Forrest Curran

Today we break the Tumblr myth that is Forrest Curran. Online he seems to be this cool, calm and collected man who has is all mapped out. In reality Forrest is better than that. He is honest, heartfelt and engaging.  The best things to come out of Japan aren't the products but the people. This interview shattered the myth of the man behind the Jhene Aiko vetted blog Purple Buddha Project and showed me a man with a vision.

Akoyi – I feel like you’ve done so much. For me it was crazy when I found out more about you. I was like this is insane there are people accomplishing stuff in life.

Forrest Curran – I try, I try. It’s really hard right now I’m not sure if you saw my kickstarter got suspended?

A – Yeah I did.

FC – It’s because kickstarter doesn’t support charitable – I think it’s for liability and tax reasons I guess. Last time I think it’s how I worded it but this time I guess I just worded it too much into a charitable thing so they shut it down. It’s pretty disappointing but yeah.

A – But I saw you have a new option on your website to shop around.

FC – Yes I’ve been working on that honestly all day –

A – Yeah, it looks good so far – so far so good.

FC – Yeah so far so good but it’s going to be another rough couple of months…

A– I have a couple of questions – a few things I’m curious about. So my first question is when did you start the Purple Buddha Project, the Tumblr blog?

FC – About three years ago I believe. I didn’t even know about tumblr it was by accident. So one of my friends had a Tumblr and I posted some pictures up. Then I came back to it probably a couple weeks later honestly and it had a bunch of notes, reblogs and I had no idea what was going on. I just started one and so I took it from a blog there. It was never supposed to become this big really. It’s just like a blog.

A – Personal…

FC – Yeah then I started getting a lot of traction in terms of followers and things like that so I decided to end up making a product around it. It was supposed to be a blog but it ended up turning into a little more.

A – So did you start with quotes? Because I found you through Jhene Aiko’s blog. I would see that she would reblog your quotes and I was like what is the Purple Buddha Project

FC – It was a bunch of images and then I don’t really know how she found out about my blog either really it seems like a lot of people find out about my blog through her. It’s pretty cool –

A – For sure.

FC – I really don’t listen to her music to be honest.

A – You don’t? What – she’s not your vibes?

FC – Nah, it’s not for me but it’s cool.

A – It is when things come and just cross over like that.

FC – Yeah I think we just had a Japanese connection – I think that’s really it we are Japanese. But it’s been a lot of work honestly. I’ve been there five times – Cambodia I mean. Flying back in December so it’s something that started from a blog and was never supposed to be this big really.

A – How did you first get in touch with the people in Cambodia? How did you make that connection?

FC – It’s hard you know? You can find it from the internet. What a lot of people do, for example when they buy things from China they go and look it up on Alibaba or a couple of websites like that. I think you have to go to the actual place, the actual location…

A – To get the legitimate sources.

FC – Yeah. I mean with everything I source I just go to the place. It’s so much easier to go there. I think you can meet your connections online but –

A – You need to get there –

FC – Yeah you can make your connections online but if you’re going to start sourcing and doing things like that go into the actual place really helps. It creates more of a trust factor and you find out what’s going on. Like my first supplier – I was sitting in a hotel lobby and I was waiting for the guy to come and he wasn’t coming. So I asked the person at the Hotel front desk. I asked him if he could call the guy using Khmer, which is the Cambodian language, and then I showed the thing and he was like your friends name means happy. It wasn’t even a real name.

A – Oh I see

FC – Yeah, so it’s not easy there’s people trying to trick you.

A – Why did you decide on jewelry? In the past I’ve heard of people sponsoring the people who find the land mines and the bombs to get them – why did you decide to take that one step further and actually make jewelry?

FC – I guess back in the day they used to transfer skills. So if your mom or dad was a tailor or something, you’d be a tailor. They’d keep on teaching and transfer the skills. I guess like my family a long time ago they were silversmiths or something like that so my great grandma made jewelry, my grandma made jewelry and so I didn’t really learn too much. I know how to do the basics and things like that. It’s just always been an interest.

A – That’s actually pretty fascinating – When it comes to the pieces how do you come up with the ideas for each piece? Do you have a preconceived notion from your own background with jewelry or do you see the materials that you can source and then go from there?

FC – I think designing of fashion items, differentiating in terms of design is really difficult. You can only design so much and then make it try to look different from your competitors. But a lot of them, they kind of look the same. What I decided to do was source the different types of beads; I think the raw materials that we source from are really interesting so I try to differentiate from there. I also think that a lot of jewelry is really tied to a certain type of meaning. Like tattoos I think the jewelry works in the same way, it doesn’t have to mean one thing. That’s how I see things so I try to be different about it.

A – Something that’s meaningful for sure.

FC – Yeah, I mean I don’t know about what these weapons of conflict mean to one person, for all people it’s all different. For me it’s like my great grandfather – no; my grandfather went to war at 15 and things like that for WWII so you know…

A – He might have some army dog tags with a different memory

FC – I’m not really into war, my grandpa told me about how he went to war basically when he was a little child and that freaked me out.

