Chick Chat: Meet the Woman Behind This Powerhouse Street Wear Brand
Popular Demand Marketing Director Monica Lin on life in the streetwear hustle, her Trukfit come up, and being the Plug.
Between our Fit Chicks sessions, #Chickspiration posts and genuine Closet envy, we get to meet some dope and inspiring people. And even though we love talking Swoosh and stalking new Three Stripes drops, it’s these interactions that really keep us going for two significant reasons. First, because as a woman in business it’s nice to find others in the same boat as you are. Can you identify with the struggles? Let’s grab a cup of coffee and have a Waiting To Exhale moment. Second, because girl power - duh. So we decided it was time for you to meet some of these women too in a new series we’re dubbing ‘Chick Chat.’ Haha. See what we did there?
Chick Chat is all about sitting down and getting to know the Boss Babes out here making moves on their own terms so, when we had the chance to do just that with Popular Demand’s Marketing Director, Monica Lin, we pretty much needed to discuss everything. But mostly we just talked about life and things like, what does the woman who runs point on one of streetwear’s rising brands do to keep herself sane? And how her start as a student intern turned into video stylist (which led to her overseeing all Popular Demand marketing) along with her in-depth Jedi networking skills, kind of make her a legit boss.
So yeah, we couldn’t think of a better way to kick off (there we go again…) this Chick Chat series. Consider it a much needed dose of #Chickspiration motivation. Whether you’re just starting out in your career (hustle hard), mulling over a shift (you can do it) or seeking a boost from someone who has been where you are (Hi Monica), Ms. Lin has this whole been there, done that, sage words of wisdom thing going on. But, enough of us. We’ll let her take it from here.
HER LIFE STORY IN CLIFFSNOTES
“I was born in California in Orange County. I went to school in the United States until fourth grade and then, when I was 9, I moved to Taiwan. I'm Taiwanese. My mom still lives there now. I got to live in Taiwan for a few years and go to International School which was a really amazing experience. Having grown up in both LA and Taiwan, I was exposed to a lot of different cultures. It's really diverse out here, but in a weird way, it's all really diverse out there, too, especially if you go to an international school - you meet people from all over. Taiwan is really influenced by Japan and the streetwear culture there is on another level than it is here. It's almost as if we're (USA) playing catch up.
I've always been pretty independent and I had to grow up fast and take care of myself and my little brother. Going through things as a kid, and especially learning at an international school, really ingrained in me the notion that you have to work hard for yourself because you really are in charge of your own success. With a lot of things I've gone through, I could’ve chosen to take a worse path but I chose to turn any negatives into positives.”
HOW LIL WAYNE UPPED HER SOCIAL GAME
“I had been running a streetwear blog called Thundercup and a friend I met through the blog suggested I go to Agenda Trade Show. Lil Wayne was just releasing Trukfit at the time and I stopped by the booth, and asked to take a few pictures. I went home and I started Googling information to do a writeup about it and I realized there were no pictures of Trukfit anywhere. Then I was like, “Wait. Nobody has pictures of Trukfit - I’m the first to have pictures of Trukfit!” I went back and Googled everyone who had covered the announcement of Trukfit and I made a list. For everyone I couldn’t find emails for, I just went on their tips/submission page and I sent everyone my blog post.
Surprisingly, all of these different blogs picked it up. MTV picked it up, XXL, Miss Info, and a bunch of other outlets. As an 18 or 19 year old, I was pretty hyped! That was kind of my launching point, and from there, people would hit me up wanting to connect so, by the time I started interning at Popular Demand, I had already started developing my network.”
ON LANDING THE INTERNSHIP THAT WOULD CHANGE HER LIFE
“I first applied as an intern at Popular Demand after a friend I met through my blog showed me a tweet about how they were looking for interns. I was curious because I’d never heard of them before. So, I looked it up online and I didn’t really see a lot out about it. It was during the school year and I didn’t really have the time, but I hit Blake [editor’s note: Blake is the Owner of Popular Demand] up because I noticed that they also had a full-time position open in marketing. We talked about it and he was like “Yea, I don’t think the marketing position is it,” because I literally had NO experience. Seriously. Five years ago, you could have told me I was going to do marketing and I would have been like “What are you talking about?” I had no clue. I was majoring in Communications and Psychology, like c’mon.
I always loved streetwear, though. I would post stuff on my blog, I would go up to Fairfax and shoot all the stuff that was happening in the scene; I would go to Agenda even before I started working here. I was always in that world and it made me excited so much to the point that I decided I really wanted to be in streetwear one day in some capacity.
I saw a ton of brands that were, more or less, established already. This brand was a clean slate. I really wanted to see what it would be like to work with a company that was starting from nothing. So, in the summer, I reconnected with Blake and asked it they still needed interns. I came down to the office and I didn’t even interview, I just started working. I don’t even think they knew what to do with me at first.”
AND WORKING AS A STYLIST...SORT OF
“Since I had this internship, I wanted to find a lot of creative ways to spread word about the brand. I would hop on Twitter or Instagram and find out about video shoots coming up in LA. I would just hit them up and say “Hey. I see you have a video shoot coming up, can I do your wardrobe for you?” So, I would tote clothes and bring a little steamer along and if they needed help steaming their own stuff, I would steam it for them. I would give them opinions on what to wear with certain pieces and for some reason they would just trust me. My first ever shoot was a shoot for Sean Kingston at the end of my first week at Popular Demand. I styled for E-40’s “Function (Remix)” and I met a ton of people. That shoot really showed me the importance of building your network and making genuine connections.
