Slam Jam: It’s the name behind some of the most notable streetwear collaborations and brands in the industry. So much of what the company does is under the radar, working closely with industry powerhouses, such as Stüssy and Carhartt WIP. But, that’s exactly how Slam Jam’s founder — Luca Benini — likes it. Among many things, the Italian native is known for pioneering streetwear culture in Europe.
As Slam Jam celebrates 30 years of success, we’re taking a look at one of the most iconic influences in streetwear, the legendary man behind it all and our takeaways for sustaining a successful business based on Benini’s achievements.
Slam Jam and Luca Benini: Celebrating 30 Years of Success
When Benini was growing up he had two specific dreams: to be a DJ and to sell clothing. In the end, he found a way to do both.
The Birth and Evolution of Slam Jam
Back in the ‘80s, Benini’s main business became DJing, which fueled his passion for clothing. He quit school to work as a shop assistant, where he would print flyers of his gigs on tees — an early intersection of culture and fashion.
After a trip to the U.S., Benini fell in love with American surf, sport and music culture, which catapulted the idea for Slam Jam. In 1989, Benini decided to follow his gut and found Slam Jam as a distributor and importer in the small town of Ferrara to bring underground American styles to young Italians. In fact, one of the business’s early successes was becoming an early distributor of Stüssy, Carhartt WIP and Nike in Europe.
Throughout every step of the way, Benini used his instincts, regardless of what the market dictated, to guide his business decisions. While some may call that crazy, for him it’s been a stroke of genius. Over the last 30 years, the company has expanded from a distributor and importer to a licensee, collaborator, business consultant, art curator and more.
As of 2016, the company’s revenue was measured at around $51 million. Not to mention, everyone from Virgil Abloh to Martine Rose has stopped by Slam Jam’s showroom or store to witness Benini’s visionary mind.
Ultimately, Slam Jam has become so much more than the tangibles. It’s now a complete cultural hub that continually finds ways to connect brands and cultures with people. If Benini and his company were a case study, these are the key lessons we’d take away for sustainable business growth.
5 Takeaways to Sustain a Successful Business
1. Know Your Strengths, and Recognize Your Weaknesses
Running a successful company entails maximizing your strengths and recognizing your weaknesses. It’s important to know what you bring to the table, in addition to areas that could use improvement. Streamlining efficiency is a key part of sustaining growth, so if something isn’t working don’t push it.
2. Find the Meaning Behind Your Business
Streetwear is about more than just fashion, it’s deeply rooted in culture. In the case of Slam Jam, it’s dedicated to “connecting tribes of like-minded people across the world.” The name acts as a “seal of approval” throughout the industry for “urban subcultural attitudes.”
When you look to your brand, what’s the bigger picture? Find the meaning behind your business, then make sure it’s clearly portrayed.
3. Stay True to Your Brand, Even When the Hype Builds
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, authenticity is paramount. If an opportunity doesn’t fit with your brand, don’t accept it just for the profit. Otherwise, it could end up costing you something even more valuable: brand loyalty. Take it from the man himself.
Your customers can sniff out inauthentic partnerships and collaborations from a mile away. Even when the hype begins to build, remember to stay true to your business’s core values.
4. Create Opportunities to Connect With Your Audience
It’s no secret that millennials and Gen Z crave experiences. So, creating opportunities to connect with your audience in real life, and focusing on experiential marketing is a huge play. People want to know who the brand is behind the curtain.
5. Follow Your Instincts
In an interview with i-D, Benini adamantly expressed following his intuition more than labels, doing what he felt was right rather than what was expected or what the market dictated. If you take away one thing from Benini’s entrepreneurial success, let it be this: follow your instincts. Some say it’s a radical idea, but as a visionary, you can’t be too scared to take risks or fail — otherwise you’ll never grow.
Getting a business off the ground is one thing, but sustaining success for three decades is another. As long as you keep the above lessons in mind, you’ll stay on the right path!
What’s your favorite takeaway from the article? Let us know in the comments!