Those first few days before the temperature spikes, the rooftops open and brunch becomes a weekly ritual. Those days before beaches are filled and flights are booked, where outdoor plans are made and the days get longer. Those are the days Ebony and I get excited about everything we've planned over the Fall and Winter.
Every year we get better at building our brand content, and this past Summer was no different. Something that Ebony expressed to me was how important it was for us to really enjoy Summer, enjoy it the way we wanted to, do things the PHLD way... And so we did!
"By the end of this, there's just one question...Did you PHLD this Summer?"
Too excited to wait for its official day, Ebony and I began our Summer a few days early by taking a nice bike ride along the westside highway with a blanket and some lunch. We found a nice spot facing the water, locked up the bikes and claimed our shade.
I look at Ebony and ask, ''Are you ready?"
For what, she says?
I answer with enthusiasm, "For another Dope Summer?!"
She looks at me with both preparation, anticipation and this sort of curious look and says,
"Hell Yeah!"Of course, with the age of social media and having an engaging brand, fun sometimes needs a strategy and a team, if you will. Before Dopeness can really begin, we had to make sure our bases were covered and by that we mean our Dope Soho store.
With everything in place, we think we're set to go when one of our employees has an emergency to tend to, wink, wink. Obviously disappointed we cancel our first escaper from the city to man the store, only to find out that quote-end-quote emergency, was an emergency vacation! And yes, we found out on Instagram. We couldn't be too upset. we've all done this before.
"With this unplanned extra week of waiting, the hype builds..."
Finally, finally, finally it's time for some good ole PlayHard! We have our plans set, our jewelry in tow and our Dope friend and photographer Stephen planning to catch up with us.
Saturday, June, 8th we meet up with a friend who has invited us to his Summer home in Greenport, NY for a long weekend. We arrive at his restaurant on the Upper East Side where he is waiting for us in his Blue BMW convertible! We hop in, (Ebony in the front) and in twenty-five minutes we are out of the city and cruising to Greenport.
We turn down small roads decorated with beautiful suburban houses, we take one last right turn and we pull into the driveway of our oasis for the next four days. We quickly get settled in and get the grand tour which ends at our friends' and his wife's' backyard. Here Ebony is reminded of her hometown in Upstate NY and proceeds to fully appreciate the local nature by walking barefoot all over!
Tempted to relax and document our hopefull Summer, Ebony returns to a child-like voice and asks our friends' wife if she can try the berries from their garden. Of course, she's told! With no hesitation, Ebony tries the berries and finds them delicious.
"Did you get that", she asks me snapping out of her child-like voice and into a dominant and impatient voice.
"Totally", I answer.
Good, she says, cause I'm going to start posting soon.
What's cool about the way Ebony tells our story, is that she tells it from many views, she's not afraid to show off-brand moments, she's not afraid to show normal, less glamours moments. But she's always got a vision.
It's up! She says
The rest of the day is social she explains. Swallowing my sip of beer, I answer, "alright I'm ready!". The hour or two when Ebony first wakes up before posting really helps her anxiety. She often tells me she won't log into Instagram until she's fully ready to interact with it all day.
Greenport, quiet, spacious and simple. That's how I would describe it. But I was looking forward to going to our friend's private beach along with another well-known beach, 67 steps. We have some lunch, post our reality for our followers and head out to spend the rest of the day from one beach to another.
Having dinner on our friends back patio, we're laughing, drinking and exchanging stories. The beaches were Dope, we swam, relaxed, goofed off and of course shared our festives on social media. The next few days are filled with biking, lavender fields, and farmers markets. A warm-up for what's to come.
Longbranch, New Jersey
A few weeks back in the city and we're packing for our next little getaway. This time we're heading an hour and a half out to stay at our close friend Todd, whom you remember from ourW.T.F blogbeach house in Longbrand, NJ! We're even more excited this time because our Dope friend and photographer, Stephen is coming along for the action and to shoot our summer campaign!
July 8throlls around, we load up Stephen's SUV with camera equipment, jewelry, brand wardrobe, and recreational wardrobe, hop in and blast music while I'm posting to our Instagram stories. We arrive at Todd's beach house which has both a mancave vibe along with a homey vibe showcasing family traditions.
We unload our stuff, head inside to get settled in before I hold a team meeting. Jon and Stephen are lounging on the back patio facing the tabletop fire pit with some beers.
Ok, guys, let's get focused, I say. I place my iPad on the table and pull up my Pinterest mood board. Wait! I say let's do an Instagram story showing our followers we made it safe and to stay tuned for more Dopeness.
Feeling both excited and anxious I take some time alone to strategize how I want to tell this chapter. Wanting to get more personal I imagine telling a story about two people in business and in love with one another. To show our beautiful natural stone jewelry, highlight their meaning while exposing Jon and myself in our natural states, intimate states, up close and personal moments.
"Everything around us was natural, the ocean, our stones, Jon and I, it was all perfect and ready to be captured by Stephen."
In true PHLD form, we skip the beach check-in point and walk barefoot along the water until we find and esthetic and some-what secluded area. An audience was very important to avoid! Stephen, Jon and I have been working together for a while now and we have a comfortable relationship and habit to just let the vibes flow. Sometimes that means yelling and loud music, while other times it means intimacy and nudity.
Daylight, shadows, temperature, and wind are all factors Stephen prepares for. While I gather myself and explain my imagination and give direction. Jon is my partner, comfort zone and a main character in this story, so his job is no small feat. You know when your preparing for something and you've got it down, but when it comes time to show it, you space? Well, that happens to me on every shoot! My heart is racing, FUCK! I forgot what I've planned! Jon relaxes me and reminds me that I can recreate whatever I want, that's why we do this, to create.
Somehow this works and I muster up this Fuck-it attitude and put my creative director hat on. Alright, the coast is clear, and by that I mean, no birds, perfect wind and nice shadows. We start in the sand, getting a vibe and a feel going. It was my job to make the product visible while we told the story. We each have our roles and a different audience we're trying to reach.
"Everything is going well, but I wanted More. I pause the shoot."
Ok, guys, we've got the safe shots, the product-focused shots. Now let's move to our storyline. When Jon and I first met, everything was safe, yes he was a rockstar, but I knew that life, what it looked like and I was balanced with it. When we fell in love and he sold his previous company and I quit my job, that's when he popped the question.
"Do you want to help me start a business and build a brand?"
Nothing was safe from that moment forward, so let's stop playing it safe and tell a Dope story.
PHLD was started when Jon and Ebony realized there was a tremendous void in Men's fashion jewelry. We searched for Dope accessories that Jon wanted to wear, but couldn't find much of a selection. We also wanted something we could both wear when out on the town together. There were limited options and Jon grew frustrated. With his frustration was born PlayHardLookDope.