Rulez of Rebelz Founder Brian D. Wolfe’s 9 Tips for Getting Sh*t Done
In 2016, the key to making your independent brand pop off is to get someone with a massive social following to post a picture in it.
Sounds easy, but it could be discouraging to get started — what if you have no money and don’t know a single person with enviable follower numbers?
That didn’t stop Brian D. Wolfe, who created his own apparel brand, Royal Triumph, and literally walked around Soho to find high-profile people to rep his brand.
Now, he’s repositioned into a new brand, Rulez of Rebelz, and he counts Jonathan Cheban, Sophie Simmons, Mia Khalifa, and Gabriel Kane Day-Lewis as loud and proud customers. You might have even seen one of his shirts on producer Maejor sitting next to Rihanna at the Billboard Awards. And that’s after he went five months straight without selling a single thing.
Brian easily could have quit, but he didn’t. And unlike many other successful designers, he’s not afraid to admit he had to hustle to get where he is. Here are his nine tips for getting shit done.
1. Separate Yourself From Reality
It’s easy to tell people to believe in themselves, but Brian’s advice is to take this one step further by completely separating yourself from the expectations of society.
“There’s a mantra that you have to live a certain way, especially if you grew up in such regular circumstances like I did,” he said. “Where I came from, I was expected to be a doctor or lawyer or go into finance — it was all about stability. But the drive for stability is the exact opposite of what people need to look for when trying to find ultimate happiness.”
“I’m crafting the world,” he added. “The world’s not crafting me.”
2. Get Yourself a Google Education
Brian decided to keep his business simple by sticking to graphic T-shirts and hats and learning how to do everything himself.
“I started spending hours and hours googling how to use Photoshop,” he said. “I started researching what else was on the market. I still didn’t understand any of it, but I was like, ‘Let me do designs that represent my mentality, which is being limitless.'”
That’s how his first brand was born.
3. Make Your Comfort Zone the Uncomfortable
Brian’s last “real” job was managing a shoe store back in high school, while he also took advanced classes to prep him for his aforementioned possible career in the corporate world.
“I was working 40 hours a week while taking three APs,” he said. “I’d come home and study and go to sleep. It became so routine and so boring I became psychotic, miserable, nasty to everyone around me.”
Brian realized this was because he was being complacent, and when he’s complacent, he’s unhappy. Something needed to change. So he quit his job and used the $3,000 he’d saved working to start a business.
“Everyone was like, you need to go to school, work a few years, gain some experience,” he said. “Even my friends were going to school to be doctors and lawyers. We need those people, we respect those people, but I’m not one of those people. Don’t tell me who I am.”
A photo posted by @rulezofrebelz on
4. Don’t Bring Other People In Unless They’re the Best
Part of making your comfort zone the uncomfortable, at least in Brian’s case, is not being afraid to do most of the work on your own in the beginning.
Brian’s a one-man team because “there’s no one I can pay who will do a better job of what I’m doing right now than me,” he said. “I’d rather do it myself. No one can sell yourself better than you can sell yourself.”
5. Use Your “Weakness” As a Weapon
Starting a company at 18 means lots of people will tell you you’re too young. But Brian knew his youth was an asset.
“The more people told me I couldn’t do it, the more I wanted to do it,” he said. “I wanted to start an entire brand that empowers the youth. Fortune 500 companies don’t know what it’s like being young in the struggle. I can show kids you don’t need anything except yourself and your willpower.
If you’re trying to create something that speaks to the young, then you obviously can’t be too young to do that. So Brian used his youthful sensibility to crack the audience he wanted to reach.
6. Keep a Sense of Youthful Magic
As important as Brian’s age has been for him, he also firmly believes you can have a young state of mind and keep a sense of magic no matter what your age is — in fact, you should, because it’ll make your work better.
“Youth defines a sense of magic,” he said. “When we were all kids, we were excited about everything. That’s when your youth is at your prime. You’re happy.”
Keeping a youthful sense of magic and wonder ensures that you’ll want to discover new things constantly, he said.
“Little kids are always doing something new, they’re always learning something — they’re always in that discomfort zone,” he said. “And they’re always happy.”
Brian points to the fashion blogger Accidental Icon, who’s a Rulez of Rebelz fan and has amassed a huge following based on her experimentation with style at an age that’s atypical for many in fashion.
A photo posted by Accidental Icon (@iconaccidental) on
“Youth has no age limit,” he said. “It’s what keeps you driven and excited.”
7. Be Thankful
Brian starts every morning being thankful that he woke up, and lists everything he’s thankful for before going to bed.
“There are days when I just cry because I’m so grateful for my situation,” he said. “Being grateful is what keeps me motivated.”
This extends to being happy and grateful for the success of others — “seeing people I don’t know win, that keeps me stimulated,” he said.
8. Keep it Real
If you create something that’s not truly coming from your heart, people will pick up on it, whether it’s a T-shirt, a song, or anything else. If you’re making something because you think people will like it — not because you like it — everyone will see right through it.
“You can’t impose a synthetic message,” Brian said.
Brian wears Rulez of Rebelz every day, he points out — and why wouldn’t he? If he’s going to ask other people to represent his brand, he has to make sure that it’s representing everything it did from the beginning.
“I’m not a user,” he said. “I don’t dispose of people. I have scruples, I have morals, I believe in karma — so it just happens. People fuck with my shit, I fuck with their shit, and it’s synergy.”
9. Make Your Own Connections
A huge part of Brian’s success has been his ability to get celebrities with huge social media followings to wear his clothes. This might make you assume he’s just got friends in high places — but Brian is a son of immigrants from Brooklyn. He met his first high-profile connection, rapper King Louie, by literally walking around Soho looking for famous people.
He told King Louie he was an 18-year-old designer from Brooklyn trying to make it, Louie liked the hat, and the rest is history. The same thing happened with Jonathan Cheban, another well-connected longtime supporter.
“Who the fuck would do that — to walk around with a hat looking for relevant people in Soho?” he said.
Well, the answer is not many people besides Brian Wolfe — and that’s why he has his own brand and other people don’t.
“You don’t need to know anyone,” he said. “For five months, I did not sell one T-shirt, period. I had no one [high-profile] wearing it. But my network was all of fucking New York City, and I utilized it.”
Photo by Marisa Truitt