John Moore and his partner Michael Abbey didn’t exactly pick the ideal time to strike out on their own. After working at Southern California brand Modern Amusement for years, Moore and Abbey founded POP Studios just days before the biggest economic crisis of the last fifty years. Amidst markets crashing, Moore found inspiration while watching a documentary on the Great Depression one evening. Bread for pennies? Why not classic American essentials for pennies? Adjusted for inflation, of course. Thus, Penny Stock was born. We turned to Mr. Moore to find out where to take a brand created out of such specificity.
Penny Stock is a brand that you’ve said was born out of the history of the Great Depression and our most current economic downturn. Is this a story that you plan to continue to tell?
First, I think we’ve stayed the course since our launch; great design at an accessible pricepoint. The Great Depression was certainly the creative spark for that first season but we approach each season with a strong conceptual story.
And speaking of conceptual stories, there’s a real movement towards vintage surf that your summer ’11 season seems to be hitting on.
Haha, wait till you see spring ’12. You know, I grew up on the beach and surfed my whole life. So, when I think of a season like summer, surfing and the beach are the first thing that comes to mind.
So perhaps surf, as a trend, is something relevant in Japan and New York City but it’s just business as usual in Southern California.
Yeah, it’s been a part of our lives. We’d like to think we take a more refined approach to a surfing aesthetic. East Coasters know preppy and do it well. We have a ’60s West Coast preppy surf vibe that we do well. All while keeping the details that tie back to Penny Stock.
A lot of your design sounds very personal, do you design for yourselves or do you have a certain, ideal customer in mind?
You know, that’s interesting. We generally design for ourselves. But we have a tagline, “Coast to Coast”. It’s obviously a surf reference but it’s meant to target that everyguy that’s not just in New York or California. We want to be accessible to all guys.
That shows in your distribution. You’re available in some parts of the U.S., like Kansas City and Cleveland, that unfortunately might get overlooked at times.
We didn’t want to be precious. We didn’t want to make some super limited run and be available in like five doors worldwide. Our distribution, coast to coast, is an example of that. Our aesthetic is classic Americana without it being forced or some kind of verbatim heritage.
Uh oh, heritage is a bad word these days. Do you feel the backlash on the emphasis on American heritage?
Definitely. You know, there’s nothing wrong with brands continuing to do what they’ve been doing for years. But just basing a piece off of a bomber jacket or whatever isn’t heritage. It’s so funny, I’ve built a career around it but heritage is a bad word.