Interview by Gerardo Sierra
Text by Gerardo Sierra & Aramara Corona
Photographer: W. A. Jones
Creative direciton & Styling: Mykel C. Smith
A little after CULT OF INDIVIDUALITY’s SS2022 presentation, we had the chance to talk for a little while with Ron Poisson, the businessman in fashion that believes that the best creations come from passion and knowing that taste comes from what connects through our communication to others. I knew about his work thanks to instagram and a great friend of mine, Mykel C.Smith, the creative director behind high end fashion brands braking the industry today in NY.
Gerardo Sierra: Well, Tell me! How are you right now? Because I just know that, you had your presentation and it has really really good.
Ron Poisson: Yeah! We did the fashion show for the two brands and we just actually came back from Vegas. The first project trade show in almost two years. So that was good. Actually it was good to see the retailers about their, the energy, the enthusiasm and people were excited. So response was good. Be back to that now.
Gerardo Sierra: You’ve been working on this for quite time now…
Ron Poisson: CULT? Yeah! CULT was launched in 2009, so we are 12 years into it now. And it´s evolved, the brand started as a denim brand only with a jeans, basically for bootcut simple relaxed fit jeans. And, you know the inspiration for the whole name cult came from denims occult phenomenon grants that individual expression of who you are so we can all wear jeans. You and I could wear the same, but the way we accessorize it and do everything else, it brings out our own personality and that was the premise of the brand. But I was trying to recreate that favorite pair of jeans you’ve had in your wardrobe forever. That no matter where you go in, you fix them and repair them. They always find their way in the luggage for every vacation, every trip. So that was the emotion I was trying to evoke with the brand and it’s evolved so much since then. Now obviously as full lifestyle denims, you know sweatshirts, T-shirts, outerwear, snorkels, leathers, skateboard decks, lighters, sunglasses, key chains, candles, bikes, slides, bathing suits. The brand is definitely come into its own as a full lifestyle brand.
Gerardo Sierra: May I ask. Why is it so? Why is there so much passion from you in jeans?
Ron Poisson: Urban wear is something common, but until all, like I always say that is like a highlight of your life. Well, the passion, I mean, I started in the surf industry. I was always artistic from high school having my own T-shirt brands going into college. Have my, you know, doing my t-shirts and then designing t-shirts for the clubs and fraternities and everything. When I got my first job was with Ocean Pacific and Mossimo, two surf brands and that caught me. I mean, I was an avid surfer growing up in Rhode Island. I was very fortunate enough to land a job with Ocean Pacific and what I learned being at OP is that to create something that’s meaningful for the end consumer, to inspire them, you have to live and breathe kind of culture or soul to what we do and that was a surf culture. It didn’t matter if you lived in Montana, there was no ocean. You want to be that Cali lifestyle you bought that clothing. We learned that the music world really start to embrace itself to the brand, to gravitate toward and I did some gift lounges at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I did a lot of different things and word of mouth just start to spread organically. One thing that’s amazing about our branding, that I hear from everybody, is “Ron, you cross pollinate all genres and all ethnicities, actually without being stereotyped”. You know, I have legendary rock and roll musicians current and past. In the product, we have hip-hop and country and reggae tone and it’s really a unique situation that all of these worlds kind of coexist and interact and actually you see the interaction in our Instagram. Where you know, these guys will come and holy **** I can’t believe so and so is wearing the same thing so it creates this community of creative minds and artists. And that’s what we’ve built with this brand. That’s what makes you passionate. From the musician myself as a hobby and everything in it. It’s the organic nature of my knowledge of music industry and the interaction with the musicians really lends itself to come across as very natural. And when I meet these musicians and so they say “hey, you know I’m on tour right now”. These guys keep looking at my jeans. I´ve seen the double axis, which you want to connect with them. I’m like “sure” giving my cellphone, then the next minute calling me up “Hey this is so nice to meet you blah blah blah this guy told me about your brand and it’s like I said it’s across”. Looking these people excited about the brand out there and sharing. The biggest thing that has taken off for us is the logo of the brand. A little shimmy changa. That actually came from me. I was designing a logo for my band. The band name is Fools for Kings and I’m like “oh! What I did”. This is 10 years into having a brand. Mind you because I tried to design my own logo in the past, I had in-house guys, Triad freelance guys. I wanted something resonated. It became symbolic of Cult of Individuality without having to say it in this logo. It has transformed this brand into all those categories I was talking about as a complete lifestyle brand. Going from 95% jeans and probably 40% down in 60% of all the other categories actually doing a cannabis strain this fall. With a company out of California. So all these collaborations have been, you know, exciting. My goal is to be able to penetrate everyone’s household somehow, someway. And so I can touch people’s lives everyday all the time. Whether it’s the wearing, the product, whether it’s drinking, the beer, smoking the weed, riding a skateboard, whatever it is, I want to kind of weave my tapestry into their homes.
