Jeff Carvalho is Co-Founder of Highsnobiety Media based in New York and Berlin. Carvalho joined Highsnobiety in 2007 to oversee North America operations and to cultivate best in class brand partnerships on behalf of the media brand. He is known as the driving force behind the publication’s innovative lifestyle coverage, and his flair for pushing the needle forward has established him as a leading authority on the state of street style and its influence on culture.
smalltalk with Jeff Carvalho
“Old luxury, in the sense that the old rules of the closed door Madison Avenue stores, just doesn’t work anymore because accessibility and being part of the conversation are now really what new luxury is.”
How did you join Highsnobiety?
(Jeff Carvalho) In 2005, David Fisher (Co-Founder of Highsnobiety) has begun working on a Website and at the time, I had been in radio and started a podcast that was about street fashion conversation essentially. David and I had very similar ideas around the products we wanted to talk about. I really liked his vision of what he was thinking about in terms of coverage. And I also liked that he had a very European perspective. There was a lot of other properties, that were from New York. When I say properties, I mean Websites at that point or blogs.There were many others they all brought a very American point of view and I liked David’s point that was very European. So that’s what really excited me. And that’s when I said, “Hey, I’m going full time with this and focus on it.”
“I think it’s the same audience, it’s almost an evergreen audience. There’s also always a new young, kids out there who’s figuring out that they like something.”
How long it has been now working with David and Highsnobiety? (JC) It’s definitely been 13 years for me. Partnerships between I and David are great. I think what makes it interesting is that we didn’t know one another when we started working together. We’ve really been figuring out how you grow this thing. Also it’s cool that we’ve been able to keep the same mindset as well. I think he has an amazing vision of a particular way of having a conversation. And as we change and grow, it’s very interesting to watch how the conversation we have has changed. Not just with the audience, I think it’s the same audience and I think that their habits and tendencies have changed. And I also think it’s almost an evergreen audience. There’s always a new young, you know, kid out there who’s figuring out that they like something.
“A lot of people come to New York looking to find a career. But I was bringing something to New York and I was getting back from the city where very like minded people are.”
Were you always been living in New York and what is so great about living inNew York? (JC) No, I wasn’t. I was in Boston for many years, I worked out of Boston. But in 2011 we came to New York. And what I found really cool about coming to New York is that, a lot of people come to New York looking to find a career. But I was bringing something to New York and I was getting back from the city where very like minded people are. In Boston, it was great to connect. But at that point, a lot of what we were doing, not just from the technology side, but also from the conversation, you could have both of those in New York. And it’s it’s amazing. There’s all the disciplines are there. And the very best of those disciplines are in New York. And it’s I love it for that. How easy it is, how convenient it can be to have a coffee with somebody that you admire. if you want to have a conversation with somebody that’s a specialist in, you can find somebody that actually you know. New York offers the ability to have a coffee. But sort of the the downfall of New York is if you don’t stay ahead of New York, you can be eaten alive. You got to keep up.
Favorite place to eat in your neighborhood? (JC) I’ve only lived in Brooklyn since moving to New York and I’m a big fan of this Middle Eastern, Israeli place called 12 Chairs. And it’s just one of my favorites. I have so many favorites. I think why food is so good in a place like New York is because rent is high and people are finicky here. And people will support what’s good. So you really have to make amazing food in order to cook in New York. You can always find good food in New York.
The numbers are like this, 3000 restaurants in New York, which is also incredibly scary if you think about what’s happening right now (COVID-19), because they can only do takeout now. They cannot take seating. What’s interesting is that there’s a very famous and super hot Italian restaurant called Carbone on Thompson Street and it’s impossible to get a reservation. And today they sent out a notification that they’re now doing takeout. These are four and five star restaurants that are now going to takeout. How’s the business? it’s devastating if they don’t. I feel like we’re living in the future where this maybe one of the biggest epidemics that we have dealt with as it as the world maybe since 9/11. This impacts everybody and it’s going to show us a new reality of how to live.
“When we look at new luxury, a lot of it comes to our mind is the fact that, everything is accessible to everyone. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone can have it. It’s not so much about you having to own it, but the idea that you can still have it.”
