Avi Gold is a streetwear veteran hailing from Toronto. He was in town recently to launch a pop-up store, A Better Hot Dog Stand, celebrating Dover Street Market Singapore first anniversary. Esquire speaks to him on the rise of streetwear, the decline of print, his definition of better hotdog as well as what he would like to be if he wasn't designing products.
ESQ: Could you tell me how you get started in streetwear?
AVI GOLD: A lot of my interests are just through my childhood. Like hearing a certain record and how it gets you interested in listening to rap music. And then rap music gets you exposed to how rappers are dressing. Back then, there wasn't streetwear, just functional clothing. Then I started reading magazine articles about interesting brands and people. A lot of my childhood is what kind of got me interested but it wasn't just streetwear by itself. It was just like a subculture, whether it's graffiti or skateboarding. It's just normal things.
ESQ: Do you feel sad about the decline of print?
AVI GOLD: Yeah, I do. I helped start Sneeze magazine. It's not really hanging on by a thread but at this point the novelty of it being a poster-sized magazine, that's the selling point. I don't really think people read magazines anymore. Maybe our parents do, and Japanese kids, but I don't know. You're not going to a news stand and saying, wow, this is great and I want to buy it. It sucks. In high school, I found that a friend had brought a copy of Mass Appeal magazine to class and there's just so many things in there—the first time you see certain brands or certain people, it was interesting.
ESQ: From starting A Better Gift Shop to launching A Better Hotdog stand as part of the celebration of the first anniversary of Dover Street Market Singapore—do you always try to make better versions of items that you saw and are inspired by?
AVI GOLD: It's complicated to sit here and explain it from my mind. But a lot of it was branding, marketing and the way you can play with the word 'better'.
ESQ: There are so many layers to the word 'better'?
AVI GOLD: Exactly.
ESQ: So what does 'better' mean to you?
AVI GOLD: It's hard to use ‘better’ in an answer. There are two parts to it. First, it’s elevating things that we're into. My interest is to put them on a platform in a better way. I want to make people think about things and remember them. It sparks nostalgia.
Second, it’s about putting your money where your mouth is. You're sitting there when things can be better. And you try to make them better. That's the mindset that I and my team have, to try to run a store and making a memorable brand. With A Better Gift Shop, we have so many unique products that there's nowhere else you can get them.
ESQ: That's the beauty of a great bricks-and-mortar store, right? It should feel like you have undertaken a pilgrimage to visit it.
AVI GOLD: That's how it was like when I was a kid. Even up to really recently, there's a place in Harlem where you can only get a certain type of New Era hat. That place closed down. So now where do you go? It's on me now to carry the torch in my stores. Also for Dover Street Market and what's interesting about this place is that it's cool to see a big company, which isn't really that big. It's like a family situation. There's a lot of good people working together. But they all understand each other. It’s understanding how to drive people into this space. The experience of walking into a bricks-and-mortar store, right?
ESQ: What do you feel about the resale culture of streetwear?
AVI GOLD: I think it's cheesy. If your existence on this earth is to resell somebody else's brand or product, you need to figure your shit out. [laughs] I can understand making money, which I'm all about. That’s why I hate resellers. They are the worst part of the street culture. It's greed right? I don't like people who are driven by greed.
ESQ: I feel the same about viewing streetwear similar to stocks—an appreciation of the product.
AVI GOLD: I see a lot of that now all the time when people view it as a status symbol and hype. It's the same reason why print is not doing well. We grew up just outside Toronto. The closest thing that we can get to New York, London or Tokyo, we have to read these interviews in magazines right? And we're really into it. And nowadays, the younger kids, not all of them, but the large majority, they don't care. It's the status symbol. ‘It's out, I want to buy it. I want to put it on.’ There's no story to it.
I remember going into Hermès and wanting to buy a belt. The staff looked at me like I was crazy. ‘You cannot afford it.’ It's true, they started at 800 dollars. But the good thing about Hermès is, not to change the subject, their products are really well-made. That's a luxury brand that's doing it right. They are not going for the low-hanging fruit. They are staying true to what they are and that's amazing.
ESQ: So why a hot dog stand?
AVI GOLD: There are two aspects to it: hot dogs are popular in my city, where I come from, Toronto. That's like a big Toronto thing. For me, it's like the marketing and advertising behind the way a hot dog stand functions. Like the vendors sell in a unique way. It's a very ‘street way’ to sell food. I think that's really cool like the branding and the signage, it's just so marketable. Everybody can be drawn to this main attraction. I just saw the brilliance in that and the way that it can sell unique products.
ESQ: What do you feel A Better Hotdog tastes like?
AVI GOLD: It'll be very cultured [laughs].
ESQ: What are your greatest fears?
AVI GOLD: My greatest fear is not being relevant. I have always wanted to be relevant. As I get older, my perspective is changing every day, and I don't want to lose touch with reality and perspective on relevance. I always want to be making the right products. I always want those products and my ideas to resonate with people in five, 10 or even 15 years.
ESQ: What would you like your legacy to be?
AVI GOLD: To be memorable. I want to be remembered as being original and a funny dude. If I wasn't doing this, I would be doing stand-up.