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Interview with the minds behind Comme des Grappler

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As you already know, I’m a huge fan of streetwear.  You can catch me rocking The Hundreds, Johnny Cupcakes, Supreme, and a few other brands on any given day.  But you’ll also catch me rocking some of the best BJJ streetwear from brands like Reversal, Scramble, and now Comme Des Grappler.

I couldn’t resist getting the guys on the site for an interview.  Enjoy!

About Training (Answered by Ryan Gagne)

How long have you been training and how did you first discover grappling/mma?

I have been training almost 4 years. My roommate at time (I had just moved from Vermont recently and had no idea what BJJ was), Matt Darcy told me to come to his BJJ class so, reluctantly, I went, and fell in love with BJJ instantly and have been training 5-6 days a week consistently since then.

Who are your top 3 favorite grapplers?

Easily Marcelo Garcia, Caio Terra and Rafael Mendes.

Who is the best person you have ever trained with or competed against?

Consistently we have top level guys come in and out of our gym here in the Bay Area, but I feel being able to roll with Matt Darcy and Dave Camarillo on a consistent basis is something that lets me take my game to the next level.

Do you find it hard(er) to train since you’ve started CDG?

Since we started CDG it has not made it any harder to train, I still push myself to make it in the gym at least 5 days a week.  Having a solid team at CDG makes it that much easier to be on the mats just as much, we all train daily, some of twice daily!

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Comme des Grappler

Tell us about how you came to be involved with CDG…

Florian:  As you know before I started CDG I was a freelance designer known as APPLESEED and I still do. I designed for many brands such as SCRAMBLE, Shoyoroll, Apparatus Brand, Strike Fightwear and even Ok Kimonos and many more. So I once posted a photo on Instagram it was the first time the world saw CDG it was just Comme des Grappler meant as homage with a camo print. Days later I got an e-mail from Jakob my business partner asking me if I was down to start a brand. His words were: “we could go far”. This is what I was always looking for: somebody who was willing to put my thoughts, my expressions, my designs on apparel and sell it. It was like a dream come true.

Jakob: Well, I saw that Flo had done this design in camo that read COMME des GRAPPLER and literally when I saw this, I told myself this is something that we have to have! So, after exchanging emails with Flo, we eventually purchased the brand identity and asked Flo to start the brand with us and to our SURPRISE he declined at first, BUT he then came to his senses 5 days later and said let’s do it! Haha so here we are!

 

Tell us about CDG’s growth so far…

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Florian:  I simply think CDG is something people in the grappling scene have never seen before. I was never a fan of shirts that scream “Hey look at me I do martial arts”. I just wanted to do something I can wear on the streets without being weirdly looked at. I feel like people are tired of buying the same stuff over and over again just in other colors with other fancy expressions

You seem to have a tremendous influence from fashion and streetwear, especially with your brand name being a play on Comme des Garcons.  What brands and designers really inspire you?

Florian:  Fashion is my focus. I love fashion. I look at the dresses that are presented in Paris and London and try to think of a way how to catch the feel of a certain look and put it into a design. It simply inspires me. When I feel it I can create it.

I know you’re a huge fan of BAPE.  How has BAPE influenced your designs and style?

Florian:  BAPE has influenced me tremendously I discovered my love to overall prints and patterns trough BAPE. However I have never been inspired by BAPE’s shirt designs though. I just loved the look and the cleanliness of a certain pattern printed all over a fabric. For me it is like creating a new color.

Who are your favorite people involved in BJJ/MMA fashion (brand owners/store owners) and why?

Florian:  First of all, Matt from Scramble. I saw Scramble grow and simply love how he managed to grow that big and delivering awesome goods.

Secondly, must be Takehiro Iso. He is the owner of rvddw. I don’t know much about him but I was told that when he likes something he doesn’t care about other people’s opinion he simply wants to do it then. Overall I admire people who stay true to their business to their opinion and to their imagination. If you care about what you do and you love doing so you will succeed in my opinion.

Jakob:  I second that!

It seems like our market is becoming increasingly saturated with new product.  What advice could you give in regards to starting a brand in the current climate?

Florian:  Don’t start a brand unless you have something that differs from what already exists. Be true to yourself don’t through more shitty shirts onto the market. Thank you.

Jakob:  Well, I feel that someone should never tell you that you cannot do something, because I am sure people say the same about us. The biggest thing I can think of is really understanding that you get ONE chance to make a first impression, so if you are going to start a brand, take the time to develop some designs, do not get eager and throw the first thing that comes to mind onto a tee, odds are the next day you will hate it! Other than that go for it and remember that starting a brand is hard work and we struggle daily and do not have everything figured out!

Are there any other streetwear brands that you draw inspiration from?

Florian:  I take my inspiration from different streetwear brands and haute couture fashion brands such as GIVENCHY, BAPE, Stüssy, Hood By Air, man there are so many. However, mainly I am being inspired by my environment by different moods by colors. It may sound weird but a certain color has different faces and pictures that rest in that particular color.

Jakob:  Yeah what Flo just said! Lol

Is there a typical CDG customer?

Florian:  A typical CDG customer is someone who is keen on sophisticated designs, someone who loves special prints and maybe who has a certain tendency to art and expressionism to understand what I feel about a design of mine.

Jakob:  I would have to agree with Flo, but on a more business level it is much more than having someone who likes the print, it is really about having the right demographic being engaged with the brand etc.

What’s the secret of your company’s success thus far? 

Florian:  I don’t know. As I have mentioned I just feel like we are different.

Jakob:  I think that is has to do with us trying to do something that has not really been done in BJJ, we are taking the same mental approach as other brands have before with regards to streetwear, take Stussy for example, at one point the brand was mainly associated with the surf scene and now has a huge role in streetwear, regardless if you have surfed or not. That is what we hope to achieve, we want to have some impact on streetwear representing the BJJ scene.

What valuable lessons have you learned as a businessman?

Florian: Thus far? Before I get too hyped talk about how you can get shit done otherwise you will do stuff for nothing.

Jakob: Every day is a new lesson. I feel that the biggest lesson that I have learned so far is, you have to stay focused on what you want to do, never listen to the comments around you, just keep your head up and have faith in what you are doing!

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What’s next for CDG and you?

Florian:  I can say next will be a limited edition tee and our fall collection. This will be super dope. When things are going great I want to do more than just tees and sweaters. You may get excited!  Ha!

Jakob: Well, we know that Fall is next and that’s it, we really just want to take it one step at a time.

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Big thanks to Florian and the CDG guys for the interview! Also check out the review I did of their gear for GiReviews.Net:

About the author: Lover of Jesus, Bowties, and BJJ. Founder of Ok! Kimonos.

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