An interview series hosted by Popshop. To watch an abbreviated version, visit @popshop.us
Popshop sat down with Samuel Krost, the founder of the youth inspired brand KROST. Inspired by world events, KROST focuses each collection on spotlighting a non-profit organization with and impactful message.
“With every collection that we release, we partner with a different non-profit organization that we think is leading charge in raising awareness.”
With the brand being based in New York, Krost was able to understand the uncertainties brought by COVID-19 first hand. Rooted in amplifying social causes, it was destined for Krost to find his next collaboration.
About the Business
Q:Can you speak on your COVID-19 collaborations?
A: “… what hits hardest for us is that New York actually has the largest public school sector. A lot of these students rely on the public school system for their one meal a day. We quickly looked into different food banks in New York and reached out to the food bank of New York [Food Bank NYC] and asked ‘what are you guys doing’, ‘how much does it cost’ and it was just $1 for 5 meals.”
The answer became simple: release a product and donate the proceeds* to help support those in need. After the product quickly sold out, the team gathered their remaining inventory from their retail store and their factory, and sold what they could online to continue pushing proceeds towards the food bank.
*proceeds meaning all profits made after costs are covered
Q: How is your team coping with your stores being closed?
A: “This has been an incredible time for us to dig back into the DNA of the brand and ask ourselves again why we did this thing in the first place…There’s a million and one things that have to be done and another fire that needs to be put out every day and you sometimes kind of forget hey, why did we do this?”
This was a statement that stood out. Now more than ever, it is important for brands to reflect and understand their core values. Many consumers are restructuring their buying habits and looking at what is really deserving of their money. Understanding a brand’s narrative helps the consumer form a bond with the brand, which encourages loyalty.
“This has actually been an incredible opportunity for the team to sit back down and say okay, we have to accomplish everything we had going on prior to this, now let’s add another layer of work and get back to our core mission. I’m very happy to report I think our team has been working the most cohesively than we ever had …”
Q: Your brand slogan is “Support Your Friends”. What is your personal meaning behind this?
A: “Support your friends has always been a personal slogan of mine growing up. The brand story was conceptualized in March of 2018 after a mass shooting that took place in February in Parkland, Florida that really hit home for me, personally. March For Our Lives, the organization that was birthed out of tragedy by high school students, I think is when it really clicked for me what I believed the slogan to mean and that’s really being able to support one another simply based off of believing in the same thing … wanting to see the same thing.”
The slogan, which can also be left to personal interpretations, links directly back to the brand’s core mission of enacting change.
Q: As a more ethical brand, how do you see Saint Laurent pulling out of Fashion Week shifting the fashion’s long-term path?
A: “For me, it was just kind of incredible news. We launched as a DTC [direct to consumer] brand … we’ve always kind of positioned ourselves as a seasonless brand…The biggest hurdle for us internally is working on a wholesale calendar which is something that from launch I said I just don’t want to do. I don’t see that being the future in the space. I think this situation has accelerated the change that is going to happen, to have a brand like Saint Laurent first come out and say I’m not going to work on the calendar was good news for us.”
Krost continued to say that the brand’s vision doesn’t end with apparel — which is a notion other brands may want to take note of. Diversification can help a brand easily evolve with its customer’s wants and needs. It also helps the brand dip into multiple markets which increases exposure. For a brand like KROST, this means spreading more awareness of important social causes and organizations, amplifying the message of change.
Q: In general, how do you believe the retail landscape is going to change?
A: “The best part of our business since launch has been our retail. Trying to bring people into what we call a concept retail, and bring them inside the experience inside the inspiration and behind the collection. It has given us as a new brand out there, the opportunity for customers to come in and talk to us and feel the product, touch it, and that has been the greatest customer acquisition tool that we’ve had. Right now the money we invest in creating those experiences, all that time, energy, effort money, needs to be shifted to bring those experiences online.”
Krost does not currently see the brand reopening its retail store right now. He has seen incredible connective opportunities via online channels that have stemmed from social distancing orders and plans to continue shifting the brand’s focus to online retail.
Q: What have you been doing to stay sane during these times?
A: “I grew up in a small town in New Jersey, I’m here back at my paretns home. Luckily there is a basketball court and room to walk outside. I’ve just been incredibly fortunate to be as busy as we are, so I think I have been working more than I have in the past and the truth is that is what has been keeping me sane.
Krost has also been taking this time to enjoy moments with his family he might not have been able to otherwise.
Q: Any book or podcast recommendations to keep you motivated?
A: “ I have been reading Good to Great by Jim Collins, I think it’s the first book I ever had to read in college. I’m not the biggest reader, unfortunately. When I read, it’s really staying on top of current events, although I’ve kind of stopped doing that because its been sad… but a lot of industry stuff. Business of Fashion and WWD. I read [those] every day religiously. When I do read a book, it’s either self-help or business-focused.”
Q: How are you staying connected with your team?
Throughout the week, the KROST team meets together and in department-based groups via video chat to discuss current and future projects.
A: “I am very fortunate that this has birthed a new sense of enthusiasm from everyone on the team. I think that ultimately that if we, as a team, are able to come out of this alive, together and stronger than we were before, I don’t know what else can come our way that we won’t be able to overcome. Just trying to continue to keep a very optimistic and positive mentality and give that to the team too and so far so good.”
Q: Any closing thoughts?
A: “I think people underestimate the power of positivity. I am also kind of a religious guy, so I truly believe things happen for a reason. Just keep a positive mentality and approach to what's going on and I think we will be better off. [But] again, I’m not screaming this out to the world just given how sensitive everyone needs to be. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am to be here with my family who is healthy. I have a lot of close friends who have lost their relatives and friends who have had the virus, so, just taking it day by day and being sensitive to what’s happening in the world but at the same time, trying to stay positive.”
Interviewer & Writer: Georgiana Zilli
Notes: KROST’s donations have since expanded to support the Black Lives Matter movement through Campaign Zero, NAACP LDF and the Black Lives Matter Global Network. To learn more and shop the collections, visit krostnewyork.com