Plate Lunch Founders On Organic Growth & Art Inspiration

The Kaplan brothers, Cory and Gregg, stumbled upon their brand Plate Lunch in 2012. They had both been working at Dakine—Cory, serving as the brand’s surf team manager, and Gregg helping out in marketing. Together, the two creative minds started brainstorming about a new project part-time, but soon decided to enter into the venture 100%. The brothers, who are artists at heart, say they’ve been tapped in to this aspect of themselves since they were kids.

“We’ve always been inspired to create in one way or another. We grew up in a household where our parents always encouraged us to think outside of the box and are very creative themselves,” says Gregg Kaplan. “It’s weird to say, but we’ve always known that having our own brand and making art is what we’d be doing.”
By June 2013, Gregg and Cory had officially founded their brand, named after a common Hawaiian cultural reference. The collection is based on the basics: T-shirts, hats, and more recently, a foray into socks with help from their friends at Stance, and is growing organically with a handful of key specialty retailers that the brand has placed its focus on. Not wanting to expand the brand too quickly, the brothers have concentrated on getting the product and artistic vibe right on its current offering, while still dabbling in partnerships with major companies like Vans and well-known accounts like Thalia Street Surf Shop.
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Plate Lunch’s designs combine a Hawaiian vibe with modern and retro art.We caught up with the Brothers Kaplan to hear more about what all of this means for Plate Lunch moving into the future. | Photo: Coconut Comradery

 

We caught up with the Brothers Kaplan to hear more about what all of this means for Plate Lunch moving into the future.

How did you decide to call this brand Plate Lunch – any story or moment when you realized this was the name for your brand?

We were brainstorming on a the perfect name for a few months. Our uncle Mike suggested ‘Plate Lunch’, as we wanted something unique that told a story about Hawaii and the mix of cultures that make it up. In case your’e wondering a plate lunch is a quick, local style meal that consists of: two scoops rice, mac salad, and a meat entree. Our brand is similar to the meal in that we are combining different elements from the past and present and creating something new. Two scoops rice and everything nice!

How did you get into the design side of things? How did you decide to create this type of art? 
Most of the art is created by hand in-house. We use a combination of different methods including, painting, drawing, stenciling, block printing, and collage. That being said collaborating with other artists is a big part of Plate Lunch as well. We have some amazing artists as friends that have helped us out in the creative department. Mahalo to Russ Pope, Yusuke Hanai, Zio Ziegler, Mathew Tapia, Nate Robertson and Bob Ross for being involved with the brand and getting down on art vibes.

What inspired you to create a clothing / accessories brand? Where did you see an opportunity in the market?

It’s the combination of different ideas coming together and creating something new that is inspiring on a daily basis. We wanted to make a Hawaii based brand that allows us an outlet for our art/designs and as a way to work with other artists/designers/brands that we are stoked on. Plate Lunch is less about capitalizing on an opportunity and more about staying true to who we are and making authentic, quality products.

We have been selective with our retail partners since the beginning. It’s important for us to work with retailers who we feel get our vibe and where we are able to be represented correctly.

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A look inside the T-shirt making process. | Coconut Comradery

Photo: Coconut ComraderyPhoto: Coconut ComraderyPhoto: Coconut Comradery

Photo: Coconut Comradery

Which retailers did you start off with and how has your retail base grown since you launched?

We have been selective with our retail partners since the beginning. It’s important for us to work with retailers who we feel get our vibe and where we are able to be represented correctly. We have amazing retailers and consider all of them to be part of the PL Ohana. Thalia Surf, Captains Helm, Green Room Hawaii, Beams and Ron Herman in Japan are some of our earliest retail partners. Since then we have put a lot of energy into Hawaii and have got into into some killer local accounts including: Hi-Tech Surf Sports, The North Shore Watershed at Turtle Bay, Blue Hawaii, Clips, Milo, and Kaion Surf. Most recently we have partnered up with Berdels in Santa Cruz, Proof Lab in Mill Valley and Prospect in our hometown of Paia, Maui.

