From an early age, Raif was intent on carving his own path. He was skateboarding at the age of seven, and already designing his own T-shirts at 13. In the 5th grade, he was stealing magazines to satisfy the very curiosity that would guide him for years to come. “I used to go to the library because you couldn’t buy them [Thrasher Magazine] anywhere… they had the metal strips and I would take the metal strips out and take them home.”
His penchant for following creative whims never faded even as he got older. That same year, he decided to pick up of all things, the unicycle. “In the fifth grade, I’m in class, and they put a movie on. A guy was on a unicycle [and I told myself] I need to get a unicycle. I went out to get one the next day [and here I am] in grade 5 riding a unicycle… It was based in curiosity, but it was always, I want to do that. I never thought about ‘oh is it cool?’ It was [along the lines of] ‘it looks like fun; I want to do it. I always say… I don’t ride a unicycle today, but at least I tried.”
This unapologetically steadfast ethic of trying new things independent of popularity would become Raif’s life-long mission. Yet, as he set out to write his own narrative –with some very welcome influence along the way from streetwear heavyweights like Eddie Cruz, James Jebbia, and Shawn Stussy — this would occasionally become a point of contention for some.
“When I was 24, you gave me an ultimatum… I had to do things the hard way.” This approach of non-compromise led Raif to create some of his best work including retailer Richard Kidd, an innovative retailer located in Vancouver’s historic Gastown that housed many respected labels. But it would also set off a rift between both business and artistic considerations. Raif recalls one particular moment with a Supreme reseller in Vancouver. “When we carried Supreme, kids would try to buy two or three items and I’d say ‘no.’ I was kind of like the Soup Nazi. I wanted everybody to have something. I could have sold it all to one kid. When I found out one kid was reselling in Richmond, I went into his store and told him ‘you’re not doing this,’ and took it all back. There are so many times I could have capitalized on things [financially] but didn’t.”