Standing in the shadows behind the launch of brands like wings+horns and the mega-successful Herschel Supply Co is Mr. Raif Adelberg. For a man so brazenly distinguished with tattoos (and the slogan “Fuck I Love You”), Mr. Adelberg is an expert at flying under the radar. We visited this man of mystery at his home in Surrey, British Columbia to learn about his story, his style, and his next adventure.
Pretty much everything about Raif Adelberg is eclectic.
From the tattoos that cover his body to the museum-like collection of art and memorabilia filling his home, it’s immediately clear that we’ve entered the domain of a man of exemplary interest. Unsurprisingly, Raif is also a man of exemplary experience.
From designing collections for some of the most notable brands in the industry to opening world-renown retail shops, galleries, a restaurant, and oh, founding a magazine, Raif has done a lot in his 48 years. And while his list of accomplishments may appear somewhat unfocused at first blush, there’s a consistent theme throughout it all: Mr. Adelberg is a man who loves to create.
“I always had a thing for art,” says Raif. “My mom was an interior designer and art collector, and my dad was in clothing, so I was always surrounded by creativity. When I was 13, I just started creating things. Things that were part of this style that I wanted to have. Whether it was painting my Chucks or drawing on grip tape, it was finding something I could create and apply to what I would wear. I even got my grandma to teach me how to embroider so I could embroider my own jean jacket.”
After dropping out of high school, Raif moved to Hawaii with his father. When he wasn’t surfing or reading the latest issues of GQ and Vogue, Raif worked a variety of jobs, from retail to cutting hair. Bouncing from Hawaii to Los Angeles and later opening his own retail store in Palm Springs, Raif would eventually return to his roots in Canada to work in the entertainment industry. And in 1997, Raif, along with his girlfriend at the time, opened a streetwear-focused store in Vancouver, BC called “24”.
“There were only a half dozen shops in North America that were doing street culture the way that we were doing it, which was a lot of Japanese and European brands,” explains Raif. “And after traveling around for a bit, I got back from this one trip to Paris and I thought, ‘Here we are with streetwear brands trying to emulate luxury design houses. People are buying Hermes, buying Louis Vuitton, buying Gucci, and taking inspiration from them. Instead of trying to copy that, why don’t we just become that here?’”
Throughout our conversation, this sentiment comes up again and again: that Raif is always poised and ready to make something his own. Ready to assert his ideas to things new and old. And to do them in a way that is uniquely him. Like the launch of his publication. “I was looking at getting an ad in a magazine and it was going to be $15,000,” Raif tells us. “I thought, ‘$15,000 for one ad for one month? I can make my own magazine for $15 grand!’”
So he did. The result was Made Magazine, which featured artists from around the world, providing them a platform to showcase their talents. And a few years after that, Raif opened a gallery. Then a restaurant, “Knosh”, that served soul food. Because, why not?
As we discuss Mr. Adelberg’s story and browse the books, figurines, and art that fills his home, we’re struck with the realization that this distinguished place is much like the man who inhabits it. Somewhat reclusive and mysterious. Off the beaten path. Far away from the bustle of life beyond. Yet full of relevant inspiration and creative agency.
In the early 2000s, Raif continued to refine his creative efforts, first in helping design and launch the inaugural collection of the brilliant wings+horns, then in launching what would go on to be hailed as one of the finest retail stores in the world by Conde Nast: Richard Kidd. The retail shop was enclosed by glass (think a modern day metropolitan Apple store). Except instead of svelte Macbooks and Beats by Dre, you had Stella McCartney and Balenciaga. And as for his own stamp? These high end designers were strategically merchandised alongside elevated streetwear brands like Supreme and Stussy. Richard Kidd represented a conflating of styles under one roof that simply hadn’t been seen before.
This sort of high/low combination is present in many of Raif’s sensibilities. The Canadian-native’s ownership of the phrase “Fuck I Love You” is branded (and literally trademarked) proof of his affection for crass panache. On any given day, Raif will pair his well-worn Thrasher hat and ripped denim vest alongside a Cartier Tank timepiece. And because of this honed approach to curation, Mr. Adelberg exhibits a personal style unlike many of the individuals we’ve interviewed. Or met, for that matter.
“You never used to see so much diversity,” says Raif, when asked about style today. “You use to have new wave, punk, hippies, disco, all of these genres with a created style. Hip hop had Kangol and Adidas. For punk, you got a Langlitz’s or Lewis Leathers and you studded it. Painted it. You went to the club and got wine spilled on you and you safety pinned it together. Youth today appropriates things without creating something of their own. What is the style of 2016? I don’t know what that’s called. It’s kind of a stew of everything.”
While we’re prone to favor 2016’s less categorically driven divisions in “style”, Raif may be onto something. True, there is beauty in today’s diversity, and the breaking down of once walled-off categories leaves each individual to define themselves as they see fit, without needing to align themselves with a “genre”. But with an open playing field comes the potential for a sterilization of style. Or potentially, no style at all. When so many products hit the market at such an unrelenting pace, it’s tempting to define a personal sense of style by what one chooses to purchase than by expressing oneself in a unique way. And expressing oneself in a unique way is, to Raif, what style is all about.
“It’s not about fashion. Fashion is the medium. It’s about how you take fashion and create style. For me, it doesn’t matter if a piece is $1 or $1000. If it’s old or new. From a boutique or a vintage store or something I’ve made. It’s about how you put it together. How you create you. It’s like cooking a meal in a microwave or cooking a meal for eight hours on a stove. There’s going to be a definite difference in how those meals turn out. I feel it’s the same way with culture, clothing, style, everything. You need to take the time to really think and process things.”
Raif has certainly had time to process things. And he’s had his hands involved in so many unique projects, his understanding of style’s ingredients and their nuances and flavors is refined like few others. And this month, Raif is serving up his newest dish: the first Spring/Summer 2016 line of his entirely new brand: HERMAN.
“HERMAN is one collection created for men and women,” Raif tells us, “that is inspired by pop culture, the music industry, and my youth from 1980s to the mid ’90s. But in the context of 2016.” The collection features a variety of unisex pieces, from tees to denim to handknit sweaters (and one very badass Italian suede moto jacket).
“It’s the most authentic thing to me as a person,” says Raif. If that’s not a reason to be excited, we don’t know what else is.
Check back later this month for our Classfare feature on the SS16 line of HERMAN.