The walls are littered with ideas and concepts.
Prototypes sit on hangers attached to racks awaiting a collective decision as to whether they’ll become apart of an upcoming seasonal collection. It’s referred to as HQ, and inside is part think tank, part money maker, and part place to sit, relax and take in a good soccer match.
That last part though is by invitation only.
Ebun Olaloye, is the owner and chief creative officer of Live, Breathe, Futbol, and his airy Brewerytown-based office is an accurate representation of the evolution of both its location and the whirlwind growth the company has amassed over the last few years.
A humble start as a T-shirt designer fresh out of architecture school at Temple University, Olaloye has evolved LBF into a respected brand among a niche clientele. But a clientele that has afforded the company collaborations with brands like Adidas and with teams within Major League Soccer. Now, with the recent open of an office in the U.K., the mecca of soccer and its culture, LBF is poised to make a splash across the pond.
“It's still kind of like it's surreal,” Olaloye said sitting on one of the two lounges he created for LBF’s Philly office. “You always dream about building something that's much larger than you, but then when it actually happens, you can’t help to be like “shit, this is legit. To get to where we are is nothing short of a blessing and opening our U.K. office truly is a dream, but it made sense to make that next step.”
With an innate passion for soccer, Olaloye, 29, started the company in 2010. The goal was always to fuse soccer with lifestyle and kickstart a culture, the same way Air Jordan sneakers bridged basketball and inner-city street life. Olaloye saw that there was an opportunity to do so despite the lack of love in Philly. And while a move to a larger market like New York or Los Angeles could’ve helped the exposure of LBF, moving the company was never in the cards.
“The inspiration for the brand came while I was from Temple right. I’ve played with guys here and there’s just energy here that I don’t think is in those other places,” said Olaloye. “I think that's one of the things people love about our brand is that it's real it's authentic right. And I think there's something about Philadelphia as a city that lends to not doing anything that’s not that authentic. Could it have been better to have an office in New York or LA? Sure, I think there would have been an advantage to that. But I’m passionate about where we are right now and I think it makes sense to remain here in Philadelphia.”
Perhaps the bigger thing to ensure authenticity is the notion that Olaloye doesn’t want to say that anyone gave him anything. Handouts just aren’t his thing despite knowing that his business, his model and the color of his skin could’ve provided a smoother road on a path to success. But there’s a pride in Olaloye that resonates when he speaks about starting a business at just 20-years-old and watching it grow through scratching, clawing and late nights in front of a computer screen.
“I think part of what's helped me so far is that I always felt like an outsider,” said Olaloye. “I've always kind of felt like I can like from the outside looking in I have a different perspective than how everyone is doing it. And then I've just kind of always been very very focused on accomplishing my goals and to be honest. I don't spend too much time thinking of being labeled as a ‘black businessman’ in Philadelphia. I know people who say I should’ve taken advantage of minority business grants and stuff, but I just always had this idea that I wanted to accomplish this without all that. I've just put my head down and worked. I've been very fortunate to meet people that are inspired by my story and want to support what I'm doing.”
With creativity in his blood, diversification of his brand is the logical next step. In addition to apparel, Olaloye is moving LBF into soccer-inspired design elements, from creating experiences in brick and mortar locations to experiences at soccer-centric events, it’s the next move for a Philly-based brand that keeps on kicking.
“I just love creating, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” said Olaloye. “So it just makes sense to apply that creativity in different ways that stay on-brand. I’ve surrounded myself with a strong creative team. Our collective goal is to create an experience that connects with people in the soccer space.”