Storytelling has always been an integral part of what we do at STEADY—executed in our creative and embedded in our pieces. Often, these are stories tied to present and future aspirations. In this new segment, we’re completing the trifecta. CHATTERBOX addresses the past, specifically—the origin stories of kindred individuals.

CHATTERBOX begins with Los Angeles’ DAVID RIVERA, designer by trade at The Hundreds, and photographer by passion. Here’s how he came to be.

— Over GiorgiPorgi espresso —

DAVID: I mean uh, shit, my origin story isn’t really that interesting though. (Laughs)

CAL: That’s what they all say!

DAVID: It really started with my step dad. I was 14 and I didn’t like him at that time. I was like, “Who the fuck is this guy?” But, he always had old equipment from his era of old cameras, VHS recording devices. One time I stole one to take it to school, just to show my homies, I’m like “Yo, look at this shit. This is tight. You don’t see this anymore.” He noticed when I came home and he said, “If you want you can start using it. Just you buy your film, and you learn it your way. Teach yourself.” And… I just started fuckin’ with it. Started shooting all my friends at school…

CAL: Coming up, when there wasn’t this sort of photography renaissance, did you face any push back shooting?
DAVID: They [friends] weren’t used to it. They were just like, “Why you shooting right now? We’re not doing shit.” And I’m just like, “That’s the beauty of it. That’s the point. Like, we’re not doing shit. Lemme just shoot then!” Eventually people started catching on; this guy always has a camera on him, just let him shoot.

CAL: Which model was that film camera?
DAVID: A Minolta. I still have it —the one my stepdad gave me. I learned on the Minolta. I still don’t really know how to read light, like light meters and stuff, But right now it’s just fun.

CAL: Any film preference?
DAVID: Any Kodak film. Fujifilm, when it’s around. Usually at 400 ISO. Everything else is not how it looks [naturally] so I get nervous.

CAL: Any digital?
DAVID: Canon T2i.

CAL: I still shoot with that! (Laughs)
DAVID: I feel like digital for me is my money maker. Everything you see me put out and post, it’s all film. But none of it is making me money. It’s just me showing you guys what I like. This is what I like shooting.

I shoot whatever I want. I don’t have to be, “Oh, I’m shooting rappers”, or “I’m shooting fashion.” I shoot my daily. Photography for me is strictly just passion. And that’s what I like about it most cause no one could be like, “Oh you’re not shooting the right people!” As long as you’re making great images, that’s all that matters. Do your thing.

I’m really big on composition, good lighting, things that just catch my eye. [Maybe] not even the actual subject [of the photo.] You know? I had a Leica. It just stopped workin’ on me, I don’t know why.

CAL: Ooh. That’s gonna cost you the right arm? Left arm?
DAVID: Yeah, which ado you wanna give up? (Laughs) I bought an Olympus and I’ve just been shooting off that.

CAL: Which one?

DAVID: Just a little point and shoot. We have matching cameras.

CAL: Yo! (Laughs)

DAVID: (Laughs) Favorite thing right now man.

CAL: It’s so easy.

DAVID: It’s so easy.

CAL: I never know what’s in focus…
DAVID: That’s the beauty.

Yesterday I was waiting to get some film back. It was a photo I shot of my friend, dark with sharp light over his eye at the bar. He was smoking. Smoke all around him and you couldn’t see his face. And I’m like I’m going to shoot this. I shot it, I looked at it yesterday and was just like, “Fuck.” [Out of focus.]

CAL: I feel there’s less pressure, and when that happens you just remember it [the moment] better.
DAVID: Yeah you just like fucked that one up and you’re just like, “Dammit!” I shot my dad last week, and he was like, “Why are you shooting with that?” “That’s the stuff that I used!” He didn’t really understand it.

DAVID: Did you just see the Aaron Kai stuff we just dropped? The lookbook?

CAL: Yes.

DAVID: All that was with this. And I was just like, “Aw. I love this camera.” I carry it everywhere, it’s my baby. I’m not changing it anytime soon. Film all the way for me.

CAL: On the design tip, how’d you get into that?
DAVID: Same story. I just got lucky that people like The Hundreds, Bobby and Ben, looked out for me. I went to Art Institute for graphic design, hated it. I went for a year and a half and dropped out.

CAL: The school?
DAVID: The school. School is too slow, too expensive. They would make you do some weak ass projects. I wasn’t learning anything. Google, and Youtube were my professors.

If you were too creative or open, they [profs] would say, “No that’s wrong. People will never accept that.” And you’re just like, “How are you going to tell me that? Just because you’ve never seen it it’s wrong?” That’s when I realized, “I can’t be here.”