Gerardo Sierra: Why do you want to do that? Like, the thing that you want people to perceive from your brand
Ron Poisson: I always want to put in my hashtags to inspire greatness so I talk about what we do. It’s with social media. What’s the social currency? How we enriching people’s lives? How do we help make them better? And whether it’s the clothing that helps them feel better about themselves because they wanted people to perceive them in a certain way and they see the community of artists that are wearing it. I want them to jump into.
What we do is called individuality to inspire and we do a lot of things. We do called sessions where we bring all different artists into our office or Instagram sessions and give them a platform to get their craft out In association with cult of individuality. So in our office in Manhattan we built this 3500 square foot lounge. It’s a full black line bar, little lounge area, electronic dartboard and artists come in and get creative. We have so many people that have used our spaces as a launching point for their career.
It was our podcast sessions on Instagram that we were doing during COVID that kept us in the public eye, which was great, and in our podcast interviewing three different genres of musicians and getting to expose our cult audience to these artists. Like I said, we would do three different genres of rock musicians in these interviews, so it might have been Luis Fonsi, along with Gavin Rossdale from Bush and Dave East in a session. So we move. You know it was Latin, it was the hip-hop, it was the rock community and initially my marketing team was like “I’m not really sure that’s gonna work” ‘cause people who want to hear Luis might not want to hear Gavin from Bush or whatever. And I said “You know what? That’s not what we’re about”. We’re about equality and bringing this community together. I said maybe they will. Maybe they won’t, but that’s who we are as a brand and we stuck with it. And it actually went phenomenal. Phenomenal people stayed in the session the whole time. I stayed in so incredible and then we engage the end consumers as well. Saying, “Go download a song from each artist. Send us screenshots”. Maybe that artist got a new follower.
The clothing for me is been phenomenal, but it’s really everything that goes into the mix. I mean, the most common word here for us, and that’s for me, a badge of honors. Making great quality ‘cause there’s a lot of products out there and these people are choosing CULT and wearing it, whether they’re an average person everyday or they’re an influencer. It feels good to see or walk out in the street and seeing people with our product.
Gerardo Sierra: Well, you said something really, I think it’s key for every entrepreneur or businessman or businessperson anyway, because you had your marketing team telling you something and you went with your own at the end of the day. You are the only person that really knows the voice of the brand or the business that you’re working on because it’s like, I always say that it’s kind of like your alter ego, so I’d like to ask what would you like to tell other people. People that are feeling like they need to be an entrepreneur or have some sort of project, something that they want to do. I’m like, there’s something real that you can share with them.
Ron Poisson: Listen, I’m going through it now. My daughter just graduated from college, my son is a junior, and the lesson I give them and the advice I give them is to follow themselves. What do you love to do? What is that thing that motivates you and drives you, inspires you? Just try to find a job. That is in that field because it’ll feel less like work and be ultimately more gratifying.
In terms of the clothing and design for people that I am approached all the time, “Hey, do you have any advice for me? I’m a Taurus, I’m a bull so I’m very stubborn in terms of my perspective and how I see things and that’s good and it’s bad”. I advise people. There’s always going to be people in the ears. “You know you should do this. You should do that now. You should do this. You should change this. You should do that”.
I think it’s important to not compromise your integrity as an artist and that could be clothes and it could be music and to follow your dream.
