and art and sports and girls and partying, and we were both from New York, so our circles began to overlap alot. From the moment he first heard me rap, he was always supportive, and even took the photos for my first album cover. And when he started up Dirty JAX sometime in the mid-2000’s, I had his back too. We’ve done events together promoting his line and my music a bunch of times, and of course, I rocked Dirty JAX in the “My Ferris Buellers” video hard body. I’ve watched Dirty JAX go from a small clothing line running out of the basement of his father’s store in White Plains, to a full blown business, with party animals all over the country rocking his shirts, from local up and comers like rapper Chris Webby (above, second from right) to A-list hip hopper Diddy. And it’s only getting bigger and better. Watch the new Dirty JAX promo video (what up Marko!), and below it, read my exclusive interview with the man behind the dirtiness, who is now a full blown Westcheddar resident living in New Rochelle…
ip: So, bring me back to how Dirty Jax started. Can you remember coming up with the name and concept for the line?
jk: I started designing tees when I realized I hated my job. I was always a creative dude and working in the corporate world really stifled that for me. I was an art director in advertising – PHARMACEUTICAL advertising which fuckin sucked. There was no art and certainly no creativity. Just ass kissing and taking orders from people I couldn’t stand. Living in this world made me long for my old life back. The one when I was growing up in the Bronx in the 80’s and 90’s, with hip hop mixtapes, Puerto Rican girls, drug dealers with guns, street fights, malt liquor, crazy slang, and on and on. Living, and surviving, in this environment gave me an edge, a uniqueness that stayed oppressed in the name of professionalism and responsibility. Dirty JAX was my way of saying, “fuck that shit”.
ip: What was the first shirt you designed for Dirty Jax that you actually got made? You still got it?
jk: The first line I designed was in ’04 and there were some cool shirts in there. They were more of a vintage style, with simple logos. I guess I recently threw a bunch of them out because I noticed the Mexican groundskeeper in my complex is Dirty JAX’d down. I swear this dude wears a different Dirty JAX tee everyday around the complex and it really cracks me up. Unfortunately the dude is deaf so I can’t trip out with him over it. All I do is wave and smile.
ip: Where do you draw inspiration for your designs? It seems to me to be a reflection of the New York street and club scene. You know, sex, drugs, and music.
jk: You pretty much nailed it. Shirts like “Always on my Grizzly”, “White Lines”, and “Zip Zero” speak to the street and the hip hop influence from my BX upbringing. However, even if you didn’t grow up in the city, Dirty JAX is like your alter ego. It’s like a good gangster flick or wet t-shirt contest. It allows you to express yourself in ways you may not always be able to. Dirty JAX is that dude you morph into when the work is done, the bills are paid and you’re ready to celebrate, get laid, get crunk, and have a story to tell. My inspiration comes from those moments when I was able to be that dude. The clubs, the girls, the music, just a celebration of life, success and the streets.
ip: You’re a big hip hop head right? I know you used to rap. In fact, I remember that you told me that when you heard me rap for the first time back at College Park you decided to quit and try something new. Haha. Truly the best compliment I ever got! What old school shit did you really like when you were coming up? And what are you feeling right now? You always have known what the hot songs are, and I can remember you being up on all the southern rap songs before anyone was really checking for that shit up here.
jk: It’s funny because I was the typical New Yorker who rejected all southern rap. I thought it was inferior and I couldn’t stand Master P which heads would try and shove down my throat when we were at Maryland. That all changed when I heard “Bling Bling” and Juvenile’s “Ha”. Granted these were commercial tracks but it also exposed me to Lil Wayne who instantly stood out to me. The music was fun, light, and entertaining. I was over that whole underground phase where I needed rappers to ‘”drop knowledge”. I would rather see some white chick “drop it like it’s hot” at a frat party than have a rapper with a GED try to school me on the illuminati (No disrespect to tragedy khadafi one of the illest ever haha). In my opinion, southern rap music saved hip hop. NY rap stalled after Mobb Deep, Nas, Wu-Tang, Redman, Boot Camp, etc. Everyone was trying to sound like those guys instead of inventing something new. The south on the other hand was being creative with hooks, production, creating a brand new sound that no one ever heard. In doing so they spawned a whole new legion/generation of hip hop fans. Whenever I see older heads griping about the current state of hip hop I have to remind them of how much they sound like the people who hated on our music when we were coming up.
ip: Word. You were the first one up on Lil Wayne, I remember that. You put me on to “Bling Bling”! So, Dirty Jax is bigger than ever right now. What did it take to get here? Can you describe the grind of having your own line? What does it take?
jk: I’ll avoid all the obvious cliche’s here “work hard”, “perseverance”, “blood sweat and tears”, etc. I started doing something because I enjoyed it. Although it was not a priority at first, making money was the goal. The brand started out small with local boutiques giving me a shot. Luckily the shirts sold, the reorders came and it became a little side thing as I continued to work full time. Little by little the demand grew and in 2007 I invested in the MAGIC tradeshow out in vegas (thanks to a long talk with your cousin Chris Isenberg who owns No Mas NYC clothing). MAGIC is a HUGE expense but we crushed the show and opened up about 30 new doors as a result. Fast forward to 2010 and its pretty much been a roller coaster ride since that first show. We just had an amazing summer sales wise but I’ve learned to never take the good times for granted. The recession is real and you are never safe in this business. It’s most evident when you hear about major retail chains going out of business, going bankrupt, or putting a freeze on purchasing. I can get a huge order from “Store A” and they sell every single piece but they can’t reorder because they owe Nike 30k. Or “Store B” can’t pay their bills period and shuts its doors. Although there was nothing wrong with my product and it sold well, I lose two major retail accounts that brought in major revenue for my company. This is something you can’t see coming but always have to be ready for. There are so many other factors involved in running not only this business but any business and all of them will make you want to quit and go back to a 9-5. You just have to step back, take a deep breath and remind yourself how lucky you are to make a living doing what you love. Also, make sure you can find other sources of income! Haha!
