Bold backpacks that scream rebellion

A Sprayground DLX bag emblazoned with stacks of money.
A Sprayground DLX bag emblazoned with stacks of money.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/SPRAYGROUND
The Rasta $$$ Skate Backpack.
The Rasta $$$ Skate Backpack.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/SPRAYGROUND
Sprayground backpacks with shark designs.
Sprayground backpacks with shark designs. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/SPRAYGROUND
Sprayground backpacks with a Japanese theme.
Sprayground backpacks with a Japanese theme. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/SPRAYGROUND

NEW YORK •Flaming hundred-dollar bills cover one of the new, already sold-out backpacks from a bold label called Sprayground.

Another style has rubber spikes down the spine, surrounded by lizard scales for the Godzilla look.

Whatever the design, Sprayground's bags signal one simple ideal: rebellion.

David Ben-David, the  Bronx, New York, native who started Sprayground in 2010, says: "You've got to be a little ballsy to wear these bags. They're kind of bold."

It seems the insolent image is what teens want. Sprayground has been on a roll: It is scoring big licensing deals, pushing into new markets and diving into fresh product categories. Celebrities from singer Beyonce to basketballer Kevin Durant are often spotted carrying Sprayground bags.

The company, part of Moret Group, owner of Danskin and 2(X)IST, declined to reveal revenue figures, but said sales have at least doubled in each year of its existence.

A back-to-school report released by Google last month listed Sprayground as one of this autumn's top trending backpack brands, bested only by Victoria's Secret Pink label.

As Ben-David tells it, the omnipresence of basic backpacks from JanSport and The North Face bored him and his co-founder Eddie Shabot.

The JanSport bag with the extra pocket sticking out was a design inspiration for Ben-David - an inspiration to rebel. Sprayground's main bag shape, the DLX, purposely lacks that chunky pouch.

From the beginning, the idea was to recreate the tribal nature of sneaker culture with bags. Vibrant, urban styles draw the eye in the same way the newest Nike Jordans or Adidas Ultra Boosts do.

That is the feeling Ben-David is going for, anyway. "These people are rocking dope-a** sneakers and shirts, but they don't have a cool bag," he said.

Sneakerheads have adopted various products to complement their shoe-borne lifestyles over the years: G-Shock watches, Stance socks, 9Five eyewear.

Sprayground went right for the core, initially showing off its wares alongside the hottest new kicks at 50 sneaker boutiques around the country, hoping to develop credibility within the subculture.

The way Ben-David saw it, the trendsetting kids shop at those kinds of elite sneaker shops and if you can get them into a brand, they will spread it around.

All of Sprayground's backpacks - it sells more than 100 styles - are limited-edition runs. This heretoday-gone-tomorrow dynamic is meant to force shoppers back to stores over and over again. It is a strategy that also necessitates an endless barrage of new designs.

Early on, Ben-David was the lone idea man. He came up with a bag that said Hello My Name Is with a big white strip wrapped around it.

The design was a hit with celebrities. Then came a backpack emblazoned with stacks of money, another home run.

These days, he boasts a team of designers to help him after he has sketched out an idea. 

Sprayground now makes all sorts of patterns with licensed partners, including Marvel, Hasbro and Viacom. 

"No two kids can be wearing the same two bags," said Ben-David. "We're always creating new, new, new. Fresh, fresh, fresh."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2016, with the headline 'Bold backpacks that scream rebellion'. Print Edition | Subscribe