SwedLife Went From a Streetwear and Hip-Hop Blog to a Career For its Founders

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COURTESY OF SETH FELDMAN, LUCAS OLIVIERI, AND THEIR FOUR-LEGGED FRIEND.
  • Courtesy of Seth Feldman, Lucas Olivieri, and their four-legged friend.

Ed. Musicians may get all the groupies, but there is more to a city's music world than people wielding instruments. To name a few: venue and studio owners, show promoters, assorted enthusiasts and -- the subject of this series -- bloggers.

In Music Blogs of St. Louis, we'll talk to the humans behind the computer screens about who they are, why they do it and some highlights of their experience.

Swedlife is more than just a blog. It was an idea that started with a blog in November of 2009, then manifested into a storefront located on 6378 Delmar Blvd last July. Initially started as a means to ease the ennui of higher education, ("I'm not gonna lie. I made a lot of posts in class") Wash U graduates Seth Feldman and Lucas Olivieri turned a hobby into a business.

In a thirty minute phone interview with RFT music, the men behind Swedlife shared their inspirations, described the hip-hip community, and talked about the streetwear culture they love.

Blair Stiles: How did you guys meet? When you were WashU students?

Lucas: Seth and I were both in the Business School at WashU. We took a couple classes together sophomore year. Really got to know each other Junior year. Became friends and always sat with each other when we could.

Where did the idea for the blog come from?

Seth: I originally started the blog Christmas break, junior year of college, a little more than two and a half years ago as a way to look through all the content out there and really picking the pieces that we were really into and putting them into one place. Not everyone wants to spend their time reading through the nine thousand post on a lot of hip-hop blogs and we were already kind of doing that. So we put our favorite things in one place. I originally started the blog by myself. I didn't take it super seriously for a while but when Lucas started writing for the blog too we started covering a lot more street art and street fashion and that was when we started taking things seriously--like a cultural hub. When we were approaching the end of school we really decided that fashion was the element of street culture that we were trying to be the most involved in and then we opened the store.

Which hip-hop blogs were you reading?

Seth: I definitely read a lot of different hip-hop blogs but my favorites were the Ill Roots kids. They were awesome. They were super young. They put themselves right in the middle of everything. And now they've expanded from a music blog into producing, music videos...they've become more involved in producing original content. The Hundreds has always been a blog that has been incredibly influential for us. 2 Dope Boyz...

Lucas: Creative TV. That's a really dope one. They're more like web based interviews and highlights. But, Hypebeast, Highsobiety--that's a great streetwear blog to get a little bit of everything. The big blogs have a lot of content that a lot of people view. It's that world wide mass appeal. Everyone all over the world can view it. I had my own involvement with other blogs, too. I worked on stuff during school. I started an online student magazine called Drop Knowledge. Having exposure to that really helped a lot.

Did the Hundreds start out as a blog then move itself into a storefront? Kind of like what you guys did...

Seth: Yeah. They definitely were a brand that were incredibly influential. They enthusiastically spread culture through their blog, and the also have a printed magazine. They opened the [streetwear] culture up from an exclusive, like, "If you can't come to my store in Tokyo, New York, or LA I don't really care," thing into a streetwear culture that is self-selecting, and a read much more in depth blog post versus a commercial on TV. The people who want to know about it, know a lot about it and self select through that high volume of information. I think the way The Hundreds took on the internet and really opened the culture up is a big part of us having a streetwear boutique in St. Louis, Missouri.

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So when did you move from a blog to a streetwear boutique? How did that come about?

Lucas: It was actually something we joked about junior year when we were writing for the blog and seeing a rise in readership. We were always the sneakerhead kids, and the more streetwear, fashion forward kids in the business school. So we chose a different path than the conventional WashU business graduate. That summer between our junior and senior year we talked a lot on the phone about the blog and about what a brand and store would look like. We also took and Entrepreneurial classes, one major one called the Hatchery where you design your whole business, run an entire business plan, give a handful of presentations, and map out everything you would need to have a business. We took that class and it really got us writing everything down on paper. Then we went to our first trade show, Magic, last February. That was our first introduction into the industry. It's gone from a plan to doing it for real.

Seth: When school started we began making feasible plan for how we could not have normal jobs and do what we want to do.

You guys seem to be really involved in local music. Why does Swedlife make a point to publicize local musicians.

