New Yorker Aaron Bondaroff aka A-Ron is notoriously vague about what he does, that’s because what he does is vague. “I don’t know what I do – it’s what I do, you know,” he says casually. Embracing the city’s downtown skate subculture Bondaroff part-founded the legendary Supreme in 1994 and launched his own brand aNYthing in 2001: “It’s about merchandising the creative community of NYC and bringing it to the world.” Most recently in 2008 he opened the influential Los Angeles-based gallery “OHWOW – because I kept hearing people talk about the latest artist or project and go: ‘Oh wow!’” simple as that. As we sit across the table from one another in the Shoreditch High Street studio of his label’s PR company a number of names – surrounded by his staple line of logoed T-shirts and hats as well as his more recent A/W11 high end editions – it is soon clear that Bondaroff is anything but simple: the revered entrepreneur has cleverly managed to turn his lifestyle into a hugely successful career. An influence and inspiration to many, we asked Bondaroff what inspired him growing up.
Aaron Bondaroff: ”My father was definitely an inspiration when I was growing up – always being a hustler from Brooklyn, creating his own ways to live and bring money into the family. It wasn’t traditional so I was always around that untraditional format of making money and never really knowing what he was doing but understanding that he was doing something that was his own thing. My father had several businesses that were short lived and would always shut down, so the idea of creating multiple things, just keeping and making things happen or trying to figure out how to bring money into the family is definitely a big part of my attitude. I guess a lot of freedom also really inspired me because I was never grooved by the structure so I can’t imagine ever even having a job – even when I was younger I hated that idea of structure, you know from school to having my first few jobs. There’s no real recipe to where I’m at now ‘cause I didn’t plan it, I was just always trying to think of new ideas and new schemes to make money and to be successful and avoid the system.
I always admired the people that were starting magazines and creating platforms. I’ve always liked Rick Rubin/Russel Simmons starting Def Jam in a dormitory at NYU. I like the idea of two people coming together and creating something out of such a small room. Stories like that at a young age made me think: ‘Yeah, you could get a few people together and just turn this bedroom into the headquarters.’ My first apartment when I was really young was a studio apartment on Bowery and 3rd Street in New York. I came into some money and instead of buying a bed or some furniture – I just bought a copy machine, a coloured copy machine. So I slept on the floor with this giant copy machine right next to me and that was kind of the first way I got into printing and publishing. I’d have all my friends come over and we were all like: ‘Make zines, make zines!’ and that was what we did all night – make all these really weird things. When people ask me: ‘How did you get into printing or publishing?’ I feel like that’s how it really started for me.
Things have really come full circle now as my partner for OHWOW, Al Moran – who I met through mutual friends – is a printer and had a successful printing business in Miami. We had a lot of similar ideas and then one day we said: ‘Ok, let’s start printing stuff.’ You know, ‘I’ve got a printing press – let’s start bringing people in.’ And that’s how the OHWOW movement started – printing a few books at first. From there, in Miami, we got a warehouse that we converted into a gallery and then started putting on exhibitions, mainly around the Miami Art Fair, when Art Basel comes to Miami. I was already printing zines and making objects from day one but it’s great now I’m a bit older, have made lots of mistakes in life and understand how to create the ground of a business and know the importance of a good team. It’s incredibly exciting, I’ve got seven books on the horizon; three records that I’m putting out as well through OHWOW – 7” and EPs; a show coming up with Terry Richardson and Daniel Arsham; and a whole lot of young artists who I’ve been working with. I’ve been keeping my eyes out for this new wave of artists that I want to brand and create and work with because they’re there and I want to get this little gang of artists together. It’s cool to be a part of that now and play the background. I don’t have to be the crazy guy in the front of it all. That’s a nice thing for me also – I used to be so on front and on the mic and trying to steal the show – it’s nice to get older and step back and let everybody else do that kind of stuff…”