After decades of creative work for many of Canada's coolest brands and designers, it's inevitable that the urge to one day do your own thing will eventually kick in. But how do you do it right and when is the right time? For Montreal based designer and artist Albert Nguyen who has worked on clients like Raised By Wolves, Nike, SSENSE, 88Rising, The Bay and many others, that urge set in via his love for street culture and basketball and you know we had to jump in for the story! Albert is no stranger to Pier Five - check out his first interview here - and it was great to catch up with him to learn about his new brand and first full independent venture, Double Dribble. Check out the conversation below.
Hey Albert - great to have you back! You've worked on so many cool projects in the past. What drove you to start your own as Double Dribble?
For a long time I just really loved being the ideas guy and the designer for clients that I really respected and admired. A lot of creatives that I know will work freelance and their own thing at the same time but to be honest, having my own thing never really occurred to me or didn't make sense. I love clothing and design but I never wanted my own namesake label.
Double Dribble was first conceived through a t-shirt I worked on for The Letterbet for the 2019/2020 NBA Season but never really built out after that. This year I just started thinking about doing my own thing more and I liked the vibe of that t-shirt and how it didn't take itself too seriously. For me to start something on my own, it couldn't be too serious, in a way, or I wouldn't enjoy it.
So, what exactly is Double Dribble now? A clothing brand? Something more?
It's definitely a clothing brand first but I do want to do more with it soon. The clothing is just an entry point but I really want Double Dribble to become this basketball led community initiative with pickup runs in Montreal - and maybe other cities afterwards - as well as fundraisers, programming for women and children through basketball and I'm also working on a book!
Very cool! How do you feel the basketball scene in Montreal is right now?
There's definitely room to improve! I see a much bigger basketball scene in Toronto or Vancouver. Soccer is like what basketball is in those cities here in Montreal but a lot of people out here play. Not a lot of parks have basketball hoops here so that's one barrier. Canada is becoming such a big basketball country now so I want Montreal to be a part of that.
So starting with clothing, what is the design inspiration behind the products?
Although I don't personally skateboard, I'm really inspired by skateboard culture and how it has become so engrained into pop culture so, naturally, that had an influence on this. I wanted this to feel like a skate brand for basketball and keep things fun and lighthearted. Most of the graphics are inspired by old sport logos from the 90's and early 2000's. I kept it rather simple for the initial launch and I plan on bringing in more graphics and different pieces down the line.
I don't want to be that brand that only makes a few of their pieces and nobody can get it. I want everyone to purchase Double dribble and be excited to rock it.
How often do you plan on releasing new products?
So instead of regular drops or following a fashion calendar, I'm going to follow the basketball calendar. I launched when the NBA season started, I'll have a drop for All-Star Weekend in February, a drop for playoffs, the finals, etc. I think it's a fun and unique way to do things and really keeps the focus on basketball.
My biggest thing for releases though is I want the brand to be accessible. I don't want to be a cool guy brand. I don't want to be that brand that only makes a few of their pieces and nobody can get it. I want everyone to purchase Double dribble and be excited to rock it.
Are you still playing basketball these days?
I'm not - and it kills me. I had a bad injury not too long ago that stopped me from playing which is so hard for me. Basketball was everything for me from the moment I can remember. I played so much, it was engrained in my fashion choices, it led to the people I became best friends with and it inspired so much of my work. Now I hope to at least be able to use Double Dribble to create an avenue for others to play and meet through the sport.
That's too bad! You make a good point about basketball being such a strong channel to bring people together. That's so true!
Absolutely! Sports in general are so great for that. Basketball especially from all industries. It connected fashion to sports through Jordan and Nike, it connected with skateboarding, it connected with music.
It's also influencing how I build my team and work with people. I treat it like putting together a starting five. I think about what I'm good at and where I'm lacking and then bring in my guards, my shooters, my centers etc who can help me create something killer and operate like a well oiled machine.
That's a great analogy. We're excited to see what you and your "team" accomplish soon! What would you say is the long term goal for Double Dribble?
I just want it to bring more basketball into the community here and continue to build greater communities all over the world one day. That might be through clothing, charity work, books, or other stuff. I'm still early to this and figuring it out but I love basketball and would be happy to see Double Dribble share that love with more people I love.
Follow Double Dribble on Instagram for updates on their new drops and some of the best basketball content and keep it locked to Pier Five for more conversations with creatives like Albert coming soon!