Name, position at True & dates worked there?
Joshua/Josh/J/Sweet Brother Numsi. 2005–2015
Work experience prior to working at True & what is your current occupation and employer?
My work experience prior to True was unremarkable. Worked retail for a long time. Delivered pizzas for a while. Made t-shirts and b-boy videos and tried to slang them at events. Did lots of other stuff on the side. I took a job for a little while doing product photography and light html/css work with some Quark thrown in for good measure. Taught myself everything I needed to know and tried it out. It didn’t go anywhere good, and it didn’t last long. That was the pressure that led me to working at True. Lost my income and room, so I blanketed the city with resumes. True was the only place that called me back.
Since True I’ve been working full time for a new home care company in the city, designing and deploying printed collateral and materials. I also work in collaboration with the rest of the design team to develop the brand and public image of the company via printed works, event materials and development of aesthetic themes to use offline and online. It’s fast, but my years at True have helped me to think myself out of tight schedules and move quickly. It’s just a redirected version of what I was doing there.
Fondest memory of your time working at True?
There was a golden era for sure. I couldn’t pick the best of these times, but there was a stretch between 2006 and 2009 when everything was moving so fast. Events, parties, designs, collaborations, etc. The whole bay was moving the way it should. I look back on those times because I hadn’t seen that type of energy before or after. There wasn’t a “before work” or “after work”. It sounds kinda ridiculous when I put it into words, but everything I was doing then felt like it was connected. Work all day, party all night, back to the shop in the morning to get some designs in or make sure the shop was taken care of. All connected.
“There was a golden era for sure…the whole Bay was moving the way it should…everything I was doing then felt like it was connected.”
Worst memory of your time working at True?
Definitely walking up to the store the morning of the fire. I felt like someone ripped my heart and half my brain out. My hangover that morning didn’t help. I had been hearing the sirens all morning (I lived at the corner of Haight and Ashbury at the time, but on the 4th floor, so I didn’t catch what was happening). I finally cracked my eyes open around 6:45am to look at my phone and saw messages from the Jose the store manager, Shortkut, and a couple random friends who were catching the early morning news. The store had burned. I ran downstairs and ran into my worst fears. Not only was a retail store full of clothing burned down, but an office full of irreplaceable artwork, sketchbooks, hard-drives and mixtapes. So much was lost in there. I still trip off it regularly.
Tell me about some of the people you met while working at True, customers & co-workers. Any good stories?
So many folks. So many customers were fam (many were the opposite, haha). I still keep in touch with a lot of folks I met as customers to the shop. Jorge Anzaldo is doing his thing now, and I remember him as just a good kid that used to come shop. Berner used to come in on the regular. We had the kooks too. The old white dude with dollar signs tatted on his face who dropped loot. The dreadlocked caucasians who would make their way down from humboldt every couple months with loaded pockets and wanted nothing to do with anything except ALL the LRG the could walk out with. The more famous folks that came as customers were always super friendly. Ghost, Biz Markie, Yasiin Bey and Dave Chappelle. Robin Williams was a regular for years. Mike Epps came in stoned AF one day and had us cracking up for a half hour. One of the funniest ones I can remember was when Murs came in one afternoon. The store was packed and he rolls in with just shorts on. His shirt was hanging half off his arm and he looked like he was having a nice day. Comes in, browsing the t-shirt table slowly, going through everything super deliberately. Shopping. A co-worker says “You want me to show him out?” He thought he was one of the street kids that would come in on one and act up and we’d have to show the door. Haha. I had to let him know, “It’s cool, that’s Murs.”
When it comes to the employees, everybody who came through those doors is fam. Most of my closest folks are people I came into contact with during my time at True. Mike, Nick, Hiro, Rome, Janelle, Pam, Huy, Monique, Jern, Rommel, Marcie, Rush, Abdul, etc, etc. Everybody really. Even more when you count all the people who were employees before I was even there who have been around regardless. Dheen, Joey, Jordan. The lists are too deep. Then there’s the industry folks that I came in contact with. Another story, but just a close and just as important. Stussy, FTC, Huf, Milk, Poleng, Super 7, etc.
“The time I spent at True was all valuable. One long lesson. Everything I do now in my job has it’s roots in the fast moving aspects of working at True.”
What did you learn (if anything) during your time working at True that continues to be useful to you today?
The time I spent at True was all valuable. One long lesson. Everything I do now in my job has it’s roots in the fast moving aspects of working at True. I learned that the world can’t be saved with t-shirts. If you think your philosophy can be explained in t-shirt graphic, you should probably rethink your philosophy. I learned that everybody thinks they can get rich off t-shirts. I learned nobody gets rich off t-shirts—this game is hustle. I learned that everyone who is involved with streetwear has enough great ideas to fill one season of a clothing line (the 1-Season theory). The problem is it took 5+ years of thinking to build that season in your head. What happens after you drop all those ideas at once? You can’t wait another 5 years for your next season. Think about that before you jump (you might have enough to fill 10 seasons, and that would be dope, just consider that you might not). I learned how to work in a budget. I learned to hone my pragmatism at True. It’s really easy to mock up amazing things that no one has ever made before, but it is far more difficult to figure out how you will make these things within a reasonable budget. At the same time, I learned how to think outside of budgets, and how to take my criticism and make my ideas more realistic. There is a lot more. I don’t want this to become a book.
Any advice to future employees or customers of True?
Pay dues. Haight and retail and the industry have changed (they always do). Blah blah blah. If you ask me, and I know I could come off as a bitter old man but, not too much of it is for the better. Somehow True has held on through all of it though, so there should be something to learn from there if you want to take the time to extract it. Knowledge isn’t easily handed over or transferred, so if you plan on working with people, it helps to have a reputation that can speak for itself. That doesn’t come from talking hella shit off the top. It comes from listening and learning. Putting in time. If someone’s been doing something, they probably know something about it—not complicated. They might not have all the answers but they have an understanding. Put up with older people clowing. There are lessons in that. Don’t take shit, but listen. Remember that where you are has existed long before you go there. The people that were there are now in amazing places. It doesn’t happen by accident. In business, in law, sales and design. At Northface, Nike, Supreme, Diamond, Gap, Levis—and so many more. As designers, managers, creative directors, buyers, etc. Watch the changes happen and learn from them because this industry changes on a whim, but you can learn how to react to those changes. There isn’t much longevity around, so soak some in when you have the opportunity. I sound like a broken record of clichés right now, but please bear with it. That’s me on the left (I think that’s big Joey on the right. My mind’s old and blurry I can’t be sure).