Never Follow Trends sits down with Ray Guilbault, owner of the 8&9 brand. Let's get to know him...
1. What's your name, where were you born and raised? Ray Guilbault. Lawrence, MA
2. What was your childhood like? Was music, and fashion always a big part of your life?I'm blessed to have two great parents, they worked hard and led by example so I once I stopped f'ing around I had all the tools to get myself to the next level. I was raised on the Ramones, snowboarding, and ice hockey. Fashion definitely wasn't a thing for me as a kid, my first brand name was a $20 bootleg Ralph Lauren sweatshirt from the gas station. But by the end of high school I made some money, got a bunch of Polo and started collecting sneakers in college. Within a couple years I opened my first store and started 8&9 shortly after.
3. Where did the name "8&9" originate from? I was making custom shirts for clients at our shop and using a lot of patches. On a trip to Michael's I saw some sport lettering with the numbers 8&9, it sounded catchy, 8 is infinite, 9 is a number of knowledge or completion so I liked it, picked them up. Later on I dyed the threads to match a Sixers fitted and dropped them on the sleeve of a tall tee. That was pretty much the first 8&9 shirt and the start of it all, each number has different meanings across cultures, but people always ask and it's helped us stick around for a while.
4. What was that "moment" you felt "8&9" gained mainstream notoriety? The first moment was seeing Young Money's Gudda Gudda wearing our Real Reads tee on 106 & Park. That was a huge look for us and to the fans it was validation their favorite brand was getting mainstream love.
5. You've collaborated with some of the dopest MC's, from Styles P and Kiss, to NORE. What was that like? It's humbling to work with people you've respected for years, or been a fan of their music. It's even more rewarding when they turn out to be stellar gentlemen and become friends. Styles, the Lox, Mega, Drink Champs the list is long but those guys have really supported us over the years and working with them really keeps you on your A game. If you're going to bring Styles' vision to life you really want to nail it. This year we have sneaker and apparel capsule with Cormega and Ewing Athletics dropping which I'm super stoked on. Definitely eager to take on more of these projects and keep working with like minded individuals.
6. Who were the innovators and trendsetters you respected back in the day coming up?In terms of fashion, I always looked at Jay, Russell, Diddy, and those guys generating hundreds of millions just because they didn't want to wear any one else's shit when they could own theres. I loved everything about LRG and what Jonas did, 10 Deep for quality, Crooks for keeping it street, Johnny Cupcakes for their approach, G-Star for killing it so consistently. I love classic brands like Vans and Levis. Now I'm equally inspired by successful entrepreneurs, especially the independent ones that do it their way. I'm always trying to soak up what I can from those that do it well.
7. Favorite sports teams? Boston son. The Bruins, then the Pats, Celtics and Sox.
8. Favorite musicians? The Ramones, Rancid, Green Day, Cormega, Nas, Mobb Deep, The Lox, Wu-Tang especially Ghost & Rae. I like 90's R&B, Donnell Jones, Jagged Edge that era, I'll listen to Adele if she's on. I'm a big fan of Nipsey Hussle music and as an entrepreneur, I like what Dave East is doing too hands down.
9. One person in the world living or deceased that you could have 15 minutes to sit down with and pick their brain, who would it be? Barack Obama no question. He's such a legend. Steve Jobs might be number 2, I'd love to ask him a few things.
10. Where do you see the "8&9" brand in the next 5 years? Over the next few years 8&9 will evolve into a full collection. Right now we're expanding our product offering to bottoms and outerwear. But, 8&9 has always been a media company using tees as the vehicle for our message. This year we're getting back to our roots offering our services to a wider audience. Behind the scenes we've been consulting, building brands, designing and developing strategy for other companies because we've always done our work in-house and we've gotten really good at it. I love working on a client's project, treating it like it's mine and watching them grow from our work it's super rewarding so I want to do more of it.
11. What's the biggest piece of advice you can give a small business owner who's building their brand from the ground up? There's so many answers, but always know why you started and where you want to go. If you know what motivated you in the beginning and you know the end goal you can enjoy the journey. Be willing to sacrifice of course and if you don't love the work you should definitely change paths or get a job. Outside of that focus on your core competency, master it, automate as much as possible, and then move on to tackle new opportunities. Email us if you ever need help!