Have you ever thought,
you have some friends around you who have done something you didn’t know,
and they will surprise you a lot.
I met Stephen Penny in a local event I hosted in early 2018,
at first he was quietly wandering in the event,
but when I talked to him about streetwear,
he became a different person,
he could keep talking about different things for hours.
And after that I know,
Stephen used to be a banker in several famous banks,
he also hosts The Otherz Podcast.
At the same time,
Stephen is one of the most known Billionaire Boys Club (BBC) collectors in Europe,
and even in the world.
On a recent weekend,
we visited Stephen’s house,
we chatted for a few hours and covered from the streetwear scene in the early 2000s
to his most memorable BBC pieces,
and things happened between him and the BBC brand.
Guest: Stephen Penny ( @steverpenny )
BE@RBRICKS and KAWS in the living room
Posters and vinyls
Most of these posters were collected in the 2000s – and they stayed in his mom’s loft for many years, until Stephen moved to Helsinki nearly 7 years ago.
Stephen bought these German posters from a eBay store owner in Germany. It’s almost impossible to find any of these on the market nowadays, and even if you do, the price tag may surprise you.
Man! Just looking at these posters, the year, the condition, the events they came from, I know they have taken you ages to find them. But I still have to ask, how many years have you been collecting BBC?
About 15 years, since season 0 of BBC and their first season first drop.
A very early year BBC sample which was made on a BAPE polo shirt
I also started about 15 years ago, around 2004 when NBA was super popular. The basketball newspaper always had a small block for not-so-related topics, and from there I noticed sneakers and streetwear brands. How about you, what was your opportunity to know about streetwear things?
In the very early 2000s, I was a Neptunes and Pharrell fan. I’d heard about and started to notice the crazy sneakers Pharrell was wearing at his shows. And from that point, I also started to become more aware of sneaker culture in general. As the brand started to grow, people in the old Star Trak forum began to make posts about BAPE and BBC stuff Pharrell was using, and this is basically where I started to find out about things such as new items, drops etc. At that time, there were only BBC stores in New York and Tokyo, while in UK, about 2 doors next to the BAPE store, there was a store called The HideOut, which was the first store in UK to stock BBC products. And Pharrell often featured BAPE items in his videos, so it’s like no reason for me not to be aware of these brands.
How did you buy them at that time? Was it difficult?
Since day 1, when BBC’s first season dropped, I frequently got on trains and travelled over 100 miles to London, went to Soho, and started queuing in front of the shop, as items were super limited and I wanted to see and buy some of the items I’d seen in the forum.
Pieces from BBC’s first drop in London (hoodie is Tokyo store exclusive)
BBC Season 1
Not long after BBC’s first season, the Ice Cream sneakers came out, in the UK they were selling in the Reebok store in Covent Garden (as the shoes were made with Reebok). I missed the first couple of drops as I thought I could get a pair at any time. But I didn’t realise they were so limited or would be so popular. When I got around to buying some I was at the Reebok store and there was only 1 pair left, it was a display pair. I tried one of the shoes on, and it fit me, so I bought them. But the next day when I tried both of them on – oh no, they were mismatched, one size was 7, and the other was 8, and I still have this pair today.
After that, I often checked the Star Trak forums, BAPE Talk, Nike Talk etc to see if I could find something I wanted. I also started to dig in eBay, trying to find new and older items. Back then Ice Cream was mad hot, so the prices were crazy. I had to spend time digging and comparing the prices. And there was a Japanese seller called Pondon – they would just buy everything in the Japan store and put it all eBay for sale. There was always a lot of great stuff on their store, so I would go back and check the page every single day and hoped to find something.
So eBay educated me a lot, it let me understand sneaker culture, the price, the rarity, and more streetwear brands.
Among all your collections, can you pick 3 items that are special to you and tell more details about them?
That’s a tough one actually, there are so many of them are special to me.
