With over 10 years of fronting the lifestyle brand the CobraShop and nearly 20 years behind the lens, Mark Hunter has cultivated a rich vision of millennial splendor has as well as coming with various waves of cultural sentiments. An innovator in nightlife photography his work defined the aughts aesthetic of a pre social media unadulterated chic. Messy and in the moment, while cultivating a broad vision of nightlife’s coolest and experimental. His Cobrashop gained traction through his impeccable curation of vintage tees that was only furthered by a selection of oddities and dead stock 90s essentials.
Lately, Hunter has found a full circle audience in the ways which he presents his items. A reinvigorated appreciation of vintage tees in the time of covid corresponds to a heightened boost of sales. We spoke to Hunter on this latest drop as well as his upcoming ventures in publishing.
BJ Panda Bear: Tell me what’s going on with the new store I know you just re-launched!
Mark Hunter: Yes the Cobra Shop the funny thing is it all started with a titanic t-shirt. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet right?! I have a guy that sells me a lot of t-shirts, I got the shirt and I thought to myself oh this one might be worth a lot of money. And I don’t really have much of an affection for Titanic so let me sell it. I put it on eBay, not on the Cobra Shop, and within the day I got multiple messages from people being like, “I’ll buy it from you right now in cash” “take it off eBay and sell it to me please, I am obsessed with that shirt!” I ended up doing this deal with this kid and sold it to him for 160 bucks, meeting at McDonald’s.
He loved the shirt and we became fast friends. I brought him to my house and he was blown away with the fact that they were over 2500 different shirts in my collection. He said, “dude now is the time for you to be selling these things.” I said, ”Really?! I’m intimidated by all the Round Twos and all the streetwear taking over vintage. He told me, ‘there’s a whole new breed of young people selling shirts via Instagram.’”
BJPB: How much of this does it have to do with the current Covid conditions. Is there a lot of affects on the market due to isolation?
MH: Because of Covid everyone is stuck at home. They can’t go to a flea market and they can’t shop traditionally they are shopping online. That has affected how people are thinking about vintage shirts, sports cards and lots of different industries are just floating because people are just stuck at home. With the Instagram live feature and you can go and talk about whatever you want and these kids started doing these lives about the shirts like a Home Shopping Network with vintage shirts. I have never seen it before and the guy was like let’s go live right now let’s look through some of your shirts and show them off.
BJPB: What was the reaction to this is, were they receptive to this technique?
MH: There were only 30 people watching the live and no joke I got over 20 DM’s. Almost everyone in the live DMed me and said I want this I want that shirt I’ll give you this I’ll give you that. In one day I sold five shirts for $2000. I was like this is crazy this is actually worth my time. I love the shirts and they’re part of me and I don’t want to sell them unless the money was right.
Long story short that inspired me to relaunch The Cobra Shop in its original roots which was vintage tees. 10 years ago that was all that we did selling vintage shirts we didn’t sell all the butterfly clips, all the girly things just unisex vintage tees modeled on cool girls and some dudes. It would be sold at a quarter of the price and now everyone wants Mickey Mouse shirts or movie promo shirts, or rock bands, rap tees and the prices have just exploded.
We picked the first drop about a few weeks ago and it was 100 shirts photographed properly and measured them and listed them and that’s been going OK. I still think that there is a culture that would rather go to haggle and DM with you. Let’s say well you’re asking for 300 I’ll give you 250 and you meet in the middle, but with the web store you can’t really offer that so we are trying to come up with a happy medium. This will be basically doing the live shows and tells and offering to do a deal through messaging.
BJPB: How often are you doing the lives now?
MH: You can pretty much go on any day and you can find some buddy doing a live especially with the T-shirt stuff. I will probably do it once every week if I have the time but mostly I really want to just focus on how to build a business on the e-commerce side. It’s just so much cleaner to have people check out and put in all their information billing thing and I can be able to print out the label to send it right away. If it’s in a DM I have to cut and paste and talk back-and-forth and it’s just not as professional. It’s also about learning the market and learning what price points are going to work and also getting back into sourcing because now that this has become so popular it’s harder and harder to find cool shirts at reasonable prices. So that’s kind of like a Catch 22. I can’t complete my inventory and then what am I gonna do.
BJPB: Can we talk a little bit more about the books following The Cobra Shop as well as your archives of party images?
MH: The nice thing is you know I’ve always like to have multiple outlets in creative projects. Back to just The Cobra Shop, that concept has existed for over a decade so the exciting thing there is that I will be putting together a little zine. It’s going to be something that’s cute and fun to give to all my customers that shows all the models that used to model for the shop, the cool stuff that we used to sell and the graphics that we designed. Just to sort of encapsulate the energy of The Cobra Shop, but then you know the really really exciting bigger project is my actual coffee table book.
That’s the photography that was based on the 2000s pre-Social Media I was there with you, at all the coolest parties where everyone was just living life and being free.
BJPB: Do you feel like towards your own well-being it was important to have that IRL experience. pre-Covid every event that like a social media opportunity to build a personal brand. What was the last Spirit.
MH: I think that we can both relate that we used to just go out and it was truly just to have fun it was a lot sloppier and more wild because you didn’t really have a lot of accountability or responsibility and now everything is more of a brand moment and PR stunt so even the images are different. I always loved watching people take photos with their phone at a party because he would have to wait for the flash so you can’t move or else it will be blurry. You know with the cameras we would use in the club they were professional so you could shoot people dancing and spinning around getting a lot more action compared to now that is really staged.
BJPB: Oh bitch I always staged mine every time you shot me lol.