Danny Le, Owner of South East Beast is a prominent individual here in San Jose. The 30 year old entrepreneur may have gain an image as a party goer because you can catch him hanging out on lounges, art shows, live concert venues, etc. Since I started to be an active photographer in San Jose’s events, I noticed Danny Le to be in most of my pictures. I like to observe the people around the events that I attended. I looked for inspiration in the crowd and I noticed that Danny does the same thing except with a different method. He looks for inspiration by absorbing the people that surrounds him. At first, you’ll catch Danny mingling with the crowd almost appearing as “Mr. Popular” because Danny seems to know everyone in San Jose. Things would change once the music comes on, Danny would separate himself from his friends. He then goes into this trance, almost meditating and observing the art that’s being presented to him. I would assume at this very moment he conjures up the next idea for his brand or an idea for a future venture with a colleague that leads to ground breaking ideas.
In 2011, I got a chance to get to know Danny Le a little more and away from his public moniker “Mr. Dandiggity”. He toured as a poet and slept in couches. He graduated in creative writing and spent some of his valued time participating in charity events. He’s been part of many nonprofit organization and perhaps this is where he gain the title “The Mayor” of San Jose. Now, he is the owner and creative director of South East Beast, working as part of the staff at Cukui, and is involved in the growth of PLSTK. Most importantly he is a Samaritan, a rare breed in this day in age. I wanted to introduce Danny and South East Beast to the readers at MODE by sharing this small interview.
Q: What is South East Beast? When did you conjure up the vision of the brand and what inspired it?
A: South East Beast is my outlet for creativity these days. It is a brand I started to help showcase the influences I’ve been exposed to growing up as a Vietnamese American as well as within the APIA arts community. I wanted to showcase a brand that supported the Asian community that has been growing steadily within the street culture over the last twenty years. I have been a dedicated fan of Hip Hop and electronic music since I was little. But I was viewed as an anomaly. In the Bay Area during the 90’s the dominant group of Asian who were the main practitioners of the culture were the Filipinos. But today you have Asian kids of all ethnic backgrounds on T.V. either dancing or working the political circles. It’s a huge leap from how we were viewed in the 80’s and 90’s. Mostly as genius nerds or some other generalization.
South East Beast is my way of showcasing these groups and instilling a pride in being Asian in America as well as remembering their ancestral roots back in their families’ home countries. My tag line “The Third World Comes First” is a way of reminding those I’m trying to reach out to take pride in their history and utilize it as a way to enhance their future. We are still connected to this planet. That makes everyone important. My hopes for this brand is of course to be something I can build as a long lasting career, but also as a means to empower inner city youths and support organizations that help the impoverish youths overseas.
I had SEB as an idea for many years but I’ve only started it within the last five months. I still have a lot of work ahead of me but it’s my dream and I want to see it flourish. It’s more of a life long mission than a means for profit. Much more.
Q: Do you have any designers that inspires you? if you do,
who are they?
A: When I first started getting interested in fashion and design my first influences were from studying the Japanese streetwear movement in the 90’s. Brands like Bounty Hunter, BAPE, and Neighborhood really changed the way I viewed clothing. It was because they had the incredible notion to co-brand with toy companies, beverage giants, and other fashion companies. And everything was limited and collectable.
In America it’s brands like SUPREME, Rebel8, 3sixteen, Mister who are really impressing me these days. My sense of style is about balancing a clean well-made piece with radical ideas. And these brands appeal to me in that way.
Q: San Jose is slowly booming with creative talents but what set you apart from them?
A: I would say my knowledge about San Jose’s creative history (pertaining to Hip Hop) as well as the relationships and projects I have worked on. Experience, knowledge, and action can set anyone apart from individuals who lack in those areas. When it comes down to it, it is about how much work did you put in with the right place, projects, and people. You shouldn’t feel the need to boast about your achievements or your deeds. Others will vouch for you if you done all right for yourself.
Q: You seem to know everyone, do you feel that having South East Beast could tarnish some of your friendship with other brands? or do you feel that you and the other brands could partake on a friendly competition?
A: I think there is enough business for everyone out here. If I happen to have friction with anyone it would probably be more personal than work related. If people feel that I am something of a threat to their brand it’s probably because they are not aiming high enough, or that they have a limited scope of where their market is. For me South East Beast is a global brand. I’ve engineered it as such. And it is beyond apparel and manufactured goods. It’s about creating movements in marginalized communities through empowerment. I think more brands focused on these aspects there wouldn’t be jealousies or altercations that seem to currently plague the American market.