I think the overall Ice Cream shoe line. If you look back to the sneaker history, the Ice Cream are really underrated. Because it was probably the first sneaker that paid attention to the packaging and the accessories came with shoes. Look at the special shoe box, the spoon shoe horn, the extra shoelaces. They’re still one of the best storytelling designs even today – it’s like an art piece. And you can imagine how excited I was when I got a pair of Ice Creams for the first time back then.
So Ice Cream is really important to me, and personally, the pink & brown colourway of the Colletes is my grail. A friend of mine in New York (@KingOfCreamz) owns a few pairs of those, so when I visited him, I had the chance to try on some super rare ones on my feet – shoes that most people will not even have had a chance to look at in person. That was a cool experience for me.
Ice Cream collection with all the original accessories
The second item is a polo shirt I recently bought, or should I say “re-bought”. It is a pink & green one from season 1, on its release day, I travelled to London and queued outside for ages to get it. It’s my favourite polo shirt that I have owned, but several years later I lost nearly all my collections in Australia, and this polo shirt was among them. I never saw one on the market again.
Until 2 months ago, I saw one on Depop, in my size, deadstock, never opened from the package, and it had a really high price. I kept messaging the seller and trying to negotiate the price, we were back and forth for a couple of weeks, and eventually we came to a price he’s willing to sell, and I bought it, I paid a lot for it. But I just wanted it, and the memories with it — I travelled to London and waited outside the shop when it came out, it is my favourite colourway, and I nearly wore it everyday on my first trip to New York, it meant a lot to me. When I saw that one in my size on Depop, I knew I had to buy it. Even if the seller hadn’t lowered the price, I would have bought it eventually.
A closer look at the re-bought polo shirt
And the third item I’d choose is a sacks colourway sweatshirt I really like. I bought it a long time ago, probably from someone on Instagram or eBay. The seller wanted to get rid of it and I got it for a good price. And it’s now an item that I often get offered even though I don’t post a picture of it.
The sweatshirt Stephen is talking about
& the archived webpage of the original site from year 2006 (Source: Fishbucket)
I wore it when I was in New York last year when I went to the BBC offices and when I visited Roc Nation to see a friend, and a lot of people mentioned it; “Oh you’ve got that one, where did you get it?”, and whenever I post a picture, it’s guaranteed that people will message me “Are you selling it? Do you want to sell it? How much do you want for it?”. It’s iconic, the colourway, the logo and the age of it, people always ask me for it, but I’m going to keep it forever.
Did you say you lost your collection in Australia? What happened?
It’s a sad story. I moved from the UK to Australia for a couple of years. I shipped over a number of boxes full of BBC stuff when I lived there – they would really be worth a lot today. But when I moved back to England, I could only bring a small part of them in my suitcase, so I packed the rest in boxes and left them with my friend in his company’s storage.
After I settled down in England and was finally ready to ship them back, my friend told me, “They all disappeared.” So they “disappeared”. I lost almost all my collections. I had to stop collecting for some time after that. That changed after I moved to Helsinki several years ago. I was working, had some spare cash and decided that I wanted to start to buying and collecting again.
Stephen had to restart almost from zero after losing his collection in Australia,
but again, he has a closet full of BBC
Oh god, that’s such hard time and hard feelings. Let’s switch it back to happy, have you had good experiences when you wear BBC on the street?
Yes, actually there are a lot of young people starting to know about BBC and Ice Cream now. There’s a trend for the 2000s streetwear all over again. But the Ice Cream sneakers are 15 years old, and if the kids are 16 now, they didn’t even walk when Ice Cream first came out. So most of them haven’t had many chances to look at a pair in real life, and I’ve noticed some kids staring at my shoes on the street, some of them will walk over and ask “Are they real? Where did you get them?”, I will be glad to tell them I’ve been a collector for many years.
