Streetwear’s dominating the fashion world right now, with button-up shirts and oxford shoes traded in for sneakers and graphic tees. For what used to be tucked just beneath the mainstream, it has finally caught on and people who now shop at Chanel feel just as validated rocking an Obey sweatshirt with Puma kicks.
One classic label is Diamond Supply Co., which treads a fine line between skater and hip-hop culture. Founded in 1998, it has spawned some of the most sought-after streetwear collaborations of all time and is back with a second collaboration with Puma. Here, we catch up with founder Nicky Diamonds to talk about skate culture, streetwear and the things he finds inspiration in.
Can you paint a picture of your life growing up?
I grew up skateboarding all my life. My mom surfed and my uncle would skateboard. But I always got into a lot of trouble. When I was 13 or 14, I left my family for a group home in San Francisco and started hanging out with the skaters and skipped school. I guess that was how I learned the street hustle of business. If I weren’t a skateboarder, I wouldn’t know where I’d have ended up. It’s been 20 years since I started Diamond Supply Co., and I kind of just learned along the way; how to design and how to run a real business.
How do you think skateboarding and streetwear became a high fashion obsession?
Back in the ’80s, pro skaters were always wearing stuff like Louis Vuitton hats. Streetwear was always inspired by some sort of high fashion, and it was when kids started getting more into sneakers and clothes that fashion became interesting. And it just merged.
But you know, streetwear used to be underground and everything was cool. The problem is, with the Internet and everything so accessible, you can just go online and buy anything limited. Now all the high fashion brands make streetwear, and people just want to buy something that other people don’t have. They’ll go, oh well, I’m going to buy this Louis Vuitton jacket because no one else can afford it. That’s how it has changed. Limited edition streetwear doesn’t exist anymore.
Tell me about your connection with Puma and the inspiration behind this collaboration.
It’s really inspiration from the past. When I was growing up in the ’90s skateboarding, Puma Clydes were the first shoes I started collecting and skating in. They were really good and I bought them in every colour. That’s what got me heavily into sneakers. When we got started on this collection, just making dope colourways was what I wanted to do, like the one in black with Diamond blue. We flipped through the Puma archives and turned the old designs into art.
Do you feel like you were born to do this or do you think this life chose you?
(laughs) I think we chose each other. Simply from my upbringing, always skateboarding and being in sneakers and clothes. I’ve also always been into art, drawing and doing graphics. I was self-taught and am the only designer at Diamond. I’ve hired people here and there, but I design 99 per cent of our work.
How do you go about fuelling your creativity?
Most of my inspiration comes from the past. I spend a lot of time thinking about old stuff — what people used to wear, old skateboard graphics and the music I was into, like AC/DC. For a while, I was doing the simple stuff, only because I felt that was what that was selling. But that wasn’t being creative. So I decided to just make what I liked, which is why I’m back to making crazy graphics. If people like them, great. If not, oh well.
How do you stay relevant without pandering to the public?
By staying true to skateboarding. I don’t care about what anyone else does. Those into high fashion streetwear are only into what’s hot at the moment. But we are the kind of skateboarders who want to stay true to the skate brand. That’s how we stay relevant. If we didn’t have this, Diamond would have come and gone like any other brand.
Find the collection at Puma Select, Marina Bay Sands B2-118
Opening image by Jeff Chang