David Mathey of Rockstar Original: “I keep a handwritten note from over ten years ago on my desk that I look at every day”

I keep a handwritten note from over ten years ago on my desk that I look at every day. It says: desire, devotion, and determination. That is my key to success in anything. There are so many talented and smart people in this world and sometimes you’re lucky enough to meet them and they are […]

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I keep a handwritten note from over ten years ago on my desk that I look at every day. It says: desire, devotion, and determination. That is my key to success in anything. There are so many talented and smart people in this world and sometimes you’re lucky enough to meet them and they are so sharp. But some of the successful people aren’t always the smartest but are always working around the clock to get better.

As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rockstar Original Co-Founder and Co-CEO — David Mathey.

David Mathey is a French entrepreneur and fashion designer born on September 22nd 1989 in Marseille, France. He is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Rockstar Original. Born to an influential family in the fashion industry, he was always fascinated by denim. Growing up in the South of France, David was already recreating and customizing vintage threads by the age of 13. He would hunt through military surplus stores to gather unique finds and put his own personal touch on special pieces by adding patches, pins, and embroidery. David began selling the reimagined pieces to classmates and was soon selling to local boutiques. He was selling goods out of the trunk of his car while kids his age were in school or having fun. He had to survive, he was always dreaming to make it big”. What started as a small wholesale business in a handful of stores would quickly turn into Rockstar Original, an industry leader in streetwear fashion.

Rockstar Original was founded in July of 2008, right when premium denim brands were at the height of their popularity. Rockstar quickly showed up in top retail boutiques nationwide. After a strategic distribution partnership in 2013, Rockstar Original became the go-to brand in street fashion and was highly sought after at industry trade shows. By 2019, the industry shift to e-commerce led to Rockstar Original solidifying their direct-to-consumer business format. David decided that the business model needed to evolve by ending the wholesale business and becoming 100% direct-to-consumer.

E-commerce is a game changer, the volume of sales is just insane, the brand doesn’t rely on retailers anymore, they control the entire distribution, price point and assortment. It’s like having 500 storefronts with 24/7 foot traffic but no rent.

Today, Rockstar Original has become a huge E-commerce player and a top Shopify-Plus merchant. The hand-crafted streetwear brand is produced both abroad and domestically. Rockstar Original is known for its matching track sets often paired with brands such as Nike and Gucci, however, their hero product is still denim. Rockstar Original is now expanding into other categories such as sneakers and accessories with big plans to grow following in the footsteps of brands such as Supreme.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I think of my career path, there is really no one single story that has brought me to where I am today. Growing up in a family with a legacy of selling denim that goes back to my grandfather, I was always exposed to the fashion industry. You know when I was old enough, I was going into the offices and factories.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?

There are a lot of interesting stories that have happened that I can think of. Most importantly, other brands in the denim industry tend to do the same thing and follow the same business model. Which is attending the tradeshows and wait for the orders to come in. We did that at the beginning, and it worked for us, but we eventually decided to take control of the business and dictate where it was going. We put the time into our product and we’re able to sell it ourselves directly to our customers.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In 2012, I had a celebrity stylist reach out to us. She was shopping in New York at Atrium, where we used to sell. She was looking for a red carpet look for Justin Bieber and we didn’t have his size at the store. So, I invited her to go to our warehouse and pick something out for our entire collection. There was still nothing that fit him at the moment, but I had on a pair of our waxed biker jeans I had personalized. She ended up loving them and you can see Justin Bieber wearing my personal pair of jeans at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What really makes Rockstar stand out in the industry is the product we’re selling. Everything from the design, treatment, and colors are really innovative. Our goal is to always keep our customer interested in our product and we have a really great team of designers. We also have such different product and have so many options that there is truly something for everyone. Our e-commerce website has such a great conversion rate because everyone that visits it can find something they like. Whether it was what they’re looking for or not. Finally, we don’t wait for month to react to trend but offer customers the pieces that they want right now.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Firstly, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to join our industry. But if you do, you’ll quickly find out that a lot of it is repetitive. On a daily basis you’re working with the same factories, the same customers, even the same bankers. It’s easy to lose sight of what interested you to begin. The most important thing is to never forget why you decided to start your venture. Take a few minutes out of your day to do what you’re passionate about in your business. If that’s designing, then design everyday for thirty minutes or an hour.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

The world is changing so fast and there are so many crazy stories right now that it’s important to always stand behind our customers. At the end of the day, we’re selling a product we’re passionate about. Something we create and bring to the table; we want to be table to give that same opportunity to our customers. Whether we can help people get a home, a warm meal, anyway we can support them we will. However small or large or contribution may be, we’ll always donate to organizations we are passionate about.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

A quote that I always like to follow is, “never get comfortable.” It’s gotten me to think outside of the box and challenge myself. Understand what can be improved from what you’re doing, even if you think it’s already perfect.

Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?

Absolutely, e-commerce has been and will continue to be the future of the fashion industry. It has taken over such a large chunk of our business with so much new technology coming out every day. From retargeted marketing, upselling, or merchandising, there is new technology for every aspect of the business and that’s where the industry is heading. The way we do business now is different from even just only three years ago. You used to launch a business solely because you we’re passionate about it and felt it was different. Now there are so many metrics for things that you can really take a step back and know why or why not something would work.

Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.

I keep a handwritten note from over ten years ago on my desk that I look at every day. It says: desire, devotion, and determination. That is my key to success in anything. There are so many talented and smart people in this world and sometimes you’re lucky enough to meet them and they are so sharp. But some of the successful people aren’t always the smartest but are always working around the clock to get better.

You also have to be able to reinvent your product to be able to go after the fashion trends that are always changing. It’s easier said than done but it’s how I got here from selling jeans out of th etunk of my car in fifteen years.

Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?

There has been such a shift in the industry within the last few years and there are so many people trying to get into the industry that it’s made it challenging. In order to be successful, you needed to have connections in every part of the business, designing, manufacturing, finding a showroom, and finding a buyer. Unless you have those connections it’s hard for new brands to get the attention of a buyer who is dedicated to brands they know already sells. As a brand you’re really not relying on your product to be in front of customers but you’re relying on the buyer to have the time and interest. We had a large order with one of the national retailers and even after selling through the entire order quickly, they decided to not reorder.

This is why the industry, and our brand is thriving online. You can showcase it to the world and depend solely on yourself. You will continue to see a lot of the big brands being challenged and disappearing. Everyone is competing against department stores now that there is this freedom to be in the front of the public eyes.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We are lucky to have the support of the African American community and they are faced with so many challenges compared to other demographics. Unfortunately, they are systematically not given the same chances in life. I would love to a network to support underprivileged children and have them create a product and be able to sell it online. This movement for children with a passion for the industry and get them out of this vicious circle they’re in to get more chances and show what they can do.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow Rockstar on:


This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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