Ron Poisson, 2021
It’s important to hear the input from people that are around you. I’ve learned every single day, whether it’s from people that work for me, that work with me or that come into the office is something I learned every single day, and I think it’s important for everybody to keep that open. But then also to filter. What that information is and then still make it your own.
For instance, there were many times when I launched in 2009 or some of the brands that were hot back then for denim true religion, you know, rock and Republic were all crystals in the back. There was a lot going on, all these brands were very loud and embellishing in the pockets in the thick stitch and all that stuff in my factory. It’s not my thing you know I don’t want to be that big automatized thing. Long story short so these are some those brands that were mentioned have fallen by the wayside or maybe not even in business. And they’re not around anymore. And here I am. So you know. And I and trust me as an only child Taurus. I take every opportunity to remind the factory that look after all said and done 12 years later, who’s still around doing business and who’s not. But you know, when they wanted me to change the aesthetic so you gotta hear, I added some little things in that. One thing that I did realize, which is a very important because you know, I’m 52 years old. When I started the brand, I decided to not put anything in the collection that I didn’t personally wear. Time is time is moving on. I realized I can’t do that because it’s important as an artist as a brand, it’s always important to maintain a youth. And if I don’t keep in touch with that, I’ll get passed by. So I brought in younger people to work. For me they have different perspectives on their eyes. And looking at trends and look at what’s going on.
My design team is myself. Another guy who’s been working for three years and another guy who’s been with me for about six years now. And we’re all different personalities. One guy is Korean, one guy is Dominican and then here I am and each have a different taste level at different creative direction. But when we work together we all kind of hold it, hear, learn and have fun ‘cause I want you to be here and I want to be happy and be a family. You know, we’re not huge team in terms of design, marketing and sales, in my warehouse in California we are a small team. We make big things happen.
Gerardo Sierra: So tell me, is there anything that you want to share with me? Well, you know what do you want to share in terms of the brand?
Ron Poisson: Stay tuned because even though we were twelve years into this, we are just starting to scratch the surface of our potential. We are continuing to license many incredible bands and incorporating them into our collection. You know, we did Bob Marley last season. We have Naughty By Nature that worshiping with us about capsule for them and in December we have the 30 year anniversary, spring 22 you’re gonna see amazingcow.com collaborations with legends like Mötley Crüe and the Rock World Pantera. So amazing collaborations coming up. The launch of the new collection called Human which is different from Kohl’s with cult. They were interested in music world and embellished with normal sized human, is a much cleaner, sexier, basic line.
The premise behind is that there’s one race. The human race were chosen to prevail, so it’s about getting back to our humanity and everything that’s happened in the world in the last two years. The violence towards the racism, the robotics you know, taking over jobs. I think it’s important for us to kind of come back in and reconnect with our humanity and we’re all here together to work together. So that new brand that’s starting to ship in the next couple of weeks that we will check that out as well.
Ron with Shae and Jae for “Ascension” SS22
Gerardo Sierra: I wanted to ask you well, how do you feel about having a big boat buying your folder products from all over the world without you even know like noticing them?
Ron Poisson: Yeah, you know it’s crazy. We get analytics, Google Analytics or you know a website to see the countries of where we’re shipping product. It’s amazing. I think one of the biggest gratifications is just walking in the city and seeing somebody wearing the brand. Taking you know, taking place all over the world, and this is incredible. My dad, got emotional when I saw him. He’s living in Florida and he started to cry is like I’m so proud of you. My parents always believed in the potential of greatness doing things. Moreover, sometimes it’s hard to accept it yourself. So that got me emotional, having the support of my wife and my kids who none of this would be able to happen without my wife who has been immensely involved in the business behind the scenes every day. Sometimes I wish a little less because I get home from work and then it’s work, work, work, work, work, work, work, that’s good and that’s bad. I mean, a lot of people think that they can like divide things when it comes to your own business, but the truth is that it’s part of you know, it’s impossible, but it’s good that you’re able to put like those kind of boundaries because people, when they don’t do that, relationships come to like really bad terms.
It was an honor to talk with Ron, he’s got a vibe that really makes you want to notice what you can achieve once you let your mind fly and then put everything down on paper. Feel free to learn more about him through his instagram account or directly in CULT’s instagram and now in HVMAN’s account.