What started as a small headwear brand some years ago has quickly evolved into an all-encompassing powerhouse of a streetwear giant known as Neff.
With highly original designs and concepts, if you’re fan of Neff, you’re inevitably backing styles that are impossible to ignore.
We recently caught up with founder Shaun Neff to talk about the brands humble beginnings, their growing celebrity appeal, the iconic suckerface logo, how they linked up with Snoop Dogg and plenty more.
What’s your background and what inspired you to start Neff? I grew up in Southern California and had the dream as a young teenager in Cali to have a surf, skate, snow company, which is most SoCal teenagers dreams. I’m very grateful and blessed to have this current opportunity and not a day goes by that I don’t look to the sky and say, ‘Thank you’. I have always been intrigued with branding and what messages brands put out to attract fans. I love the industry, it’s my passion, and trying to figure out what kids are hyped on is my favorite thing in the world.
For those that don’t know the story, how did Neff enter the Headwear game? Neff was launched in 2002 in Southern California. Originally starting out as a clothing company, I made a couple shirts and hats and hustled product out of me car. Later that year, I moved to Utah. I bought cheap beanies and headbands and added Neff branding. I gave them out to my friends, who were pro snowboarders. No one had headwear specific sponsors at the time. NEFF HEADWEAR was born, being the first authentic core snow and skate headwear company in the game.
What were some of the major obstacles during Neff’s earlier days? I would say my inexperience in business because I was hopeful that everything would pan out. I didn’t know a lot about risks or challenges in business, so I just went for it with no doubts. â€¨â€¨The only real challenges were in the beginning. Learning how to manufacture quality product, because I had no experience. Once I stopped buying hats and putting my own labels on them, I had to figure out how to manufacture them.
How would you describe Neff’s overall aesthetic? Fun. Poppy. I always compare it to a gumball machine that spits out endless flavors.
What inspires Neff’s designs? The world we live in and outer space.
How did Neff make the jump from action sports to the hip-hop world and celebrity circuit? It naturally happened as we created unique looking product. Initially hip-hop musicians and celebrities were reaching out to us for product. Our product was appearing in music videos when stylists were buying our stuff. Now, we interact with a lot of different musicians and stylists and we have a lot of projects we are working on.
What do you think draws musical artists to Neff’s style and look? I think we have always tried to create product that has our own style and I think we have done a good job developing that. As a brand, we strive to stay in front of the design curve. The whole poppy, cartoon vibe has been popular the last couple years and I am anxious to see what the next few years will bring. I am looking forward to creating trends that resonate with musicians in the future.
Where did the iconic Neff face with exposed tongue logo come from? What does the image represent? Neff has always been a candy-like flavorful company and I was creating a shirt that had lollipops when all-over prints were popular. There is nothing sweeter than lollipop for little kids. So I put a face on a lollipop and the suckerface was born.
What kinds of input do Neff riders and advocates have on the development of product? On the signature pieces we have with our pro athletes there is a lot of input on the design. For a majority of the line, our internal creative team develops all the looks and styles. We get a lot of feedback from our athletes and people that rock our product. We try to bring their ideas back to the team to drive design and improve product.
How did you link up with Snoop? Actually it is crazy. It started with CCS. One of the CCS managers went to school with Snoops manager. He thought that Neff would be a good fit with Snoop and so he set up the meeting. We have been working with him since.
What’s it been like working with someone so legendary? It has been a dream come true. I remember being in high school and listening to his music and looking at him saying, ‘Man this guys is so dope’. I will be in a meeting with Snoop and we are going over ideas and sometimes I pinch myself and say, ‘Wow am I really sitting here with Snoop’. It has been something very flattering for me to see these guys that I look up to rocking Neff and working with the brand.
You recently broke into the world of watches. What have been some goals in standing out in the wristwatch market? We saw a huge opportunity in the watch business with the price points that we are offering. We treat watches as a price point item, and that it our niche. We want a kid to be able to have 5 Neff watches that match his shoes instead of saving up for months to buy one watch.
What’s next on the horizon for Neff, 2012 and beyond? We are very excited with where the brand currently sits in the market. We are finally resonating with the youth today and the brand is known globally. We are excited about being in this situation and moving forward. We plan to continue to be on the same wavelength and keep making unique Neff product. We are going to be reaching out to an older demographic with new categories, a new look. We have a couple tricks up our sleeve with those potential categories that we feel are going to be a huge success for the brand. From a marketing standpoint, we have a ton of initiatives and collaborations we are working on with new artists.
Photos courtesy of Neff.
Get the newest from Neff right here at CCS.