2013 is Mark’s year. The Illest San Francisco store is thriving, the Costa Mesa store – designed with a showroom, art gallery and studio – opened in June, and the brand made its international debut in the Glorietta mall in Makati, Philippines this month. For the remainder of the year, Illest LA will relocate in Little Tokyo and a Hawaii location is slated to open in October. His brands were featured in six video games this year, an iPad magazine app is in motion, and Fatlace.com is currently going through a major revival. Mark Arcenal is a Tastemaker.


His success, though, shouldn’t be measured by the abovementioned. It’s how he got here.


Before blogs were blogs, Mark had a blog. Except that it wasn’t known as a blog at the time; it was an online format that grouped his interests together. It was called Café Mocha, a collection of his favorite design websites. In it, he was somehow connecting with youth culture and earned the attention of an agency. For the next 12 years, he was in advertising – working to expose big brands like Phillips, Adidas and Gap.com, where he acted as Junior Creative Director. He was to achieve what Café Mocha did – a relationship with the younger generation.


In between advertising, Mark launched and maintained another website, Fatlace.com in 1999. It also grouped his interests together, but this time in the likes of hip-hop, b-boying, dj-ing, and then automotive culture. People were interested in what was being posted, and Mark fondly remembers its high ranking on the analytics site, Alexa. Over time, Fatlace became a representation of Mark himself, and it was enough for Nike to take notice.


He was still working with Gap.com when Nike recruited him to be the Global Digital Lead for a new brand. With his direction, he was part of the small team that launched Nike Sportswear. No big deal. He was commuting every week, sometimes 4 times, but guaranteed twice to fly to work in Oregon and then back home in The Bay. He was also sent to Japan, New York, Europe and wherever Nike needed him to be. Eventually he grew tired of the schedule, left Nike with a year’s worth of severance, and took that to start Illest in 2009.


Illest was another ode to hip-hop – taken from Notorious BIG and Nas lyrics of being the illest. Mark had his own Brown Sugar moment somewhere between those two artists in the golden era. He started with the definitive cursive logo, which ended up getting heat from a golf brand with a similar design. Out of respect, Mark stopped production and started focusing on new designs. Illest has since collaborated with Beats by Dre, G-Shock, and Transformers. Mark derives design influence from his frequent trips to Japan. Being that Illest is still young and now designing for seasons, he uses what he sees in Japan as a benchmark.


What surprised us about Mark was how he got to this point – 2013 with 2 brands and 6 stores under his leadership all because of a blog. It was a blog reflective of him and what he liked, which in turn is the philosophy of Illest. Stay true to your roots and within your boundaries.


We have a blog that you’re reading right now. We can’t help but think that we can be in Mark’s position in the next few years. Who’s to say that that can’t happen to us? Tastemakers for us is a hobby, a side project that we just simply enjoy doing. As Mark’s interests were in bboying and cars, ours is in people and their stories. All we can do is continue to share and hope we retain attention as he did.


Here are the TOP 5 things you did not know about Mark:
1. He was a tennis instructor in college.
2. He was an interior designer and graduated in interior design
3. He never pulled out a loan to start any of his companies.
4. He has 14 cars and had over 60.
5. Being a niner fan, he was bamboozled by his own accountant to purchase two lifetime seats at the new Levis stadium. He wasn’t expecting the cost and wasn’t expecting to sit next to his accountant FOREVER!