Lucas: It's really important, as far as a community goes. That was another major part of the store. There really isn't much of a cultural hub here for streetwear or hip-hop. Creating a store environment where people can meet with and listen to local hip hop artists, Djs, other musicians and give them a great experience. To have those people meet other people and collaborate and share ideas. I think that's something really special. We always knew that there was stuff going on in St. Louis, but there was never anything holding it together. One thing we can do for people who are in music and trying to take things seriously is bring them together. That's something we're happy to do for those people because we always have great interactions with guys--they always show us love and we try to do the same for them.

Seth: The connection between hip-hop and streetwear is so organic because there is so much legitimate interest in both directions. We're fans of music, and their fans of the clothes we sell. It's definitely one of those things where we help each other in such an organic way to help each other do bigger and better things. It's been really cool to get to know the local artists. Especially Black Spade -- he's become a really good friend of ours since the store opened. He's definitely someone who fully encompasses the streetwear by day, hip-hop by night mentality. Whenever he's in town he's in the store talking about music, fashion, art-whatever anyone wants to talk about until it's time to go to the show. It's been cool to see other people get to know each other.

So what is streetwear culture? How would you define that?

Seth: I feel like streetwear culture is really a group of kids that take casual men's fashion as seriously as you can. It's something where the frequency in which product comes out is very high and in limited numbers. If you're not involved in the culture like reading blogs and getting the low down...It's a group of people that are very knowledge about what they are buying and what they want and they are going to figure out how to get it.

Lucas: It's a way to identify yourself too. If you see someone on the street and you recognize he has those awesome Nike Sbs on or he has that hat on and you know there were only 50 made. Those are conversation starters. In order to do that you have to be on top of things. You have to know when things are coming out and where they're coming out and what's going to be hot.

How would you describe the St. Louis hip-hop community?

Seth: I would say it's underground but definitely very strong. Not being from St. Louis, the first St. Louis hip-hop I was exposed to was Nelly and the St. Lunatics when I was in middle school that was on every fucking radio and television everywhere. Those dudes were bigger than life at that point. It's been interesting to talk to people about making different hip-hop in the same city. There's a group of young dudes here who I think are very poised to make it big into the national scene. Rockwell Knuckles, Tef Poe, Black Spade-I'm a huge fan of their music. Saint Orleans and MVP and the Gas House Gang dudes are all cool people who have become the next wave a rappers making noise in St. Louis.

Lucas: There's definitely a strong yearning to put St. Louis on the map. There are so many people who are very ambitious trying to do everything they see the signed artist doing. They're in the studio making beats, being authentic, and making unique music videos. They're doing great things.

Seth: There's also a lot of super dope producers in St. Louis like Trifeckta. Micheal Franco-that guy's awesome. There are so many dope producers. DJ Crucial is the man. He's also a sick skater. And he has an awesome bike. Even the younger cats we've gotten to know like ATM and Siege those kids are like seventeen and super hungry. Jay Fay is this incredible talent.

Can you tell me what you wrote about for the first entry?

Seth: 11/02/2009. It was a bunch of hip hop albums that I wanted to share with my friends and the easiest way that I could think to do it was make a free wordpress blog and post mediafire links for music that was intended for promotional purposes.

What is your favorite entry?

Seth: 2/24/2012. The post that I cared the most about, that I put the most time into was the post I made about the Nike Galaxy Foamposite release because I was very upset that I did not get those sneakers and I wrote 500 words about that. That was the most effort I put into writing anything. I guess you guys [referring to music journalists] are used to people reading what you write but I'm not. I was trying really hard to iron out my thought on how that went down and trying to get past my general saltiness and get down to why I thought the company had released the product in a legitimately dangerous way.

What's the best thing about blogging?

Seth: I guess it's really just a random culture mashing pot of things we like and gave us a forum to talk about whatever we wanted to talk about because we are really passionate about it. And if other people read it. It's because it was what they cared about. The ability to self select into niches of the same interests.

Lucas: I agree. Having that format to communicate to people all over the world is something that is really awesome. And seeing an increase in the viewership and getting what you like out to other people and seeing that they are interested in that. It forms an identity. What we talk about is special. It's what we're about and shows our personalities and the store and what we have tried to accomplish.

What's the biggest difficulty about blogging?

Seth: At this point it's keeping up with the blog. We're always in the store working and having face-to-face interactions with the person in front of us that we don't have as much time to be staring at our laptops like we did in class. I'm not gonna lie. I made a lot of posts in class. That was a big part of my blogging. Entertaining myself when I was bored.

Why should someone start a blog?

Seth: It physically encompassed our interests and it encourage us to pursue our interests at a higher level in a real non internet way.

Lucas: You can make a lot of outer connections with what you do given the subject matter hold together on a blog. Once you start getting into it, you start connecting the dots outside of it.

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