We sat down with our founder here at Distinguish'd Minds to learn more about his history in design and how Distinguish'd Minds came about. Obviously we have all heard the surface level story but we wanted to pry a little deeper into the thought process, struggles faced, and how he overcame them to be where we are today.
Quickly into the interview I knew the title would be called the Jason Robinson Effect. He spoke openly and candidly about so many talented humans, and how he met so many of them right before they blew up. He also gave amazing insight to his process and how he handles pressures of family and social media while still growing a brand, heartbreak and other various topics. It was apparent to me that either he had exceptional timing, an eye for talent, and/or was simply just a missing piece in so many people's career but more importantly, his own. Let's take a read into our interview and see if we all reach the same conclusion.
Jason start by helping the readers understand your credibility. Who are you, what do you do, and who all have you worked with/ gven merch to?
Well, okay. My name is Jason Robinson, I founded Distinguish'd Minds back in 2011. Around that time streetwear was Fairfax, Soho, Japan, Haight, and etc. It wasn't as internet as today, but it was well on it's way. I however was able to use the internet to create notoriety for myself and for the brand. I used to use Twitter mainly to reach out to people, and I would blindly email any and everyone. I received a lot of responses, but I assumed that is exactly how it was supposed to go. I've been able to meet so many talented people and have been able to put the brand on so many humans, its honestly a blessing. Most of these humans I was able to catch before they were huge. Kendrick, J.Cole, Big Sean, Teyana Taylor, Erk tha Jerk, Loverance, Sage the Gemini, Draymond Green, Mary Mary and her family; and the list goes on. I personally don't believe that those are the things that make me credible though. I have focused on creating quality products and telling great stories, and that is what I am proud of with this company!
How did you manage to come across so many people on the come up? What was your approach to getting them to work with you?
Most of it was just time and place and hustle. It was a variety of things and at that age, it was a lot of trying different things. What typically worked was being respectful of people's time and asking how can I insert myself into their world. I did a lot of trade shows and events, and that also was a big help. It didn't hurt that I was fly, I had charisma, and I spoke with confidence. Back then it was a lot easier, today I would say it's better to pay people for their time, but if you do not have the funds, barter and see how you can help without the expectation of anything in return. Be patient until you see a window that allows you to help using the skills you are pursuing.
Random, but what is your favorite color, food, and aesthetic?
My favorite color or lack there of, is Gray/Grey. It is soooo pleasing to the eye to me, and it fits where ever you put it. Most of the clothes I typically wear are some form of gray. It's this idea to me that it is right in the middle of everything. It is light enough, but dark enough, it is confident but also silent. It's right in the middle of everything, and that is life. I over philosophized that on purpose though. (hahah)
My favorite food is maybe tacos right now. But I should be saying meal prep because that's what my diet mostly consists of. Lean ground turkey meat balls, a veggie, and brown rice.
My current favorite aesthetic is medium format film photography. I'm literally fawning over it as of late. It's the depth of each photo taken, because when taken correctly you literally feel like you can reach through the photo and touch what's there. The tones are so deep and realistic, and that is special to me. I believe all art is about capturing a moment or creating a mood, but I think the best art feels real, or at least possible.
So Jason, we've all heard so much about your baseball background, and how that shifted after your father passed away. But thinking back, what was that pivotal moment that made you say, I'm going to design tee shirts and develop a brand?
I was at this point in life where I felt "too grown" to not have more. I was in this relationship and also felt like I needed a car, and my family needed more from me. Basically when my dad passed I mentally became the man of the house and took on a crazy amount of responsibility in my head. Much of which I fudged up (hahaha). I approached clothes early on as a hustle, so for me I was making whatever little money and buying things needed for myself or loved ones. I bought my first car and my second car and that felt super dope. These little things gave this level of confidence that didn't really relate to real life, I was larger than life. Life has a way of humbling that by the way (hahaha). My outlook on how big the world actually is, was so much smaller back then.
At such a young age it is obvious that you knew you were different especially to name your brand Distinguish'd Minds, how has your philosophies of the brand and personally, changed over the years as you've grown older and wiser?
Yes, I've known I was different from since I can remember. I had a very strict view on right and wrong. I always took people for their word, and lost trust if they didn't mean what they said. I was this young kid who loved old music, an aesthetic that sticks with me to this day. My family used to say I've been here before, and honestly I wouldn't doubt it by the way I have Deja Vu so often. I named the brand after being told to google the word Distinguished from my history teacher, and it literally just connected with my soul and the way I think.
Over time I've honed in on what that all really means to me. Back then it was simply leaders, rebels, and artists. Today it is still that but digging a little deeper into the brand's motto being to "Distinguish yourself from the rest", and the depth of that quote. It was about being different in the beginning, but now it's more so about knowing each person is unique or Distinguish'd, so really about simply being who you really are!
I have a host of other philosophies that I live by but, those I keep private currently!
Jason, name the first time you thought you would quit, and what helped you keep going. Were there any other times that you had to fight through a large amount of adversity that you'd like to inspire the readers with?