CAL: Since high school you’d been ditching school to hang out by The Hundreds shop?
DAVID: Yeah, just to hang out. They [Ben & Bobby] didn’t know me. I started kicking it with the workers and inviting them places.

Started interning after some time and I slowly moved up from there. I [later] talked to Ben saying, “Look. I hate school. If I know that you guys got me, then I’ll drop out.” He said, “As long as you don’t fuck up, then yeah! We got you.” And so I dropped out.

CAL: Were you scared though? Like “Fuck, I hope I don’t fuck up.”
DAVID: Oh yeah. My mom was pissed.

CAL: What was that night like?
DAVID: I sat her down, told her everything, and she was like, “Are you about to be a dad!?” and I was like, “No! Relax! It has nothing to do with that.”

CAL: And she’s like, “This is equally as bad.” (Laughs)
DAVID: (Laughs) I told her everything but, she was pissed. Her idea of working for a clothing company was packing t-shirts. I told her she had no idea what this was. And she was like, “Just work at the mall!” And I’m like, “No, I’m not working at no fucking mall.”

CAL: What was your first interaction with Ben and Bobby like?
DAVID: Um… Damn. I think my first interaction with Ben was that I walked into the room and he was just like, “Who the fuck is this kid?” (Laughs)

CAL: (Laughs) Just like that?
DAVID: Yeah. Straight up. And I looked at him like, “Nah. My name is David. Not ‘this kid.’” I stood up, shook his hand. He looks at me and daps me instead. He asked where I came from, and as soon as I said Russ, he made a face and was like, “Oh! Really? You know Russ?” And I’m like, “Yeah I know Russ.” He was then like, “Okay, so you know wassup.”

Next day. Very next day, he has a stack of stickers. Probably about 500 stickers? He goes, “Yo D.” and throws them to the ceiling. They go everywhere. And he’s like, “Pick all that shit up.”

CAL: Jesus. (Laughs)
DAVID: And that was my first day there. That was probably the toughest thing he did.

With Bobby, he was just like, “Oh, you’re interning here?” And I was like, “Yeah, can I get photo of you?” “Sure!” And I was shooting on like a fisheye film camera point and shoot.

CAL: What’s your approach to headwear? Is doing headwear and accessory design different to you, compared to doing apparel?
DAVID: I try to treat headwear as if it is apparel. You can do so much to a hat that people don’t even think of doing. Everyone right now is into this whole dad hat epidemic. Blank hats, little embroideries, call it a day.

For me, I deal with logos, placements, and see how can I make the design efficient —make it useful. Other than just have another blank hat, what happens if I switch the crown over a little? Or take the button off from the top? Or make the visor flimsy? You can add a double visor. You can do closures. You can do a button closure like on your pants on the strap. You can do a million things to it.

I can give you a hat that you’ve never seen before, or a hat that you think you’ve seen before, but turn it upside down and you’re like, “Oh this hat is reversible? I’ve never seen that.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I know.” (Laughs)

Luckily, I’m at a big enough platform where I can do custom design headwear. It’s easier and more accessible for me at The Hundreds.

CAL: Last month, not sure if it’s for sale, the Ebbets Field jacket?
DAVID: See that was my first apparel design.

CAL: Oh you did that?
DAVID: That was my very first jacket for The Hundreds. It was the Ebbets collab, it was our 10 year anniversary. I just made twelve of them. We made little to none. And… I didn’t get one! (Laughs)

CAL: I actually came for the anniversary —picked up the RSWD tee in color.
DAVID: The Rainbow shit is tight.

CAL: In photography but also design, was there ever a point where you hit a hard slump?
Like “I don’t know if I can do this” or similarly, a time where you had to operate outside of your comfort zone?

DAVID: I like street photography lately. I’ll run up, shoot them, and probably get yelled at. That’s out of my comfort zone. Just recently, in New York I shot this old lady. She was walking and I started following her. I came up from the front and I took like two photos, and she was like, “What the fuck are you doing!?” And I was like, “I’m sorry ma’am, I just love your look.” I’m not used to that. I get nervous, it’s like I had caffeine or something. I know a lot of photographers have been doing it, but it’s new to me.

For headwear, I hate doing the same shit. That’s where it got hard for me. It’s like, “How do I make it not look like a dad hat? How do I up the scale? Add waterproof fabric? Do a high density print?” That got me out of my comfort zone recently.

Photos: D. RIVERA // Contributors: S. Lee, S. Wang

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