All The Pretty Horses
Max Siegelman on working with Virgil, LL Cool J, family and the UPS guy
It was the definition of a chance encounter when I met @msiegelman0 five years ago in the lobby of the Mercer Hotel. Now he shares how he went from working in the media world to establishing himself in the fashion world.
J.E.: You’ve come a long way from when we met in the Mercer that day! At the time, it was just an ordinary day. Looking back, it ended up being an important day in your life.
M.S.: Virgil allowed me to come to him with an Art Basel concept. He had an affinity for out-of-home advertising aka billboards and I worked at the largest out-of-home agency in North America. Virgil was supposed to meet Cam Hicks right before or after me but was running late. I saw Cam sitting by himself and I could just tell he was waiting on Virgil. He had the Louis Vuitton rings on and everything. I started speaking with Cam and then Virgil walked in and he loved that Cam and I were already in conversation. He said ‘let’s do this meeting all together’. I got to witness Cam unveiling the photo album of Virgil’s first ever Louis Vuitton runway show for the first time. It was like watching the presentation of the Superbowl trophy.
M.S.: Man, I was just absorbing that day as much as I could. You were posted up nearby at your table with Julio Jones, I was so focused and flustered I don’t know what was going on, I think you were speaking with Virgil about designing football cleats.
M.S.: When Virgil passed, I didn’t know what to do to pay respect and show love. I felt that I needed to pay tribute loudly, but not overwhelmingly. Twenty minutes after hearing the news and bawling crying, I sketched and sent to my team the billboard “FOREVER” that was seen everywhere for the next number of months. It was the one word in quotes that I felt was appropriate for him. Forever in our hearts, forever in our actions, designs, and thoughts. Virgil changed the game and influenced millions.
J.E.: And now you have your own brand, Siegelman Stable. You definitely caught my eye, a fashion brand with a horse logo like that.
M.S.: Theres a lot that went into this brand. Before I was born the brand existed. My dad is a harness racing trainer and has had his own stable since 1982. His personal story and journey is what I am telling, but through fashion. From design, logos, to supporting equine therapy and shining a light on the positive aspects of horse racing.
M.S.: The pandemic was the liftoff point for me. I wasn’t traveling for work every week, like I was used to, and was looking for creative outlets. I started drawing on sneakers to start. The last pair I did was Siegelman Stable inspired. I had people asking if they could send me shoes to draw on. I then posted an old hat from the ‘80s that my dad had made and realized I had nothing with his brand on it. I decided to recreate the hat in three color ways, as well as three crew neck color ways.
J.E.: Now you have trendsetters wearing your brand. How does that feel? And really, how did you make that happen?
M.S.: Well, when I started opening up sales to the general public, I had friends and family always say, “who’s going to wear something that says Siegelman Stable”. I just laughed and carried on. A few months later, Gunna, Future and Tim Hardaway Jr, just to name a few, were rocking the stuff. When I saw Future wearing the black and gold hat, and then the red and gold hat and then for weeks continued to rock them, I knew I had something special. It may or may not have anything to do with the fact that all I did putting this together was had Future music videos on loop on my TV. But, think about it; these types of people get stuff sent to them every second. You have to have something that looks and feels good to have them actually put it on and be seen in public with it. My second reaction was, ‘Im not even warming up yet’.
M.S.: My best and never before told marketing tactic was probably the NBA bubble. I won’t say how I got the address of the NBA bubble, but once I did, it was easy for me to swap out the team name and player name. I choose about ten guys who I knew were heavy in fashion and took a shot. A few days after sending, I had LeBron viewing my stories, though he never wore the stuff, and a few days after that, I was reposting League Fits tunnel pictures. It's not always what you have, it's also how you use it. This for me was probably my most sneaky, tactical marketing tactic yet. Some of those guys are now customers and supporters of Siegelman Stable.
J.E.: That’s genius. Tell me about your journey.
M.S.: My senior year of college I started a company with my best friend’s older brother. It started as a sports social network, that led to creating a fan-facing social aggregation app. I was fortunate enough to meet a ton of amazing people in the entertainment world, including LL Cool J, who became a co-founder of the company. I was tossed into the world and it helped me develop my networking abilities, which was heavily woven into pop culture.
M.S.: I grew up playing soccer my entire life. I played in college, even made the Final Four my senior year. During my college career, I tore my ACL, which sidelined me for a season. I blamed it on my lack of healthy nutrition and fitness. That sparked my obsession with fitness and health. After college, I used fitness as my networking tool because it’s where I was most confident. It was how I even got in touch with LL Cool J, through his boxing trainer. For my first six years in my professional life, I could draw back almost any professional relationship to fitness. There is certain kind of bond you already have with a person when you have a workout meeting. It continues to be a huge component of my everyday life and great networking tool for me.
M.S.: So much of how I act, work, think and treat myself I learned from LL. His work ethic, love of his family, importance of his own health and more are huge keys to my lifestyle that I garnered in the first months of working and traveling with him. LL told me at my first meeting with him; that Michael Jackson told him to ‘never limit yourself’ he repeated that and passed it on to me and that stuck.
