This past week, Barnes and Nobles hosted Fashion Designer and Entrepreneur Marc Ecko to speak at their location on Somerset street. Ecko, who is a former Rutgers student, came back to his college town for a signing of his book Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out.
Trim Magazine was lucky enough to have a chance to sit down with Ecko and get an insight into his inspiring life, and the journey that took him from a Rutgers student to a Fashion Designer, who not only created a clothing empire, but also a magazine, and now his first book.
Marc Ecko started off his college career as a Pharmacy major; however, in his free time he enjoyed art. He was mostly into graffiti, using his abilities to create one-of-a-kind t-shirts out of his parents’ garage. As he started to make a name for himself at Rutgers, he would display his art in exhibitions around campus for all of the student body to see and enjoy. He finally realized that his talent could take him further if he had more time to devote to selling his brand, so he left college and embarked on a journey to make a name for himself. We had the privilege to hear all about this journey.
Trim Magazine: How did you go from Rutgers’ Pharmacy School to Clothing Brand empire?
Marc Ecko: It’s kind of an old-fashioned story of building one brick at a time. I grew up painting t-shirts and when I came to Rutgers that turned into art exhibitions on campus of mostly airbrushed art. From there I would try to hitch my wagon to whatever trade shows I could find, locating the best shows, screen printers, and making the most connections I could.
TM: What was your biggest inspiration for design?
M.E: Early 90’s hip-hop was emerging as a subculture at that time. The scene was very big at Rutgers and was a huge influence. Graffiti and hip-hop both framed perspective for my designs.
TM: What drove you to create Complex Magazine?
M.E: I was 10 years into the business and at that point had a significant media budget so I wanted to create something new. I started looking at how a lot of magazines were organized and realized that each one only touched on one topic. I wanted to create a magazine that would mix together fashion, street fashion, hip-hop, and sneakers; it’s complex.
TM: What was your most proud moment throughout your journey so far?
M.E: Professionally, this book. I’m really proud of being able to be intellectually honest and record my learnings so that my kids can benefit and I can share my experiences with other people. Personally, my kids and family fuel my pride.
TM: What influenced you to write the book “Unlabel: Selling Yourself Without Selling Out”?
M.E: The book was very therapeutic for me. It doesn’t replace the one on one relationship you get when speaking to someone but it was a way to organize all my ideas and put them down on paper. It was a meaningful way to be able to teach through my book.
TM: What kind of advice do you have for students trying to break into the Fashion or Magazine Industry?
M.E: Start by hitching your wagon to the trade that you’re interested in. You don’t have to have money to market in a big way, it’s mostly about knowing everyone that you can and making connections. Instead of trying to launch a billboard, manage your expectations and build them in a manner that isn’t shooting low but being able to overachieve. A lot of people are passionate about something other than school, your talent isn’t always measured with a certificate, so be open to experiences all the time. Experiences will teach you more than any textbook can. Rutgers for me was about learning about people. College really is Anthropology, accepting and learning about diversity.
TM: What else would you like to accomplish in your lifetime? What do you see for your future?
M.E: I design a future that is in the now and the present. It’s better not to visualize long exotic futures, no clichés. Instead, it’s about enjoying the moment and constantly staying creative and stimulated. I’m grateful for the platforms that I have instead of plotting for the future, just ride that wave.
Personally, if there’s one thing that I have learned about college it is exactly what Marc Ecko said, “ride the wave.” The college life is constantly changing and bringing about new and unexpected experiences. Mr. Ecko is a great role model for anyone striving to chase their dreams and a lot can be learned from his words and experiences. Don’t forget to stop by Barnes and Nobles to pick up a copy of his book Unlabel: Selling Yourself Without Selling Out.
Marisa Flacks and Samira Elkhoury