[At the E-40 shoot] I showed up and they had a room ready for me to set up clothes. They didn’t have a stylist so, I essentially became the stylist. I think I was supposed to be there for an hour, maybe. I ended up staying for 14 hours. Everyone who had to go on set ended up coming in the dressing room and I had to approve each look before they went on camera. It was such a crazy experience.”
THEN SWITCHING TO MARKETING WHERE NETWORK IS EVERYTHING (PAY ATTENTION, GUYS)
“To start out, I was just reaching out to people directly to get the brand out there. Now, we’ve built those relationships and I have artists and stylists calling me every two weeks asking for more product. Sometimes, we’ll overnight packages or drop off clothes personally.
It’s not about just getting them product. It’s about being helpful to people and showing them that they can count on you. I don’t care what anyone says - if someone can count on you to look out for them, they’ll usually end up helping you out at some point too because that’s just genuine love. That’s much more important than just getting someone product for the brand.
I’ve never asked anyone if they can wear something or take a picture with something. People have to like something to put it on. Everything goes back to building your relationships and being able to piece parts together to help yourself and other people as they build.”
ON THE HUSTLE AND BEING IRREPLACEABLE
“When you’re hired for an actual job, you go in with expectations and with a job description. When you’re an intern, you’re expected to do everything you can to learn and figure out what you’re good at. You know you’re going to do multiple things. And for me, I took that opportunity to really observe and try to figure out how I could be irreplaceable. What can I do well that they don’t have here yet? What can I do that would be missed if I left? You can’t be disposable. If we can switch you out for someone else, then you aren’t doing your best.”
ON HER FOCUS AND WHY SHE’S SUCH A MORNING PERSON
“When I was in high school, I would get up at 4:30 or 5:00 AM while it was still dark, get ready, and walk to the bus stop just to catch 3 different buses so I could make it to school on time. Since I started that habit, I've loved getting up early; it's sort of my peace time. That was and is usually the time when I sit down and really think about what I want to do and how I'm going to get there. It’s my alone time when the whole world is still asleep. People are always like “Oh! You’re such a morning person!” That’s why.”
ON FINDING BALANCE
“Once or twice a month, I try to take time and be by myself for an entire day. One of the main things that I've learned is the importance of balance. At one point, I was working at Popular Demand as an intern, I had school full-time and I had another job too. I honestly don't know how any of that worked out. I was driving around to all these different video shoots to do product placement - I was just so busy and going everywhere. So, looking back, that just shows me that if I allow time to focus, I really can contribute to my own life and write my own story. The more you put yourself out there, the more opportunities will open up for you, but you need to learn how to balance to have longevity and not burn out.”
WHAT’S ON HER READING LIST (P.S. WE’RE JOTTING SOME DOWN)
“I read a lot every day (reddit, news, etc.) but the last book I actually finished was Asa Akira’s “Insatiable: Porn - A Love Story” which was as interesting as it was unconventional. You’d never think a pornstar would be a pretty decent author, so shoutout to her.
I guess my literary taste is a bit eclectic, but a few of my favorite authors are V.S. Naipaul (’A Bend in the River’ and ‘A Way in the World’), Bill Bryson (HILARIOUS travel author, I recommend ‘Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe’ and ‘Down Under’), and Jonathan Kellerman (psychologist/novelist, his Alex Delaware series is like my guilty pleasure, haha). Also, if you’re up for it, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini will have you in [emotional] tears.”
ON THE GROWTH OF POPULAR DEMAND (HINT: IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE CLOTHES)
“We’re bold, obviously. The colors are bright and out there so, it’s not for the minimalist. But, we’re a lifestyle. Different brands have different agendas. Some are more focused on the type of clothes and having their garments handmade with a certain material. But, for us, it’s about selling a lifestyle. You can go out, do your thing and live life with No Apologies. That’s our tagline because that’s how we live. “No Apologies.” If we’re out, you know we’re there. The clothes represent that. We’ve really built this ‘work hard and play hard’ mentality. It’s more than just t-shirts and hats. It’s about going out there and working with amazing people and doing amazing things.
The team here all serve as a beacon in their own way. That’s meaningful to work with people who set the standard. We have fun. The work gets done and we have fun with each other.”
ON #CHICKSPIRATION AND WHAT IT MEANS TO HER
“It’s really about being a woman and being a positive role model to women, girls, and the general public. Chickspiration is serving as a role model and inspiring people to do better and do great things with their lives. I don’t know if I came up with this myself or if I saw the quote somewhere, but I really like the concept of “aspire to inspire.” If I’m able to do things in spite of the obstacles I’ve faced and inspire others in the process, that’s a beautiful thing, because you can, too.”
HER CURRENT SNEAKER ROTATION (AND THE KICKS SHE’LL NEVER GIVE UP)
“My current sneaker rotation is: Adidas Stan Smiths with the royal blue heel; all-white Nike Airmax 90’s; Comme des Garcons x Converse PLAY High Tops; YesStyle lace up platforms sneakers; x-girl x Vans collab slip-ons; and black Airmax 90’s with the white soles.
I have to say my all time favorite sneakers are the white Converse Chuck Taylor High Tops. They’re just classic and go with pretty much all of my outfits. I can even throw them in the wash if they get dirty. I’ve gone through at least 5 pairs in my adulthood. Converse actually gifted a few pairs last year at their showroom, so that was pretty cool, but I’ll still buy them because they’re such a staple.”
5 THINGS THAT MAKE HER FEEL 💯
“In no particular order, I love being able to help inspire people to live well and pursue their dreams. I love Bossa Nova music when I’m at home or classical music in my headphones when I need to concentrate. I love a clean apartment. I’m a sucker for all white sneakers. The number one thing that makes me feel 100 is getting shit done.”