As the title of very-beautifully-well-made recent book, “The New Luxury” says the term of luxury shifted dramatically over the years. What is luxury in culture and in fashion now? (JC) Thank you. I take no credit, is my team. It’s the luxury as a term, In sort of unlocking it from the old sort of troops or classifications of what have had to be luxury. I think the first thing that would come to people’s minds is its value in money, how much they cost and then being artisanal or made well. And I think that because of the changing generation that we have and all of the narratives, are correct about what they’re into and maybe how much more credibility is important to them and how they want to support. They want to support brands that believe in a belief what they believe in or stand by some sort of value that they agree with. It’s changed luxury in the sense that the old rules of sort of the closed door Madison Avenue stores just doesn’t work anymore because excessive, things like accessibility and being part of the conversation are now really what luxury is. And it’s a change of conversation about many ways who’s in control of it, who’s defining what luxury is. Because the old rules just do not align with how the future of this world is thinking. So when we look at new luxury, a lot of it comes to our mind is the fact that, everything’s accessible to everyone. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone can have it. The way I like to think about it is sort of an open door, essentially.If you didn’t have a certain look, The door was always locked because they were deciding who could come in. Today, the world is flat and so that we all are allowed to be in there. And again, it’s not so much about you having to own it, but the idea that you can still have it.It’s one of the conversations that comes up a lot around the Instagram generation: walking into stores and photographing themselves with the latest Louis Vuitton piece. And should we allow them to take photo of themselves even if they are not buying the product?
(JC) The second thing, I think that there’s change in luxury, the idea of longevity, how long you’ve been here. The legacy is a better term.We all know the houses of Hermes, Chanel and Dior how long they’ve been here. How long they’ve been producing these goods under the houses. Conversation that comes up around ‘new luxury’ brand is Off-White. When we do a luxury survey, which we did for the book, which was really trying to identify a lot of how these consumers thinking about the term luxury. They were ranking brands like Off-White. The most important luxury brand Off-White hasn’t been here a long time. So I think the idea that you have to be here for many generations in order to be considered luxury is just no longer the case because the consumer is really defining what they are willing to spend their money on. And I think it’s interesting to me because it’s a conversation I used to have a lot around the Apple iPhone. The original Apple iPhone. At some point the iPhone became incredibly sleek it just became something very different and had a high price point. But a lot of people would never consider Apple a luxury brand. And I think they really are a luxury brand today. Certainly they have products like iPhone SE, which is a lower-end model that’s made more accessible for consumers. That’s no different, in my opinion, then walking into Gucci and getting the Gucci belt. If you really want to have Gucci on you. But what they’re making is a product that essentially, is a high-end, product. There may be somebody else that doesn’t agree with me in terms of luxury. And again, to the argument I made first, does the fact that it cost a thousand dollars make it a luxury product? So these are the things that we think about and sort of explore in ‘The New Luxury‘.
“I’m still a huge fan of Levi’s. It is just the quintessential part of America. It’s funny because I went to private school so I didn’t actually own Levi’s until I was maybe 17 or 18, I was always in uniform. When I discovered jeans I started collecting vintage Levi’s. It just changed my life.”
Favorite street brands? (JC) I come from the world of like punk rock culture. So for me, it’s always the ones that were sort of anti-establishment. FUCT for sure. Absolutely. It was much more influential on me than Stussy. I’m really obsessed with what Carhartt has done and continues to do. WIP is very much its own thing. I think WIP is great, but I still wear the original Carhartt. I’m still a huge fan of Levi’s. It is just the quintessential part of America. It’s funny because I went to private school so I didn’t actually own Levi’s until I was maybe 17 or 18, I was always in uniform. So when I discovered jeans I started collecting vintage Levi’s. It just changed my life.But in traditional streetwear brands, there’s these crossover brands that don’t want to be defined as street wear that are played very important roles like Visivim. When I think my all time favorite would be Bounty Hunter from Tokyo.
Most memorable moments from your career with Highsnobiety? (JC) When our team came together the best and when I understood the power of what we could do was probably the first Yeezy season. It a funny story, I don’t think I’ve ever shared publicly. When the first show ended everyone leaves the show and they go backstage. I had my photographer taking photos into a phone, into a laptop and that laptop was uploading photos of the Dropbox for editors offsite. Because you have to be super quick but the connection was so slow inside of the space that I had to sit there and wait. Everyone left even the backstage people left. And then all of a sudden the somebody comes out and every model starts walking back out. And they were re-lining everybody up essentially to do locations. The place is empty except me and my photographer. They didn’t allow photographers at the show. But photographer I had with me, he was one of our guys who came with me to shoot if we could possibly shoot. As soon as all the models re-line up I told my photographer to go to the riser because nobody was stopping us. And he took a photo. And the photo that the really first full look of the collection was ours. What people probably don’t recognize, in the seats there’s nobody there. So it’s one of these cool kind of Easter eggs.
If you were not doing what you’re doing, What would you be doing? (JC) Running a magazine store, newsstand.