A – How receptive are the people that you’ve met on the ground to your project? What’s their reaction?

FC – I’m not sure on the ground right now. There’s things that I’ll never know because the Kickstarter ended up being closed. There’s quite a lot of interest from some big time investors this time. So that’s where it got pretty interesting. Honestly it sounds like something crazy. Something out of – like now what I’m doing right now but I’m eventually trying to get my company signed to Pharell and things like that so hopefully that will be –

A – Something in the future and then from there it can just build into a lifestyle for everybody to sort of –

FC – Yeah, I’m really trying to go into the yoga section, because I’ve seen the brand Lululemon. I think sometimes what they’re doing like contradicts the person who does yoga.

A – Oh I see. So you want your business to be ethical from the top?

FC – So what I want to do is start a campaign called marketing real people, something in the future again but not doing any digital image retouching just to actually have normal people and normal photography, marketing real people. That’s somewhere I want to go into in terms of direction. I think also Lululemon oversexualizes women too, so I really do want to get into the yoga section eventually.

A – That’s interesting.

FC – It’s just hard sourcing athletic clothes, so I’ve been having trouble there.

A – But you’re still thinking way into the future, that’s amazing.

FC – Yeah, offloading and then it doesn’t happen…

A – I’m sure it will because you’re back again for a second round of jewelry so things can only get bigger. Where do you see yourself in five years apart from having your own company?

FC – I’m not really sure. Right now I really don’t know where it’s going.

A – Yeah; things are up in the air.

FC – Yeah we will see. I guess that’s how things really start we don’t know where it’s going. Everyday is pretty different. Some weeks it’s like you feel really great and everything. Then some other weeks it’s some drama – it’s hard, it’s not easy.

A - How are you able to be so open to people on the blog? I see you answering questions  But also just like delivering messages that I feel are more personal. I feel I can make an easier connection to you because you do talk about your own story. Leaving Japan and just traveling and your own emotional journey. How did you come to be so open? It is like you’ve always been open or?

FC – I just try to respond as much as possible. I think people really, especially when you’re trying to start up from the ground. You have to answer people’s mail. Honestly it’s not easy I get a lot of messages but I try to respond as much as possible. You know it’s hard to make connections on the internet. There’s a lot of things going on and so when someone sees something online and they message them. Then they see this is someone that’s actually pretty cool so you know they end up telling other people. They have something cool going on and they’re cool, it’s just human nature.

A – I feel like you’re so consistently open, for me that’s really admirable. I would never be able to do that. I’d be like bye you need to leave now.

FC – Yeah it’s not easy. I get tons of questions and people get mad when you don’t answer their questions.

A – And you’re like gotta live your life.

FC – Yeah.

A - Do your friends and family know that you run this blog and you have this project going on?

FC – My parents didn’t know I did this until this year (2014) in the summer, I didn’t tell my parents about any of this. My friends didn’t know for the longest time, just my closest ones too. I don’t really tell too many people honestly.

A – You said that you want to branch out into apparel. DO you already have the kind of people, the kind of style that you want to gear towards? Like do you want to do something like Lululemon or more fashion?

FC – I think you have to be more specific – I think you can go into other categories but you have to stand out in whatever products or platform you’re doing. I think I’d have to really focus on jewelry and things like that. I have some pretty cool ideas of what I’m trying to do next. I’m always kind of thinking and taking inspiration from other things.

A – I know that you said that every single day is different for you but when it comes to maintaining your social media do you have a specific approach that you take as far as like the Instagram and your website and outreach?

FC – I think you need to accumulate a strong number of followers on one channel and then start spreading it across multiple platforms. In terms of that I always go through it on my phone really quickly. I also have other apps that sends it out automatically so that helps.

A – You don’t have to be stuck on it all the time.

FC – I don’t even carry a cell phone around anymore I leave it as a home phone because I’d always be stuck on my phone. I don’t like living on my social media too much so I just leave it at home.

A – It becomes an obsession.

FC – It really does.

A – That’s smart though; I become obsessed with my Instagram, like when you put a picture up and then five minutes later I’m like how many likes, how many likes? It’s so unhealthy.

FC – It’s addicting and you know in terms of marketing I try not to look at it as much as possible.

A – With the internet now do you think there are limits to reach? What do you feel is the role of the internet because I feel like anything is possible?

FC – I think so too. It’s hard to say really. But I do think it is easier if you are in a more fashion centered city. I can tell because I’m from Tokyo and some of the clothes. I went shopping a couple of days ago and like I saw certain clothes that I saw literally a couple of years ago in Japan.

A – I’m so jealous.

FC – Yeah so you’ve got to live in one of those big cities to see a brand when it first comes up. Plus it’s much easier getting people to see you.

A – So would you be more interested in staying in America or would you go to Tokyo? I feel like Tokyo is a more exciting city fashion wise.

