We recently caught up with the man himself to talk all things Jason Markk. The brand that was launched in 2007 has gone from strength to strength developing premium cleaning products and collaborating with the likes of UNDFTD, Staple, Footpatrol and Hello Kitty.
Can you introduce yourself?
Hi I'm Jason Markk, we make premium shoe care products and accessories. We also own a flagship store in downtown Los Angeles where we offer a drop off shoe care service.
What did you do before the brand?
I was a DJ for 15 years but while doing that I was also working at an advertising agency. I had to quit that job and take a sales position under my younger brother, and what I learnt from working six months in that role helped me launch Jason Markk.
What cleaning products did you use before starting Jason Markk?
I've always been into sneakers since I was a young kid. I always cleaned my sneakers with a home made concoction of Oxyclean and dish washer soap, and I'd just go at it with a toothbrush. I also used little tricks like taking the laces out and put them in a zip lock bag with warm water and a little bit of mild bleach and shake it, they it came out super white but it weakened the lace so you'd get one wear out of them and they would bust.
What was the original catalyst to start the brand?
It was not having that specialised product that understood the concerns of our sneaker culture. I wanted a cleaner with two things in mind, safety and versatility. They had to be safe because we all spend a lot of money on shoes and don't want a cleaning product to mess them up, and versatile due to the variety of materials being used on sneakers these days.
I remember cleaning my sneakers one day and I thought there's got to be a better way to do this, there's got to be a product out there that's made for people like me. There was the standard mall cleaner you could get with the spikey caps and the foam and I used that for a short while but there wasn't one specialised product that everyone turned to. I had friends who ran sneaker stores in Long Beach, LA and I'd go and talk to them, but nobody mentioned one standout product they used. It was then I had the idea to starting working on the cleaning solution.
How did the name come about?
We made up all these cheesy names but it just wasn't working for me. I was in the bathroom one day and noticed some Paul Smith toner in the cabinet and I thought to myself, he named his company after himself and it's timeless. The brand name is my first and middle name.
How many versions did it take to make the cleaning solution?
It took us four or five differerent versions before we ended up where we are today. It's a continuous process, since we launched Jason Markk we've changed the solution twice, making improvements all the time. The original solution was actually purple but we thought if we make the bottle purple we could take out that additional colouring. We have also added and removed ingredient to make small improvements because nothing is ever perfect. I'm not a trained chemist but I want to have the best product on the market so I never get comfortable and want to keep pushing things on.
Was it a conscious effort to make the solution biodegradable and safe for the environment?
I think from a safety point of view the best approach was to remove all the chemicals and harsh abrasives from the product. If you have a natural soap it's a lot safer than it being filled with chemicals and it's also better for the materials on a sneaker. On a personal level I do try to do my part for mother earth and the environment, I recycle and we have to conserve water living in Southern California.
What your sneaker rotation at the moment?
I've been wearing a lot of Nike Air Max, Air Jordan 1's and Converse Chuck 70's lately. I was never a one brand dude though, I wore Nike, Jordan, K-Swiss and Converse growing up.
What's next for you and the brand?
We opened our flagship store in downtown LA and it's a year next month since it's been open and we want to open more stores. The store offers a drop off service which has been extremely successful for us and I want to expand in key cities. We have new product in R & D now and we're always developing new products and ideas. We just want to do cool stuff that everyone loves.
I underestimated running a brick and mortar store though, I know branding, sales and strategy but then to actually have a physical space was a whole other thing. It took us a few months to get settled but we feel comfortable now and it's great to have a space to do our own stuff. Our main office is located in the back of the store so when I'm not travelling I'm there working away.
It seems your name has become a verb now?
Yeah it's funny, people were using the name as a verb like 'just Jason Markk them' so we made some 'Jason Markk it' stickers. I didn't see that one coming, it's surreal to think how far the brand has come!
I'd just like to finish by saying thanks to London and the UK. Everytime we come out here everyone shows us so much love and London is becoming our second home (just don't tell Tokyo that one!).
Jason Markk premium cleaning products are available online
and in size? stores now.