1010 Morton St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Opening in Baltimore, Maryland in October 2005, Oliver Jones' Gentei (Limited Edition) has quickly established itself as one of the leading streetwear boutiques in America, featuring an assortment of shoes you wish you had and gear you didn't even know existed. Taking cues from Jones' frequent reconnaisance missions to Tokyo, the shop sits nestled on a non-descript street in the cities' Mt. Vernon neighborhood, and for those who venture in, may just be one of the best suprises of the year in a city poised to launch many more. Fixins caught up with Oliver to learn a bit more about the store, the inspiration, and what defines Gentei.
Tell us a little about how Gentei came to be. What was your inspiration? How long was the shop in the works?
Well, Gentei was born from a few different things -- first off, being from Baltimore, I wanted to represent [the city]. My man Ed had a skate shop in Baltimore for a few years called Select, he was trying to have a skate shop with a clean look, and only carry upper end products. This was all going on when I was living and designing in tokyo. So when i would come home to visit, I would stop in and tell him about all the shops and brands I was working with, and talks began.
What makes Gentei a unique shop?
At Gentei we try and pick up brands that are NOT in every other shop, and having exclusive japanese lines in our shop helps set us apart from all the others. We're also changing the "theme" of our shop two times a year. That means a complete makeover...and we try and stick to that theme as strictly as possible.
Your in-house line, slyandrobby, seems to be informed greatly by new and old punk/hardcore aesthetics -- would you agree? What role do you think those subcultures play in the current street-wear landscape? Have they finally been able to merge with hip-hop fashion? How about the subcultures themselves? Have you seen a blurring of the lines in recent years?
Yes for sure, I use imagery from punk and hip-hop in most of my designs. I grew up listening to both, jumping back and forth from one to the other, as I imagine that a lot of other kids did too. So I think that people can relate to one or the other or both, after all it's basically the same attitude -- "FUCK YOU, I'M DOING IT MY WAY!"
As someone who must sample numerous lines from around the world, what directions do you see design and fashion going in? What do you think is on the brink of wearing itself out?
Well as I can see it, the trends are basically a cycle... things that are hot in Japan now will be hot the year after next here (on a mainstream level). However, the same things that are popular in Japan now are mostly recycled western things, so in essence they started here (the States). The thing that I think will burn itself out is everything... people are so hyped on the "NEXT" season, that they are not paying attention to what is going on now, and where it came from. They are over it before it even happens.
There seems to be a current barrage and focus on high-end street-wear, with web sites such as Niketalk and magazines such as Complex being two of the most visible proponents. How do you think this came to be? Is it dangerous at all?
Well, I think that it kind of ties into the last question -- people just want what they can't have, living beyond there means, you know? This kid with Roc-a-Wear jeans came in my shop and asked me for neighborhood jeans, just because he read they were hot on a web site or in a mag. Brands start to lose their meaning and concept when things like that happen, and it drives away their core customers.
One of the most common questions I'm sure you're asked is "Why Baltimore." Well, why not Baltimore? Why do you think people are so surprised?
Well, because Baltimore is not the fashion mecca of anywhere, and has been under the radar for a long time. Although anyone who has ever been or lived here can tell you it's like nowhere else. I love Baltimore. We have so much original flavor we have just been slept on for a long time, because we're close to DC and Philly, but smaller.
I've always felt that both DC and Baltimore are both cities which seem to always be on the cusp of something -- cities with an audience but relatively few people utilizing the opportunity. What does it take to make things work, in your opinion -- business-wise, fashion-wise, and musically?
There ARE a lot of talented people here in the city, but because New York is close most people who are doing things move there. I think if people tried a little harder and had a more positive outlook on things we could be making more serious moves down here. Baltimore especially has been getting a lot of attention on the music tip in the past few years, so I hope that can open people's eye as to what ELSE is going on here.
Tell us a bit about your weekly, the BBC Soundclash.
The BBC (Baltimore Bass Connection) Sound Clash is a monthly party we throw down here, at the Ottobar. There are 4 of us (myself -- KARL HUNGUS, CHIPSET, DJ RUIN, and MR. DEVLIN), we all spin different types of music, and it's basically a mash-up. We have special guests come and spin with us from time to time. There is also a weekly (Wednesday)...a bit more relaxed party upstairs on the second floor of the Ottobar, where we can do things like the 45 battle and spin a little less dancey, but still HOT music.
For more info, check out Gentei's website, the Shop Gentei myspace page, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.