By Dom Galeon
What we call streetwear today grew from the surf and skate culture of early ‘90s California. Streetwear includes elements of sportswear, hip hop, punk, and even Japanese street fashion and haute couture. One of streetwear’s greatest icons is Benny Gold, a graphic designer who started making what would eventually become his signature graphics back when he was a skateboarder in the ‘90s.
Now, after 15 years of influencing streetwear—a fashion career that started in his days posting “Stay Gold” stickers he designed in the streets of San Francisco, designing and making shirts for himself and his friends, and eventually starting his own namesake brand in 2007— Benny decides to call it quits.
Well, not quite.
Benny Gold, the brand, is closing. But Benny, the artist, the designer, is going to stay.
“With the new year, I am making a big change. I am bringing the Benny Gold brand back to its original roots as a personal design project,” he writes in a farewell letter posted on his brand’s website last Jan. 16. “The brand was never meant to get as big as it did. I am thankful for the journey that it took me on but it is time to make a change. The brand has become bigger than myself and I am forever grateful for this.”
Benny has always acknowledged that his fashion career was rather accidental. But he isn’t a designer by accident, having studied graphic design. Benny really started designing streetwear after he met his idol, US skateboarding legend Keith Hufnagel, who asked him to design the logo for Huf, Keith’s own clothing brand where Benny became lead designer, spending the first few years of his career in streetwear.
“Huf closed their SF retail store right around the time I was opening the doors to my first storefront,” Benny says. “Life has a funny way of coming full circle and I now have the honor of helping them come back to San Francisco.”
Benny Gold is available in over 200 stores in the US and a good number of distributors bring its streetwear into Europe, Asia, and Australia. But with success, Benny says, come challenges.
“I now find myself growing less creatively as my days are spent managing people, budgets, and production issues. I am feeling increasing pressure to follow trends and go more ‘urban’ in the attempt to capture more market share,” he writes. “A brand becomes a living, breathing thing and every brand has a life cycle- —well it’s become increasingly clear to me that the Benny Gold brand is nearing its end. I would rather bring it to a close and celebrate its life with integrity rather than push it to become something I no longer believe in.”
The brand’s recently released fall/holiday line will be its last full collection. But it won’t be the last one for Benny. “I am a graphic artist at heart and all I’ve ever wanted to do is create meaningful things,” he concludes. “Therefore, I will continue to put specialty products out into the world in very limited quantities, so stay tuned.”
www.bennygold.com | Instagram: @ bennygold