40oz Van Brings His Legendary NYC Party, 40oz Bounce, to Art Basel

Mannie Fresh and Young Guru will provide the music this Sunday.
Mannie Fresh and Young Guru will provide the music this Sunday.
Photo by George Martinez

Joel “40oz Van” Fuller, a Bronx native, got his name from passing out 40oz beers at his parties, which have since transformed from unofficial get-togethers of 25 friends to the superofficial 40oz Bounce series. And they've moved from his native New York City to locations around the world. 

Once an avid wearer of Vans, Fuller has turned his NSFW Tumblr and ferocious social-media following into one big sales and marketing tool, helping him become a massive success in both the events and fashion worlds. 

His hats have been worn by New York Giants’ Victor Cruz, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, fashion designer Alexander Wang, and many of the women seen on his Tumblr page, who don't hesitate to contribute their own pictures.

Sex sells. And Fuller, a former Banana Republic employee, has become the da Vinci of merging his fashion line with user-submitted Tumblr photos of women from across the globe. But that's but a piece of the pie that is 40oz Van. And this Sunday, he's bringing his legendary party, 40oz Bounce, to Sidebar for Art Basel. 

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New Times got to speak to 40oz Van before Sunday's 40oz Bounce about hats, his late friend A$AP Yams, and, of course, women.

New Times: Anyone who follows you knows you’re a smoker. You love Girl Scout Cookies and love the G Pen, but you don't like to drink. Why’s that?
40oz Van: I rarely drink. I prefer getting high. When I smoke, I’m creative. That’s my drive. I like to get high and take care of business. When you drink, you lose self-control. Me, personally, I’m more focused when I’m high. Like, I feel like I can be more productive than I am when I’m sober. It feels like my creativity level is on a whole other notch. And most of my hat designs, most of the party ideas, most of the — almost anything — is driven by a nice-sized joint.

How much do you think Banana Republic owes you with the amount of publicity you’ve given them after being asked over and over again about your former employment with them?
Man, they held me down. They gave me a few minimum-wage checks. I hated that job. I worked stock. And on top of that, it was Banana Republic Women’s, so it’s not like I could get fly on my own. I couldn’t get any new stuff for myself.

I had to deal with women all day. It wasn’t even pretty women. It was middle-aged moms bored without a budget going out shopping. Returning stuff, asking for different sizes...

Same thing with waiters. That was my other job too, a waiter. Those two jobs — how much worse could it get? After that, you’re pretty much forced to figure out what you’re going to do to make some extra money. That’s an eye-opener. Even in New York, you can’t survive off of that. I don’t know how some people are doing it, but that’s barely living. 

You’re primarily known for your Tumblr page. But how do you get away with it with your girlfriend?
I’ve been doing the Tumblr thing for like five years now. I’ve been with my girl for ten. After that period of time where I could just dance that thin line, it’s like, "All right, cool. He already crossed the line. It’s a hobby/job, so how can I be mad at it?" It’s one of my biggest marketing tools, that Tumblr. From the ass to everything that’s going on there, it’s like a subliminal message.

When people go on there to go see [the girls], they’re like, "Oh, shit. He dropped a new hat." It worked out perfectly. I guess it has its benefits, you know, other than getting yelled at by my girl.

What’s the craziest email you’ve received?
The craziest email was from some girl catching her boyfriend cheating. I’ve received a couple like that, like the same storyline. Caught her boyfriend cheating, emailed them to herself, but before she even tells him that she caught him, ended up saying, “Put that on blast. Here’s a picture. Throw it up there.” That’s why I cross the faces out.

What were those camp-out sessions for Supreme with A$AP Yams like?
We used to come out the scene every drop. You know the homie from Flatbush Zombies, Juice, he used to be out there with us, and it used to be freezing. I remember when we used to have those, I think it was an early spring drop. It was so, so cold, the winter drop. So we used to be out there from like 9 in the morning just smoking, everybody drinking, and just fighting the elements. Thirty-six-dollar T, $28 box logo T. Shit’s crazy. To think back, we weren’t even getting that much money selling them. Probably $100 each for a $32 tee. I mean, at that time, we never really had real jobs. That was just some extra money in our pockets. If I ever do it again, fuck that. If you think about it, even now, these kids are camping out for Jordans or the Kobes, and with the retail value it’s only like a $60 profit. If you’re not getting ten pairs or better, you’re not really making any money. You stay out there all night for a pair of sneakers. For that, you might as well get yourself a job and get your $60 through that.

What’s the greatest lesson you learned or took away from Yams, just being his friend?
Organization is the best thing I could’ve learned from Yams. He was just always on point with everything. He was really ahead of his time. Nobody was really with that same mindset. He knew shit like you weren’t supposed to know. Like, "Damn, how’d you know about this artist?" It’s crazy. Like, how people used to dig in the crates — he was just online digging, digging, digging. He would just put everybody on. Most of what’s poppin’ now Yams was already on it. Imagine if he were still alive. He’d be on 2018 right now.

He was the one to put you onto Max B too.
I learned about Max B when we traded iPods the first time. He had his whole catalog. I remember back in high school Max B when he was with ByrdGang and on the come-up. And it’s crazy how ten years later people have been put onto Max B and the wave over the last few years. This new generation is crazy. I feel bad for them because they don’t have the dope shit we had. I grew up on Smack DVDs. That’s how I learned about Jeezy and BMF and all those guys.

Have you been able to communicate with Max B?
No, never. I’ve written him letters. I’ve never gotten a response.

You just dropped the new hats. This time you switched it up from the structured snapback to more of a relaxed adjustable hat. Why?
You always got to stay current. I’ve seen the transition go from fitted to snapback to unstructured six panels. That’s where people fuck up. They get too comfortable with what they’re already doing and they’re scared to take that next step to set something else up. I was like, fuck it. If this is what people wearing, what I’m personally wearing, let me see how it’ll do — test the waters. And they actually sold more than my snapback hats. It’s kind of like that transition from 3XL white T's to medium T's. You got to go with the times.

40oz Bounce with Mannie Fresh and Young Guru. 7 p.m. Sunday, December 6, at Sidebar, 337 SW Eighth St., Miami; 786-703-6973. Admission is free with RSVP via 40ozbouncemia.splashthat.com.

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