J.E.: What kind of people inspire you?
M.S.: Positive and kind people first off. My lock screen is that quote from Virgil, “The only failure is not to try”. My dad always said growing up, ‘this ain’t no dress rehearsal’. He’s right, we have this one life to do the stuff we want, inspire yourself and look at others who are doing cool stuff the way they want to do it. To me, those are the people who are inspirational. There’s a country song - yea I rock with anything from country music to hiphop and so on - by Chris Young and Kane Brown called Famous Friends. It’s about people you’ve never heard of who aren’t your typical famous names in Hollywood, but maybe a hometown teacher or others following their own passions. “Friends in high places, on small town roads”, those are the people that inspire and motivate me most of the time.
J.E.: That’s the purpose of this newsletter! How does that show up in your product?
M.S.: For the stable, my dad always had an agenda to utilize his horses for a bigger cause than just racing. He created programs for inner-city youth to learn horsemanship and stay out of troubled neighborhoods. In addition to running equine therapy programs for veterans and during the pandemic adding in doctors and nurses. At an early age, I realized it was important to follow your passions to earn a living and give back to people. The stable literally taught me to just be a good human. That will a lot of the time get you further in life than any degree you can ever study for.
M.S.: A few months back, I dropped a Yonkers Raceway capsule. I want to start bringing different racetracks from around the world to the attention of fans of the brand and the fashion scene. Each racetrack has its own story and vibe, I want to be a platform for each to give an authentic representation to an entire new audience.
J.E.: What’s your background in fashion?
M.S.: I’ve always been into clothes and style. Not to the extent to want to work in fashion, but growing up in NY and seeing everyone have their own styles is super cool and different than almost anywhere in the world. People can express themselves in anyway they want without judgment. It really started with a sneaker addiction.
M.S.: I loved the Adidas SS2G’s. I would buy two or three pairs at once. As a kid, all I could wear was white sneakers for some reason. I had a crazy attraction to those shoes for years it was all I would wear.
M.S.: I had a few year run after college where I was buying too many sneakers. Anytime there was a new drop, I would scoop a new pair. I’ll forever wear my Off-White Nikes to feel Virgil’s presence, but a great pair of Air Force 1’s or Puma classic suedes are the everyday.
J.E.: You went from the buyer to seller. How do you move units?
M.S.: Instagram is my top sales channel, hands down. I’ve been lucky to build what I like to say is a Web3 type of community, with a physical product. That doesn’t happen much anymore. I get texts or DM’s daily about someone running into someone else wearing a hat or another piece of clothing and feeling like they can approach one another and interact. That is just as satisfying as when Kendall Jenner wears my hat - though very cool. Social for me is a huge key and tool to how I tell my story with content, UGC and the big names you may see wearing a piece from my collections. On social, you’re one message away from anyone. Think about that, I can DM Cristiano Ronaldo, he may not answer, but he might. I can literally say “Good Morning CR9, have an amazing day”, C’mon, my Pop wasn’t out here sending DM’s to Babe Ruth, we live in a time where you literally should not limit yourself.
J.E.: And now you have a team.
M.S.: Karoline is Creative Director for a reason. She knows fashion, she’s creative and most of all she helps me puts my thoughts and inspirations down on paper. I have my own ways of expressing my ideas and most of the time it isn’t necessarily mocking up drafts or anything, its out-loud. I know what I am good at and what I am not, I always say you need to find the right people to fill your voids in tandem with you, she does just that and beyond. The next collection coming out in June isn’t her first touch on the looks, but maybe the biggest impacted one yet. Cant wait for everyone to see it.
M.S.: Some of the most important conversations are just listening to other people tell you what they think is right for your next move. Sometimes I really listen and apply it, a lot of the time I absorb it, hold it inside and keep doing my thing. I can unlock them when the time is right, but I’ve followed my internal roadmap for the last year and half and I think its done pretty well for me so far. If we all followed the same roadmap or game-plan, there would never be innovation - where’s the fun in that?
J.E.: Last thing. You wanted to shout out to the other member of your team.. the UPS guy?
M.S.: Man, if you only knew the relationship I have with my UPS driver. When he takes vacation, I get pics of him in the Dominican Republic in my hat or remodeling his bathroom at home. Theres a few reasons I did the UPS hat, that I refuse to sell or give to friends. Strictly for UPS drivers. I started the brand in a pandemic, one of the few lines of work that never stopped was delivery services. Without them, Siegelman Stable doesn’t exist. I’ve always hooked up the drivers with Siegelman Stable drops and finally made some custom hats in their color way and with a UPS hit on the side. What can brown do for you, honestly they did a whole lot for me. I’m just trying to show love. The second part to it is, who sees more people on a daily basis, walks into hundreds of buildings, etc. They’re a moving billboard wearing something you typically wouldn’t see them in.