Adversity, well I've learned something unique about that. Life is adversity. It's all about how you view the things you're up against. Most people view adversity as things "not going their way," but in reality, we all have the power to shift anything in our direction with a little work and understanding of how to pivot or adjust. My advise for adversity is don't fight it! You need to learn to understand and how to overcome it. We chase perfection, but life is perfect as is as long as you live.
So yes, on many occasions I've thought quitting sounded nice, I have a few solid humans to encourage me, and today I have learned to self reflect, and understand life a little better. If it makes you happy never quit is what I tell myself!
Your brand seems to be equal parts art, story telling, and style. How fine of a line do you feel like you have to walk to please these 3 key brand ethos? How did you come up with this concept?
Immediately these 3 ethos were a part of the brand. The brand is truly built on story telling and art, in all honestly style came over time. I was telling stories and creating art that were variations of my life. I learned how to play beer pong so I made a Pong life hoodie, I bought Cardinal 7's, I made the sweater to match and etc.
Today the brand focuses on core branding and simplifying art, but going deeper into story telling and style. I use several mediums to story tell. I wanted people to focus on what the brand stood for which is Distinguishing yourself from the rest by identifying what makes you unique. Art has not moved to the back seat though, it is just more refined.
You've spoke on many occasions about separation and heart break, how did these things effect you both positively and negatively throughout your process of building your company and also personally/mentally?
Honestly, I seen the world different from a young age. With so much potential in baseball left behind and the passing of my dad, I wasn't anything like other kids around me. I was a lot more alert and every moment felt like it mattered more. I was always the serious guy, because I didn't feel like I had time. I lost a lot of friends to this, honestly. Imagine being 18, and sounding like your friends dads' all the time. (hahaha) I was right though (I always think I'm right)! Don't get me wrong I partied and enjoyed life, sometimes maybe a little too hard, but I ultimately knew that my approach to life was to make sure everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, I loved would be well taken care of.
What you learn is most people want to get it on their own and sometimes you step on toes just by trying to help, and other times humans just simply don't believe in you, all of which is okay when living, loving, and learning life.
What was the first light beam that shined that told you that you were doing the right thing with your brand?
Now!!!!! So many people have called me successful over my life, and all it really did was confuse me! I always strive for more, but for the first time I know I'm doing this right. This 2019 release was the first time I stayed patient and made sure everything was perfect to my eye and aesthetic, and beliefs. I approached this release without a sale in mind, but to really touch people's hearts, and make them think about the stories we are telling. I worked with people I believed in, and my team really supported me through this entire process no matter how difficult I was no matter how "Steve Jobs" like I was. So I owe the biggest thank you to you guys for where this brand is going!
What would you say is your biggest lesson thus far in your business?
Patience! There is no short cut. You are 100% better off talking to 10 people with a quality conversation than 100 people and not remembering their names and them not remembering yours. Ultimately what I am saying is, you have to build it. Build your business everyday, add a new feature everyday, keep it clean its like a child, something new will happen everyday, but you do not give up. You stay patient and adjust, and learn new ways of handling old problems, and/or new one's as well!
If you could have a dinner party with the 3 people who would they be and why?
The very first man on earth, Hitler, and Gandhi. I have this weird interest in origin of everything, especially life. I want to know what mattered then. I want to sit with Hitler because he was a master of propaganda, but I really want to hear this mans inner most thoughts, plus conspiracies interest me. Lastly, Gandhi was a man of peace, I want to know how he handled the pressures of life, what his diet was, what he believed in himself that his mission was.
I'd also like to sit with Gary Vee and Gordon Parks as bonus people.
How do you handle the pressure of family not necessarily understanding your process, social media judgment, and staying true to yourself?
Again, it goes back to that thing I was saying about how I view time and the people I love. I apply more pressure to myself than anyone every could, because I'm still working towards this huge plan in my head. I'm teaching the world to believe in me as well, and that requires a lot of patience and empathy!
I've learned most people don't have the list of skills I have, and the determination I have, so that is how I have learned to stay true to me. My vision is super unique and it is bigger than the world could even imagine, bigger than I'll even explain to most people. Ultimately, I deal with everything with love and empathy first. I know that most people are still learning to believe in me, and often times themselves, so the assumption is that what I'm doing is super possible or tainted in some way. I love the adversity today, because it means I get to still play the game, I get to keep leveling up, and I get to keep inspiring.
I do have one human I get to talk to a lot though when the pressure does get thick, and I am so extremely grateful for them, cause we all need an ear sometimes.
Any words that you would like to leave the audience:
I love you all first and foremost because that is the energy I really want to put out. I would say never stop chasing your dream, but as of today start planning harder.
Know yourself: If this doesn't make sense, it will in due time.
Give love, and support your talented friends. No one gets big without support from others, and also it's just really smart to do. Imagine being known as the person who shows love to everyone!?!?
There's something sooo special about that! Imagine having the reputation for discovering dope stuff because of your Distinguish'd taste level!
And my final statement, my life's purpose, is to tell you be yourself, but more importantly.....
"Distinguish yourself from the rest.™