SOMETIMES, BEING OUTRAGEOUSLY COOL is a work in progress. Just ask husband-and-wife team Dina and Greg Selkoe, who together founded Karmaloop, the ridiculously successful Boston-based clothing empire (projected sales this year of $120 million) that outfits the hippest of hipsters across the planet. Yes, the planet.
[sidebar]Relaxing on the couch in their new condo on the 19th floor of the Back Bay’s Clarendon building, Dina listens while Greg talks intensely and quickly — his light eyes flashing — about the business. “Karmaloop reps verge culture,” says Greg (who also just happens to be on the board of the Kanye West Foundation). Verge culture? “It’s cut-and-paste culture, with lots of influence from Asia,” he explains. Vergers “all live online, with many influences…everything from Indian bongo music to hip-hop to anime. They mix it up and make it their own.”
Mixing things up and making them their own is something the Selkoes know plenty about. Six months ago (and just six days before their daughter, Beatrix, was born), Greg and Dina moved from their very contemporary Downtown Crossing loft to the Back Bay, and drastically shifted their living style from what Dina calls “sharp edges” modern to classical. But what about the schism between their company’s target audience and the conservative aesthetic that pervades their new place? Dina isn’t embarrassed to acknowledge that she and Greg are growing up. “This is a longtime home,” she says, glancing at Beatrix, who’s on the other side of the upholstered Ralph Lauren bed. “It feels a little more mature.” Meanwhile Greg, who has been listening in, starts talking again — about how he and Dina met, the evolution of Karmaloop, and how all of the above conspired to land the Selkoes precisely where they are right now.
THE STORY BEINGS in the ’80s, when Dina and Greg were at Brookline High together. (They were friends who never dated, but he secretly categorized her as marriage material.) It wasn’t until years later that Greg decided he wanted to spend more time with her, and invented a reason to: He showed up at her house one day and invited himself inside, claiming that he needed to call his mom. “Had I known him better, I would’ve known it was a ruse,” says Dina.
At the time, Greg was selling ads for a friend’s electronic music magazine, which covered skateboarding, DJs, and hip-hop. He noticed that all the heroes of the genre were wearing similar gear. “It was very futuristic stuff, a lot like The Jetsons,” he says. “All the celebrities who were wearing this stuff lived in L.A. or New York, and so that’s where the [stores offering it] were. I figured you could really make a business selling it if you could get it out to the rest of the country.”
Running on instinct, he convinced a friend to partner with him on Karmaloop, an online-only clothing retailer. Within a year that partner had begged off — but Dina was there to pick up the slack. “I was in law school and would mail packages on my way to class,” she says. “It was actually kind of cute. We’d come home and get excited. There’d be, like, two orders and we’d think, Oh my God! How did they find us?”