Marc Ecko on being inspired by graffiti, hating fashion

Fashion designer Marc Ecko turned his childhood passion into a fashion powerhouse and is now the author of a new book called, "Unlabel: Selling You without Selling Out."

Ecko, the founder of the global fashion and lifestyle company that bears his name, told CBS News’ Terrell Brown he found success only when he learned to "unlabel" himself

“I was too fat to break dance. I wasn't bold enough to rap, so I was really into art,” he said.

It was the 1980s, the dawn of hip hop, and Ecko, a self-described comic book dork, was just trying to fit in.

“I didn't necessarily look the part of what I was trying to build,” he said. “You know - white, Jewish kid from Lakewood, New Jersey.  I had the good fortune that hip hop had this thing that was traveling through the fabric of it that was called graffiti.”

It was graffiti art that inspired Ecko to start airbrushing sweatshirts and t-shirts in his parents' garage.

“What I found was that by aligning myself with graffiti art that was kind of the first step in defining my personal brand,” he said.  

By the time he was 20 Ecko’s passion project had become a billion dollar business. It was his twin sister Marci who came up with the company name Ecko.

“My mom didn't know she was carrying twins, kicking in the breast, kicking in the lower part of the belly. (The) doctor said it's just an echo in the fluid. Marci comes first - five minutes later me. She's the one that when I said ‘Oh we're gonna be rich and famous,’ when we were like 18-years-old and I said ‘Come join me. Come leave school. We're gonna be rich and famous’ And she said ‘Okay, that's fine, but are we gonna be successful?’” said Ecko.

Ecko said said he does not believe money equals success, and that the idea itself is a “massive fallacy.”

“What I try to tell people is to stop counting - stop trying to quantify success by a finite number,” he said.  

Ecko said that what excites him has nothing to do with bringing in revenue.

“I think that the things that fuel me today that excite me and give me the ‘goosies’ are the same things that did when I was 16-years-old and they had nothing to do with money,” he said.

Ecko’s latest venture was 120 fashion and entertainment websites aimed at young adult males. However, he told Brown that he did not build his empire off of fashion.

“I hate fashion … Ralph Lauren built his empire on fashion. That's not what I do. I'm not the lapel guy, the front rise - you know the Madison Avenue guy,” he said. “I came up from the ground painting t-shirts in my garage. I think more people connect to my brand because of its source of inspiration rather than a source of aspiration. The big take away will be to refuse those labels to refuse to be bound in the skin which you were packaged.”

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