ip: What’s your best seller? How come you think it’s sold so well?
jk: The best sellers are usually the joints that are funny, clever and easy to understand or “quick”. Or, if they match a popular sneaker release like the Nike Copper Foamposites.
ip: What about your personal favorite shirts you’ve designed?
jk: In the early days, I was a lot more aggressive with colors because there wasn’t a science to it. I loved the freedom I had back then to do what I wanted. Now there’s much more of an intense focus on what sells because the economy is so bad and people aren’t spending like they used too. Nowadays, my faves are def the hoodies. I wear them all the time.
ip: There’s been alot of celebrity Dirty Jax sightings, my favorites being Diddy on MTV and Perez Hilton at some red carpet event. Any others you particularly thought were cool?
jk: I’ve actually had some NBA / NFL players cop stuff from me online and I only found out when I processed the invoices. But honestly, nothing is better than seeing a regular dude in the street who copped that shirt online or at his local boutique. Those are the folks who are keeping the dream alive.
ip: This is Westcheddar, and I know you’re a Bronx boy, but you’ve been living in New Rochelle for a while now. Any ill spots in the 914 for shopping we should know about? And where are your favorite spots in the city to cop clothes and kicks? Do they carry Dirty Jax?
jk: Unfortunately, Westchester hasn’t been a huge supporter of my type of product, you know, urban, streetwear, whatever you want to call it. However a little spot opened up in my neighborhood about a year ago called The Fitted Gallery (357 North Ave) and they’ve done extremely well with us. There are a couple of other places popping up that I have to check out so I’ll keep you posted. If you live in the boroughs – 4U House of Fitteds (White Plains Rd. also a location in the Palisades Mall), Sammy’s on Fordham Road. Swagga360 and Atlantis in Brooklyn. The Vault (Harlem) Ajays (Midtown), Get Set (Delancey St) and JJ’s (The Heights). And Shoe Gallery in Florida.
ip: How about online? I know you’re big on Karma Loop.
ip: You’re a big movie head. Just curious, what are your favorites?
jk: I’ll give you my Top 10…
City of God – Breathtaking from begining to end.
Romper Stomper – Early Aussie flick with Russell Crowe. Unbelievable fight scenes. Ahead of its time.
Chopper – Another Aussie flick this time with Eric Bana. Gritty as hell. Bana’s amazing.
Avatar – IMAX 3D glasses and all. Although I’m not even sure this can count as a movie.
Matrix – Neo and Morpheus styled on ’em.
Fight Club – Perfect flick for the 21 yr old American male.
Anchorman – Got funnier everytime I saw it until the whole movie was memorized.
Pulp Fiction – A masterpiece. Unfortunately he hasn’t come close since.
Sixth Sense – Created a new genre with this one.
Blair Witch Project – I’m sorry but I saw this movie 4 months before it hit theatres having no idea about it. I thought it was real and it bugged me out for a week.
Honorable Mentions: Boiler Room, Sling Blade, Anything with Don Cheadle, War of the Worlds, Most movies with Denzel, The Professional, Crash, Napolean Dynamite, 300, Charlie Wilsons War, Jurassic Park, Hoop Dreams, Office Space, Old School, Seven, Slumdog, Eddie Murphy Delirious, Enron: Smartest Guys in the Room, Super Troopers, Casino, The Bourne Identity.
ip: I love the new “I Does This” shirt, I’ve been telling you for years to bust that off and I’m so proud that it’s out now and people are actually rocking it! Thanks for blessing me with those, now I got all four colors! What else is hot for this season? Any shirts you think are gonna be big in the fall? Winter?
jk: Doing some pretty dope hoodies with embroidered patches, different types of sweaters too. Really looking forward to it. Also be on the look out for New Era hats. They may not drop til Spring ’11 but they WILL drop.
ip: So what’s next for Dirty Jax? Where is the line going. Is there gonna be a Dirty Jax store one day? What’s on the horizon. What’s the goal!?!?!
jk: Right now the goal is to put out a good product, make money and stay in business. We’re making some progress with the pieces we’re offering this fall and I’m really excited about the New Era caps. It’s really tough to think too far ahead because every season holds so much uncertainty. I’m hoping to take a big leap with spring ’11. We have a new manufacturer in Cali as well as our go-to printer in Brooklyn. Look for more fashion shows, photoshoots, a new website to launch this holiday and a collaborative mixtape with DJ Pay Homage that will be available on Soundcloud. We’re also working on a T-shirt/Crewneck collaboration with Sub Con Threads who are our mates on Karmaloop that will be available during the holidays. Were just trying to take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way and fight off this motherfucking recession.
ip: Thanks my G, appreciate your time. And good luck with everything!
We dropped this last spring, but it’s still hot. Download it if you don’t got it….
Also, check the video for “My Ferris Buellers” with me rocking the fresh Dirty JAX shirt…
Wanna holler at Dirty JAX? Follow Josh on Twitter HERE. Peace out.