And when I was in New York with my friend Dave, aka King of Creamz, that day we were going to the BBC store, and we decided to un-DS a pair of Ice Creams each. He had a pair of black large Diamond & Dollars Ice Creams. I was wearing a pair of yellow mini diamond & dollars which he’d very kindly given to me as a gift. And then a young girl working at the store was so surprised and asked if she could make some photos of our shoes. Even in the New York BBC store, people working there are in their 20s, and they were surprised too when they saw what we were wearing on feet.
I’ve seen on your Instagram about Dave (@kingofcreamz), I saw his crazy amount of Ice Cream, Human Race, and other Pharrell collaborated sneakers. He’s also the co-host of The Otherz Podcast, how does it feel to be in the BBC community with other amazing collectors?
Dave is the world’s biggest Ice Cream collector – to the point that even the brands that worked on some of these sneakers get in touch with him to try and get hold of pairs to borrow. Recently there are some photos of Virgil Abloh wearing BBC, the BBC Coneman Hoodie is from our friend OG Vault (@ogvlt) and he got the pink & brown Ice Creams from Dave. You know Virgil has a wide connection in streetwear and fashion, LV, Nike, Kanye, but he still needs to hit up collectors like us to get these original pieces, including hitting up other Bape and BBC collectors via Instagram and asking “Can you take some pictures, I want to see your collection, I need some pieces.”
The artwork made by Stephen’s friend @zurc_illustrations
The community is small, when somebody is looking for something, people might come to me. If I don’t have it, I will tell the who might have that piece. And then gradually collectors from different places in the world start to know each other.
And it’s always nice to be recognised as that person to have the things somebody is looking for, or be able to help them get it from somewhere. There was a kid that went to your pop-up in the summer and asked you about Ice Creams, you gave him my name, and he came to buy a t-shirt and left with a pair of BBC jeans and a pair of Ice Creams. It’s a tight community, and it’s nice to receive messages from someone and then be able to help them.
Now the BBC company already knows about you, has it brought you a lot of benefits after being friends with BBC staffs?
Sometimes I have access to unreleased or exclusive items. Recently BBC was going to drop a London exclusive tee, I spoke to the person I know about it, and I was able to get them in Finland even two days before they actually released. So one benefit is that I can generally get hold of the things that I really want to buy and not always have to deal with online ordering, queuing etc.
But as a collector, the most important thing for me is the chance to know the people that are directly involved in a brand that I love. I’m very lucky to know most of the people working at BBC Europe and in the US as well. It’s nice to personally know the person who designed the hoodie you’re wearing. Or when you see a celebrity wearing BBC stuff you are like “Yeah, I know the guy who designed and made that”.
What’s the next thing you wish to happen between you and BBC?
I will continue to give them more money, hahaha! Well, being someone constantly buying products from them for years and knowing them personally, I’d definitely like to collaborate with them in some way via the podcast or in some other capacity, It’s not something that’s going to happen any time soon, but I’ll keep working for that day.
The Otherz Podcast studio
You have been a fan of Pharrell for so many years, and you have founded a podcast to share his music, his stories, everything about him. What motivates you to do all of these?
For me being a fan of Pharrell, you get an insight of his personality from the all the things he does. Running clothing brands, doing the collaborations with different brands, curating gallery exhibitions, and producing music. As a fan, his way of working, and the thoughts he puts into things are really interesting for me to see.
Also, his own interests have been developing over the years, so you see Pharrell getting into different and new things, and by following the things he does I get a lot of inspirations for things that I want to work on and accomplish. And I want to share what I learnt from him to more people, because I believe people will benefit from knowing about him.
And finally, can you ask a question to the next guest of our interview – something that would make you inspired.
I could spend hours every day searching eBay, forums, Instagram etc for a polo shirt, and spend weeks negotiating the price. When I finally got it home, it reminded me of the old days I travelled to London, stood outside of the shop in rainy days, all these good memories came back with that polo shirt.
So, what I’d ask the next guest of your interview, could you tell a story about something that took you a lot of effort to get, and what drove you when you were looking for it?