 You are obviously well recognized in Hawaii and California. How has your presence grown in other regions? Are you working to grow throughout the US?

Up until this point we have been focussing on Hawaii, California, and Japan. We are a two man team, so it can get spread pretty thin with everything we have going on. When the time is right we will be looking to expand throughout the US, South America, Europe, and Australia.

Talk about how your partnership with Vans came about? Why did you feel like it was a natural fit to collaborate with the brand?

Collaborating with Vans really came about through skateboarding, surfing and making art with friends. Russ Pope was working there at the time and we ended up living in the same neighborhood for a few years and would skate, and talk art stuff on the regular. I jumped in on a bunch of different Vans trips and got to be friends with others who are involved with the brand.

Plate Lunch

The latest from Vans x Plate Lunch. | Photo: Coconut Comradery

The first large scale projects that I worked on were creating the art for the 2013 Vans World Cup of Surfing and the 2014 Vans Triple Crown. Although these projects were worked on at separate times, the process of creation was fairly similar and we always had a plan that the two would tie in aesthetically. I had the privilege of working alongside the surf marketing team on the look and feel of the posters and the mens apparel and footwear teams on the contest merchandise.

The most recent project is the Vans + Gregg Kaplan signature line of apparel and footwear, which was released last spring. It is a 9 piece collection that includes 4 specialty tees, board shorts, a bucket hat, a tote bag, foam slippers, and a pair of shoes.

To have those collaborations go down feels pretty next level. Huge thanks to everyone at Vans for all the aloha!

What was that process like? How involved were you? Any stories to share from the experience?

With any project that I take on, I like to be involved as much as possible. I truly love the creative process and appreciate working with other talented designers and artists. I feel the best collaborations are the ones where there is a mutual respect for what each party is bringing to the table and an understanding of everyone’s strengths.

We have a solid idea of where we want to go with our brand, but we also want to let things occur naturally and when the timing is right. We’re in it for the long haul and aim to be a timeless and classic brand.

How did your relationship with Thalia come about? How long have you been working with them?

Thalia was our first account. We’ve been working with them since day one. Mahalo to Nick, Corey, and the rest of the crew for alway having our backs and making us feel like family whenever we’re in town. The last three summers we have put on a Plate Lunch art night at Thalia, which always has an epic turnout. We are so stoked to cruise with such a rad group of individuals and most of all the opportunity to spread some ALOHA!

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Behind the making of Stance x Plate Lunch | Photo: Chris J. Evans

Tell us more about your collaboration with Stance. When did/does this hit retail, and which shops are carrying it?

Stance has done an incredible job in all aspects of their business. It’s inspiring to see how successful they have become in such a short amount of time. They have a killer team in place and make top-notch product. To be able to collaborate with them is a huge honor for us and the perfect medium to get our art out to a larger audience.

Our first Stance sock was released last winter and coincided with the Triple Crown. These were produced in a limited run and were given out to team riders and industry VIP’s on the North Shore.

Our current Stance line has just dropped and is a Hawaii only release. Most Stance retailers here in Hawaii should be carrying them. The socks are based on two separate art pieces. The first ties into one of our longest running and best selling T-Shirt designs, “Fauna Stripe.” While the second is a hand carved lino-cut, that was custom made for the project. The line includes two men’s styles, one women’s style, and one kids style.

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Taking DIY to the next level. | Photo: Coconut Comradery

What’s in store for the future? Any new partnerships or projects you have brewing?

As far as collaborations go we will be releasing a limited run of fins with Island Fin Design and a limited collection of apparel and headwear with Fitted Hawaii. We’ve got some other top-secret collaborations coming down the tube as well, but you’ll have to stay tuned for those.

What’s your vision for the evolution of Plate Lunch?

We have a solid idea of where we want to go with our brand, but we also want to let things occur naturally and when the timing is right. We’re in it for the long haul and aim to be a timeless and classic brand. We plan to grow organically and continue to make quality products that feature original designs. Mahalo for the Aloha!