In conversation with David BenDavid
Interview by Jana Letonja
One of today’s most influential celebrity fashion designers of the 21st century, David BenDavid (DBD) is a pioneer in travel fashion. Since starting Sprayground in 2010, the brand has exploded into the scene and was at the forefront of the backpack movement. Now being sold in 30 different countries with over 20 distributors and several pop-up locations international, Sprayground is expanding rapidly.
Sprayground is celebrating its 13th anniversary and will be launching their biggest collection ever. The collection will include over 100 never-seen-before bag designs that are sure to turn heads.
David, you started Spraygorund in 2010. What inspired the idea to create your own brand and especially a brand specialized in backpacks and bags?
I have always had a creative need to express myself in unique ways. Growing up, I thought that all backpacks looked the same and were boring and mundane. I wanted to change that and create something that would turn heads, be challenging, eye-catching and a vehicle for self-expression and individuality. Over the past 13 years, we have expanded to all kinds of bags, such as handbags, totes and duffles, as well as luggage, apparel, gaming chairs and more. Fans are constantly asking us to incorporate our style into different items and that is the best feeling in the world. Knowing that there is a growing community of people who align with your vision and want more is truly fulfilling.
Your first bag was named ‘Hello My Name Is’ and it became an instant hit. What was the inspiration behind that first bag and its name? How do you choose names for each bag?
I drew inspiration from the iconic ‘Hello My Name Is’ identification badges. I remember wearing them on the first day of school to identify myself and let others know who I was. I wanted to translate that concept into a backpack and wrapped the ‘Hello My Name Is’ design prominently on it. When it launched, it was an instant success. This was a sign that I was on the right track with what I wanted to create and that there was a need for fashion items that served a bigger purpose than just carrying your stuff.
I love to play with words and give them fun and outlandish names. Each collection is unique and the name needs to reflect that. I collaborate with musician Sandflower, who is also the Content Creative Director of Sprayground. She is a great writer, so we name the bags together. Ultimately, we use those names to create content stories for the campaign lifestyle photos.
Where do you draw inspiration for today when designing new pieces?
I draw inspiration from anywhere, from the graffiti in the NYC subway to the most beautiful mountains in Southern Asia. I like to bring a notebook and a pencil with me everywhere I go because ideas come to me like flashes and I need to start creating sketches at that exact moment. I love to pay attention to my surroundings. There is so much to see and get inspiration from. You just need to open your eyes and mind and appreciate the things around you. Also, sometimes I just stare at the bag and imagine all the ways to transform it.
That first bag attracted every celebrity and athlete to start wearing your bags. How did it feel to get such recognition?
I only dreamt of it, but I never thought I would receive that kind of love so quickly. It’s always thrilling when people you admire wear your designs. I feel very blessed to be able to experience that. It is also incredible when we collaborate with them and design bags from scratch. It’s always exciting when I sit down with other creatives from different realms to create something unique that matches their style and personality.
The brand has become a collectible item for its famous Shark Mouth art piece, which can be found on most of the bags. What made you decide on shark mouth being the main art piece of all your designs?
I’m always pushing myself to create something unique and extraordinary and the shark mouth is a perfect illustration of that. We have witnessed the evolution of the shark mouth from a simple three-colored design to a wide range of variations, and fans absolutely adore it. It has become an integral part of the brand’s DNA. Additionally, we have introduced various characters that have become top sellers, such as the Money Bear. It’s the brand’s playful personality that truly resonates with our audience. While the shark remains a small component of the brand, our creativity extends to our own characters, original street art designs, fashion cut and sew pieces and a wide array of freestyle art that simply embodies fun.
All products are made in limited runs and are never produced again. Is there a special reason behind this decision?
Everything I create is a limited edition and will never be produced again. I love being an individual and I want that uniqueness to extend to my fans and customers. We are all created uniquely and we all have our own fresh style. However, many people struggle to express themselves, so I made it easier for everyone by offering super limited items. It’s rare that someone will pass you with the same identical bag now.
‘Sprayground’ is known for its huge collaborations with celebrities and mega brands, such as Buzz Aldrin, Cazzu, Chris Brown, Shaquille O’Neal, Spike Lee, The Game and Young Thug, as well as Disney, Marvel,The NBA, Nickelodeon, Peloton, Porsche and more. How do you choose celebrities and brands you collaborate with?
I collaborate only with brands and individuals whose vision aligns with ours and who have a good vibe. We receive numerous collaboration requests, so we are very selective. When it comes to collaborating, I am very hands on. I enjoy creating pieces that tell stories that people can relate to and identify with, so they can make them their own. Recently, we collaborated with ‘Avatar: The Way Of Water’ and had the opportunity to visit James Cameron’s studio. It was truly amazing to work with people we admire and experience such opportunities.
This year, ‘Sprayground’ is celebrating its 13th anniversary and you’ll be launching your biggest collection ever, including over 100 never-seen-before bag designs. How does it feel being in the fashion world for 13 years already and celebrating such success?
I don’t take this for granted. I thank the Most High every single day for all of the blessings. I’m so grateful for the success we’ve seen. The team and I all work focused and it shows in our work. We’ve always tried to create a new story and level up with each collection and our fans appreciate that.
Tell us more about the 100 never-seen-before bag designs that you’ll unveil for the anniversary.
If I could describe this collection in one word, it would be escape. I want you to feel like you can escape into your imagination with these new bags. There are 111 new designs, each one unique and eye-catching. We have incorporated vibrant colors and new silhouettes, as well as re-imagined collections of some of our fans’ favorites. Additionally, you will see new collaborations, stories and lots of cool surprises. We strive to keep our fans entertained and happy and that is exactly what we did for our 13-year golden birthday anniversary.
David, what are the most important things to you in life, in business and in your design process?
As a CEO and Creative Director, it is important to use your platform to inspire, build a good team of creative individuals, utilize your resources to help talented individuals who need an opportunity and contribute positively to your community, culture and environment. The brand has a global impact and being authentic and passionate in everything you do is crucial to making a real difference.
I am constantly inspired and excited by the people and experiences around me when I travel. When it comes to design, I love experimenting and challenging myself, my team and the brand. I am always striving to take things to the next level. Without innovation, we have nothing. Creating new ideas and experiences is what drives me.