Sassy socks, bold booties
Jon Stevenson of Trumpette
Jon Stevenson, founder of the luxury childrens' line Trumpette, isn't really into “sweet,” and he wishes you'd just let your baby wear purple socks, already. Founded more than 20 years ago, the oft-imitated luxury-clothing and accessories brand—now sold in department stores like Barney's, Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus—is known for its signature socks made to look like Mary Janes and its irreverent, fun spirit. Stevenson sat down recently with SN&R in the Trumpette headquarters at 19th and I streets to talk Andy Warhol, copy cats, fuchsia socks and plans to expand into women's and men's socks.
Trumpette was inspired by your son Nicky and creating onesies for him, and now he’s 25. Does he still influence the brand?
You know, he doesn't. I changed my whole career, hoping that he was going to be involved in it. He's very creative, but he is into hair. And his father doesn't have any.
What does a person’s choice of socks say about them?
Socks have a lot to say about what kind of person you are. I'm the type of person that would wear an all-black suit—white shirt, black tie, black shoes—and fuchsia socks.
But you know what's really interesting? We started out selling egg cartons with 12 pairs of baby socks, and one of the colors was purple. I don't think purple's an offensive color, but it was amazing how many women would say, “My husband would never let me put purple on my baby.” Or, “My baby would never wear purple.” And I'm going: “Does your baby know? He sees colors already?” This only happened over the purple socks. Not the fuchsia.
Any plans to make socks for adults?
Yes! I'm so excited. Fall of 2013, we're launching men's, women's and kids. The women's collection is called “Moi.” Wait 'til you see the frickin' packaging. We get in there and we just start brainstorming, and bam! It happens.
You’ve got a line of socks inspired by the whole pop-art, Andy Warhol movement. I take it you’re a fan?
Yes, I am. I have an original Andy Warhol silkscreen in the hall. When I was doing this little onesie, I got licensing, but not from Andy Warhol. It was a tribute to him; he'd passed away. We'd taken the Campbell Soup can and silkscreened it really big [on a onesie]—we never did “baby sweet.” I get a phone call from the Andy Warhol Foundation—a cease and desist. And I said, “Uh, excuse me, but I think you need to call Campbell Soup, because I got [the licensing] from them.”
If you could ask Warhol one question, what would it be?
“How did you silkscreen those big ol' images?” (Laughs). I don't think he inspires me artistically. I like his artwork, but I'm not inspired by it. I'm an art collector, but I'm inspired by big, bold things. I don't like landscapes. I can't relate to them. … Everything I do is big.
Where else do you draw inspiration from?
Believe it or not—I hope this doesn't sound egotistical—but it just comes when I'm showering or getting dressed, or driving down the street. I really don't shop the market. I hate going to the department stores. I hate going to trade shows, because I see all the knockoffs.
Trumpette will hopefully always—knock on wood—maintain its ability to always be a forerunner in the industry. In one of our catalogs it actually says “Our baby socks rock. That's why there's so many copy cats.” So I was right in [their faces], you know?
Fill in the blank: A child that wears Trumpette will grow up to be …
You’ve got Disney-, Peanuts- and Yo Gabba Gabba-themed stuff. How do you decide on a collection?
We just got licensing with Hello Kitty. We've been a fortunate company. We don't have to go knocking on their doors. They knock on our doors.
Can I put in a request for a Game of Thrones sock series?
(Laughs). That's cute. That's a cute idea.