Q&A with Jeff Staple: REDU HOMEROOM kicks off in New York

Starting today in New York City, REDU will be teaming with renowned designer and fashion pioneer Jeff Staple to raise awareness and inspire dialogue around education reform with HOMEROOM.


A fundraising art exhibition, HOMEROOM provides a forum for people to join with the creative community to discuss ways to fix the challenges facing the American public education system today. The event kicks off with an opening party tonight, November 9th at 6 pm and continues through November 23rd with a series of workshops at Jeff Staple’s REED SPACE gallery.

For more information on how to take part please visit: http://www.letsredu.com/2010/10/redu-homeroom-2

The works of art shown at Homeroom will be for sale, including prints, posters, t-shirts and other accessories. Most importantly, 100% of profits will go directly to public school projects at DonorsChoose.org.


Artists Scott Campbell, Luis Gispert, José Parla, Neck Face, and Lucien Marc-Smith will be displaying original art at REED SPACE as part of a group show, with the gallery’s walls transformed by interior designer Rafael De Cárdenas. All of the designers will be offering limited edition t-shirts, posters and tote bags for purchase with 100% of proceeds benefiting public schools through Donors Choose.

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Jeff Staple is best known for his underground street wear collections. His most famous being the NYC Pigeon Dunks, a pair of sneakers produced in collaboration with Nike which inspired a cult following. With HOMEROOM opening today, we thought this would be a great time to hear from Jeff about how his personal history informs his passion and involvement with education reform and HOMEROOM.

Jeff Staple

Q&A with Jeff Staple:

REDU: Tell us a little about your background?

Jeff Staple: Well I was born in New Jersey and went through the public school system all throughout my life right up to university. I was raised in a fairly traditional Chinese household in a predominantly Jewish part of Jersey. So being a minority was always quite a prevalent part of my upbringing. Being an artist or a “creative” never entered the equation until I got to High School. And even then, it was only scratching the surface. I went to college still not realizing people could make a living from the arts.

Q. What role has education played, if any, in your professional achievements?

Jeff Staple: Besides the actual design work that I do, I am also a teacher. So that accounts for a lot. Even at the private institutions I’ve taught at (NYU, Parsons, Columbia) I was met with red tape, bureaucracy and inefficiency. So I can only imagine how it must be at an under-funded public school.

As for my “9-5” design gig, everything we produce out of Staple Design and Reed Space attempts to invigorate thought. Our motto is “a positive social contagion.” In fact, each clothing collection we do is inspired from a particular subject you would take in school. Also, the interior of our boutique and gallery, Reed Space is fashioned after a school.

Q. Was there a teacher that urged you on to where you are today?

Jeff Staple: Well, REED Space is actually named after my high school art teacher, Michael Reed (R.I.P.)

He was so influential to my life. Not only did he bring out an artistic quality in me that I didn’t know I had…but he also demonstrated the importance of good teaching. As with most young kids, I disliked a lot of my teachers. But Mr. Reed made learning fun. I was in awe of his ability to transfer information and do it in a way that made me excited to go to class. He taught me how to be a better student, a better artist, a better boss and a better person.

REDU. What kind of student were you?   

Jeff Staple: I was the definition of average. I was ranked 800 out of 1600 kids. Had a 2.0 GPA and on my SATs, I scored a 550 math and a 550 English. You could not get more middle of the road than me. Haha…

Q. Can you speak to the intersection of design, fashion and education?

Jeff Staple: To me, because I do both, design and education are very similar. As a designer, it is your job to take a message and pass it from one person to another person (or a group of persons) and do it in the most effective, impactful and striking manner. I believe great educators do the same thing. But instead of using a mouse, they use a classroom. And just as witnessing a great designer is a work of art…the same goes for witnessing a great teacher.

Fashion is an extension of design to me. It’s a medium. And it’s a very powerful medium. Everyone is affected by fashion. You don’t see many naked people walking around right? So utilizing fashion as a medium to spread your message is a very powerful thing in our society.

REDU: What would you tell a kid today about your path?

Jeff Staple: Don’t ever let anybody tell you “it cannot be done”. If you feel it is the way to do it, then figure out a way.

REDU.  We will have 6 artists at the event.  Can you tell us the process that went into choosing them?

Jeff Staple: First off, I wanted to choose artists that were affected deeply by their education…either positively or adversely. I also wanted to choose artists that are true voices of our generation. Each of these guys are at the top of their game so I thought their skills would be an excellent way to make people aware of the problems we have in our educational system.

REDU: Why are you passionate about education reform?

Jeff Staple: I honestly believe that if we continue to raise a nation of uneducated young people, we will not be able to solve any of the other problems we will face in the future. Hence, education is the single most important issue at hand.

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