Ladies and gentlemen, meet Ray G., Founder of 8and9 Designs. This man has got to be one of the hardest working entrepreneurs in South Florida. He eats, sleeps, and breathes his company, and it certainly shows in his work. Ray G. has built his company from the ground up, has overcome the trials and tribulations that life has thrown at him, and still remains humble in all of his success. 8and9 has grown tremendously over the past few years and is continuing to gain a lot of attention from customers all over, celebs, and the media. With all of this going on for Ray, he still found the time to sit down and give The Hype Girls the exclusive on his brand, company, and a tiny bit of his personal life. Check out our interview with Mr. 8and9, himself!
-Has this always been your dream and passion or were there other fields that you were interested in pursuing?
“Starting in middle school it was pretty clear entrepreneurship was the path. I was definitely the kid looking at a suit and tie saying “couldn’t be my life!” But, if I ever had a back-up plan I would have been a lawyer.”
-8 and 9 is blowing up…by the second, how do you create time for a personal/love life?
“Thanks for noticing! Personal life hasn’t been a focus of mine. I’m more concerned about the business, working hard, growing and creating more jobs for good people. The rest will come in time.”
-The ‘Crime Pays’ design seems to be very popular. What inspired that design?
“We made it when the first South Beach Lebrons came out. It was a Miami shoe, Miami Vice, South Beach, this city was built on dirty money. We’re a street brand. Crime Pays just fit perfectly and I think just about everyone significant to hip hop culture has worn it so in that sense Crime Pays.”
-What makes 8 and 9 different from all other brands?
“I think it’s our philosophy and the team we have. We work harder than most. Our backgrounds are really diverse, we draw from a range of inspiration but we have a different approach to the whole business. The name 8&9 allows us to reach a broad audience and not get pigeon holed by any specific label like urban or skate or sneaker t-shirt company. Our graphics are powered by concepts and most have deeper messages than what some see on the surface. Production wise, we put a lot of attention to quality of fabric, fit and print which is overlooked a lot in street-wear, especially with rising companies.”
-What would you say your biggest accomplishment is thus far?
“Getting this far is an accomplishment in itself. It’s been a long road and I easily could have quit a hundred times. I’m proud to provide jobs to good people. I still have a few more that I need to get out their 9-5 but we’re working on it. Mission almost accomplished.”
-What’s next for 8 and 9? What projects do you have in the works?
“It’s been a really big year for us, 2013 is already looking crazy. We’re showing at Agenda this August and Magic in February. Right now our main focus is expanding distribution. New website launches August 1. I’m excited for our loyal customers to see the growth there. I think they’ll be impressed.”
-What made you want to start designing?
“Before design, I wanted to build a brand. At the time, there weren’t any popular cross over companies. It was urban, skate, or surf. Everything was segmented and there was no street-wear market. Coming up with a diverse background I really wanted to unite those markets and blur the lines between. Designing what I liked came from that plan.”
-Name some of the celebs 8&9 has been seen on. Who is the number one celeb you’d want to see rocking your gear?
“We’ve been really fortunate to get a lot of looks. We don’t have a publicist or do any paid placements, so the celebs wearing it usually bought it. To name a few, J.R. Smith, 2 Chainz, Busta Rhymes, Cormega, Pooch Hall, Cory Gunz, Gudda, Jae Millz, Funkmaster Flex. I could go on for a while but those are some of the highlights. I’d like to see Justin Bieber in 8&9, that would be dope!”
-Describe 8 and 9 in three words.
“Strength In Numbers.”
-What’s your fave design from your brand?
“Everything 2013 is my favorite. It just keeps getting better.”
-Your sneaker game must be on point. Is that a requirement for your crew or any woman you’re dating?
“My sneaker room is definitely a few hundred deep and we all came up in the sneaker game. But, I’ve never dated a girl that was really into sneakers. I think I like them in heels.”
-The Hype Girls is huge on promoting education. Express your views on education. Do you think it’s helped you with your success?
“Education definitely promotes success. There are just so many types of education and knowledge. I’m blessed my parents instilled values that developed my character. I beat the odds graduating college after my high school class had the highest drop-out rate ever reported at that time. And on the flip side, I had a lot of work experience and street knowledge. So I’m a big advocate of higher education. At the end of the day success comes from learning, soaking up all you can, living and working to gain practical experience. Formal education is one necessary piece of the puzzle to becoming well rounded in life, career and even entrepreneurship. So kids, focus on school! Then look back and decide later how it helped you!”
-What advice would you give entrepreneurs that are just starting off?
“You really have to be built for the journey. Especially if you’re not starting off with tons of money. Just make sure it’s the life you want. You can’t clock out at 5. When you’re sleeping, your business will be closed. It progresses only when you push forward. Be prepared to sacrifice. If you make it, the rewards are sweet but the odds are against you. You can do it if you’re hungry, commit yourself, build the right team, stay humble and bust your ass to actualize your dreams.”
-What inspires your designs?
“I built 8&9 as a diverse brand so we can draw inspiration from anything without it seeming out of place. A lot of our designs do come from elements of a street lifestyle. Sneakers, hip hop, “Gangster” movies, politics even pop culture.”
-Everyone has their own way of working…How do you get your creative juices flowing?
“Our office is surrounded by galleries and creatives so I’m inspired, walking around. If I’m at my desk there’s usually music on, anything from Cormega to Dead Prez, Good Music artists, 90’s Cali Punk to the Ramones. If I really hit a creative block I’ll be at the house on the balcony taking in the view. Being around the water always clears my head and renews that energy.”
-Any plans for an 8 and 9 ladies line?
“I’m really committed to focusing on our core, giving our male customer a more diverse product line and rounding out as a full street lifestyle brand. So for now, we’re only making tees women sleep in.”
-Speaking of the ladies, all of them want to know… Is Mr. 8&9 himself, single or taken?
“I’m going to pass on that one and maintain proper separation of “church and state” J”
“Maaaaaaaaaan s/o to all of our customers & the retailers who had confidence in their own taste to buy from us even before people were asking for the line. Salute, my man Ray Figgs, without him we’d never have gotten here. Much respect to my team, they know who they are. S/O hypegirls.com we love you, thank you for everything.”
-The Hype Girls love 8and9 too! Tell the fans where they can stay up to date with all things 8and9!