FC – Yeah I guess but you know Tokyo is pretty hard to make it out of there. If you make it you can make it anywhere in the world. But getting out of there is hard. The rent’s high and everything is so expensive so I think I’ll stay in America.

A – I’ve seen some brands like Ambush by Verbal and Yoon. They’re sort of starting to get that international attention, but what’s the fashion climate like in Tokyo as far as businesses go?

FC – It’s just very different. A lot of brands they wouldn’t even have their own website from like twenty years ago. They make it on purpose so it’s really difficult to buy. In anything on Japanese fashion it’s based around exclusivity.

A – Ah

FC – So it’s like limited number of everything.

A – Very specific.

FC – Yeah you can’t even buy it online so it’s completely different than over here. The prices are completely different than over here too. You can pay like a hundred and fifty dollars for a t-shirt.

A – That’s crazy, but the design is probably impeccable.

FC – You know I wouldn’t really like to limit my items. There’s a brand called supreme out of Japan.

A – Yeah you see Supreme is major.

FC – I think they have only five retail stores or something like that. I’ve gotten a lot of retail offers but no, I don’t want to saturate –

A – The market, it’s too much.

FC – Yeah, I think exclusivity is important.

A – That makes sense. I’ve heard just a few things about Japan, I’m not super educated but your mind set seems to be deviating from the norm.

FC – I’m not normal Japanese.

A – As far as even the whole idea of just starting the business while you’re in school. While you were growing up were you sort of deviating or did something come up to make you think one day I can do something differently…?

FC – I started it because I was really lonely just living in a different country from your family is really hard. So I had a lot of free time to think about things and then starting my own company. I wonder why I did that? I just wanted to do something really different. I’m not sure if you’ve read the book 4 Hour Work Week? It’s a really good book, I read that book my freshman year. He talked about how he became this really successful guy but he only did work for ten hours a week. So I was like that’s pretty cool. I didn’t know that you could travel and work, that’s pretty cool. Then I heard about a brand called Johnny Cupcakes. Do you know Johnny Cupcakes?

A – No.

FC – Okay it’s basically, he sells shirts everywhere and now it’s a really big brand. So I guess those two things. I wanted to create my own job where I can travel a lot and also have my own thing going on too. It’s hard to say.

A – I see what you mean. I work right now, in retail, and sometimes it’s really frustrating. I’m like I have my own dreams and goals and I feel like I’m just helping someone else get to their dreams and goals. So it makes sense that you would start your own company.

FC – Plus I didn’t like to listen to anyone, I’m just anti-authority because I had a professor dad who tried to do that thing my whole life. So it’s hard for me to listen to people. My parents are okay with it though, they’re pretty supportive about it.

A – That’s great because there’s nothing worse than having to have that fear. Will they like it, will they not?

FC – They’re not really supportive about it because they can’t control me, I live in another country. So it’s like sorry…

A – Gotta live your life, gotta seize that day.

FC – Yeah, its hard balancing school and doing this. There are a lot of sacrifices that you have to make in terms of like social life. I haven’t had a social life in a really long time.

A – Did you have a moment when you knew that the sacrifices were worth it? That this is something you want to continue?

FC – Yeah, I said in a video a long time ago. You have to do things other people won’t do in order to do the thing’s people can’t do. You have to do thing’s people can’t do in order for opportunities people didn’t work hard enough – I really do believe in the power of hard work. I guess this Kickstarter stuff didn’t work out but I’ve learned things. You know, keep on stacking up your lessons and you can eventually reach where you’re trying to get to.

A – That’s so true. You’re so positive.

FC – I try to be positive, I’m like everyone else a normal person.

A – I don’t think so.

FC – People normally think I’m wearing like I don’t know, a monk outfit.

A – Meditating – But I think it’s your dedication and committed consistency to your blog and project and just keeping everyone informed. I also thought that like you were done school and you’re like a business person who has just figured life out. So when you said that you’re still 22, I was like what? You know.

FC – Everyone thinks I’m really old, it’s because of my beard.

A – I think it’s because you’re more dedicated than most people; people are just very distracted.

FC – You know I’ve put so much into this already it’s like there’s no going back honestly. There’s been way too many sacrifices.  Honestly at this point quitting is much harder than trying for me. I can’t quit.

A – You’ve just got to take everything as it comes.

FC – I really believe in energy and things like that. I believe that you can manifest your energy into not necessarily an object, but a certain skill.

A – I get what you mean. It turns into something and you’ll find…

FC – It turns into something and it’s kind of crazy. I began this in my dorm, it’s insane to me.

A – It keeps growing.

FC – I take the good in with the bad. I’ve noticed that you’re happy and then you’re sad. It always oscillates. You could be successful but be unhappy about the stupidest things. I try to keep my happiness steady, regardless of what happens.

A – You’re still going to take it positively.

You can visit the Purple Buddha Project Tumblr here and learn more about the merchandise here.