The power that a tweet can hold. On Jan. 5, music executive Damien “Ddot Omen” Washington, sent a message into the world that threw the streetwear community into a frenzy. “Y’all was out here buying fits off KARMALOOP, I ain’t forget.”
Plenty of people quickly came to the defense of Karmaloop and the threads they procured from the e-commerce site throughout the 2000s and early 2010s. In case you don’t know, Karmaloop was founded in 1999 by Greg Selkoe and became a go-to online store for some of the biggest names in streetwear like 10 Deep, Diamond Supply Co., Crooks and Castles, and HUF in the decade that followed. If you didn’t live in close proximity to streetwear’s hotbeds like Los Angeles and New York City, or know the right message boards to peruse, Karmaloop was the best way to tap in with these brands. It was curating streetwear and bringing it to the masses before the subculture was as mainstream as it is today. While streetwear purists viewed the e-commerce site as inauthentic, Karmaloop played a huge role in cultivating an entire generation’s love for fashion.
“I think it started everyone’s career almost. It started our love for clothing and making clothing. My intro into wanting to dress better was that website,” says Jacob Keller, a prominent YouTuber at the time known for his Karmaloop hauls that currently operates his own label, Bare Knuckles. “I just feel like it kickstarted everyone. I know people that said they watched my videos in 2014 and now they have jobs at big fashion houses. That era was huge.”
The downfall of Karmaloop was an unfortunate one. In March 2015, the brand filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Rumors of Damon Dash and Kanye West buying Karmaloop to save it from its tailspin never materialized. Two months later, Comvest Capital and CapX Partners bought Karmaloop for just $13 million. By June 2015, Selkoe was removed as Karmaloop CEO. The company was sold to Shiekh Shoes in March 2016. It still operates it to this day, believe it or not. The bankruptcy left many brands and partners of the site unpaid. Karmaloop owed over $19 million—as much as $313,695 to brands like 10 Deep. Despite the money left on the table, designers like 10 Deep founder Scott Sasso aren’t aren’t totally soured on that period of their careers.
“I don’t like to think of myself as a business person. I’m a culture and people person. That’s the shit I care about,” says Sasso. “I wish I had those profits today, but at the time 10 Deep was making more money than I had ever imagined that it could.”
This latest instance isn’t the first time that we’ve seen the internet recall Karmaloop and argue about its positive or negative impact on streetwear, and it won’t be the last, but seeing all of the chatter got us feeling a bit nostalgic for the time period. Things like Goodwood chains and Flud watches may not have aged gracefully, but that doesn’t mean that Karmaloop didn’t introduce thousands of people to plenty of the most important streetwear brands of all time during its heyday. We decided to talk to prominent figures from that era including Bobby Hundreds, Scott Sasso, and the very man who founded the site Greg Selkoe, to reflect on its impact within streetwear, for better or worse.
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