Words by Scott Walker

The world may be upended by Covid-19 right now, but the creative world continues to knock ideas together.

We caught up with iconic urban designer Jeff Staple about his role as Curator of the Miller Design Lab and to shine a spotlight on their collaboration with Aussie fashion label Bellroy.

In 1997, Staple walked into a boutique in New York City wearing a shirt he printed himself. He walked out of that store with an order of 12 shirts and his business was born.

Staple’s design empire now includes a clothing collection, a creative agency, and a retail store with an art space.

Over the years he has worked with big names like Nike so it's no surprise that Miller has brought him back as Curator of the Miller Design Lab for a second year.

This year, Staple and Bellroy have teamed up to create a limited edition customizable version of Bellroy’s sell-out sling bag.


Where in the world are you based?

Mainly in New York City. Sometimes Los Angeles. Sometimes on a plane.

How has COVID changed the way you live, work, and play?

To be honest, it has pleasantly slowed things down and put things into perspective. Maybe I’m just the perennial optimist, but I try to find the silver lining in everything. My team is all separated but we touch base all the time using video conferences and Slack. There could be an argument made that we’re even more productive now than before. On a personal level, I have been trying to take care of my health and wellness in this time. I’ve always made attempts to look after that, but now I put that part of my life into overdrive. It helps that I can’t eat out and I try to dedicate time for my health and fitness pretty much every day.

What creative outlets have you enjoyed during COVID? What’s new or different?

Creatively, it’s nice to reflect and look at your history and body of work. I think during “normal times”, we’re so involved in the rat race that it’s hard to take time and look back. And I do believe by looking back, it can help inform what you can do in the future.

You founded the NYC urban design studio Staple Design. What are you best known for and how has this changed since you started out?

I’m probably best known for creating one of the most valuable sneakers of all time. It’s called the Nike SB Pigeon Dunk. Many would also say this is the shoe that kickstarted the sneaker culture we know today. When I started out, it would be strange if someone owned more than 10 pairs of sneakers. Today, if someone said they owned 50 pairs of sneakers, you wouldn’t blink. (By the way, I stopped counting after 3,000 pairs.)

You’re curating the Miller Design Lab for another year. What’s the drawcard?

Yeah! I’m super excited. It’s really amazing that a brand like Miller Genuine Draft creates a platform like this for creatives to collaborate, incubate, and create! It’s global. It’s collaborative. And it celebrates creativity for nightlife culture. Me being the curator is a blessing. I get to work with all these amazing talents I would have never been exposed to before. 

The Miller Design Lab is collaborating with Aussie accessory label Bellroy to give Aussies a customizable version of Bellroy’s iconic sling bag. What can we expect this to look like?

It’s absolutely gorgeous. Quite honestly, if you did nothing with the bag, it’d be amazing. But in the spirit of customization, which is our theme this year for Miller Design Lab, we included special paints and brushes which allows you to put your own spin on the bag.

What excites you most about Miller Design Lab and the collaboration with Bellroy?

Simply put, I’ve been a fan of Bellroy for many many years. When I met Andy the co-founder, it turns out he’s been watching my career for years also. That’s the beauty of Miller Design Lab. It gives us the reason to finally link and come together. Sometimes, you just need that one thing to create the spark.

We know Bellroy’s original sling bag sold out fast in 2019. How can we get our hands on one of these custom hotties? 

Man, I don’t really know! I’m only the curator! I have one and all I know is that I am not parting with it! LOL!

Where will your own customized Bellroy sling bag get its first outing? In real life or at a live-streamed something? Tell us everything.

Well because of COVID-19, we’re not doing any physical meetups or gatherings anytime soon.

I think I will officially reveal the sling bag soon on social media. And then sometime after that, I’ll customize it to my liking and show that off as well. I kind of like the idea that it ages on its own through real use—and then the post-customization gives it a new life.

Covid’s been a tough time for many. Why do you think customization is such a big fashion trend?

I think people inherently want to be unique and individual. Brands like mine can continue to make things “limited edition” to give people something unique. But really, the ultimate expression of that is customization. Can’t get more unique than one of none!


You can check out more about The Miller Design Lab here.


Thanks for stopping by Hipland!