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- Joeff Davis
- GO GLOBAL: Foreign consumers purchase 80 percent of +Fresh.i.Am+'s locally crafted apparel
- Joeff Davis
- THE NEW BLACK: Oni Roman's ski mask is part of +Fresh.i.Am+'s upcoming collaboration with West Coast street goth brand Black Scale.
Applied to +Fresh.i.Am+, that philosophy illuminates why the brand's approach to fashion is rooted in local underground culture. As a DJ, C.Will, aka BlkkMorris, spreads his tentacles throughout Atlanta's nightlife trenches. He's the founder of the DJ/party promotions collective Cobra Corps which reigns at MJQ's monthly Sloppy Seconds, among other parties around town. He's also one-half of Vavlt Boyz, his luxury trap production duo with Heroes x Villains' Daniel Disaster, a pioneer of the Atlanta-bred EDM trap sound. Though C.Will missed the scheduled trip earlier this month to Paris, where Vavlt Boyz were slated to play club sets during Fashion Week, Daniel returned with stories of the EDM trap takeover in full-swing in Paris and the kids he spotted wearing FUKK apparel while shopping in Givenchy's haute couture store. "It's crazy to see stuff we started in Atlanta reach the other side of the world," says Daniel.
In addition to making it the soundtrack to his brand's movement, Ogunnoiki feels a sense of kinship with the sound derided as the stepchild of dubstep. "I feel like trap EDM is like what we're doing, but in fashion terms," he says. "What we're doing is validating Atlanta culture."
That same point-of-view is infused in the clothing. Ogunnoiki continues: "It's more of an idea that we're selling. When you see it, when you wear it, when you feel it, you feel the idea. It feels very dark, but it's really about changing people's perception and the world around them."
If it seems a tad deep for something as fleeting as fashion, that's because it is. "We're not really a streetwear company, we're an art brand," Ogunnoiki clarifies. "We don't sell fashion, we sell art."
Former Halo nightclub manager Orlando Ramirez agrees. A longtime supporter of +Fresh.i.Am+'s movement, he says it's not the FUKK hat itself that matters most, but "what's underneath the hat" that makes the brand meaningful. "Culturally, they want to take a stand to think individually. And they're not yelling that statement, they're actually whispering it: 'I don't give a fuck.' It's a welcome rebellion. 'Are you listening?' is the question to the world."
When C.Will met Kanye West backstage at last year's Watch the Throne Tour stop in Atlanta, West, who was already familiar with +Fresh.i.Am+, told him, "Yo, I fuck with the brand," C.Will says. Due to the constant media scrutiny West faces, however, he chose not to rock any FUKK apparel, rapper CyHi of Kanye's G.O.O.D. Music label later relayed to C.Will. The thought that anything, fashion statement or otherwise, would be too contentious for Kanye, who got ridiculed by hip-hop's consensus makers for wearing a leather Givenchy kilt during that tour, almost seems headline-worthy in itself.
When Rihanna wore her FUKK hat to a Miami Heat playoff game in April with a custom Givenchy T-shirt and a pair of retro Jordan's, she did make headlines: "Rihanna wears the most charming clothing," one celebrity gossip blog blathered. An apparent fan of Rihanna's, who ordered the hat online direct from +Fresh.i.Am+, gifted it to her, says Ogunnoiki. He's since established direct contact with her camp.
+Fresh.i.Am+'s experience with celebrity endorsement has proven that organic relationships work best. Determining which high-profile celeb to align with requires forethought — no bona fide streetwear enthusiast wants to look like a hypebeast who bites styles just because they're popular.
Other boosters of the brand have included Harlem rapper Vinny Cha$e, Wiz Khalifa, 2 Chainz, Trinidad James ("our spirit guide," Ogunnoiki calls him), and Theophilus London, whom Ogunnoiki sought out at Art Basel in Miami several years ago. It led to their much-hyped LVRS hat collaboration, which gave London his signature look long before Karl Lagerfeld took notice of the fashion-forward MC. But Ogunnoiki contends that their collaboration went sour because London began slutting out the design by using it in collaboration with other prominent brands — a strict no-no in the streetwear world, where exclusivity is everything. (London hadn't responded to CL's request for comment at press time.)
Ogunnoiki admits to learning a valuable lesson in the process.
"Just because they're indie doesn't mean they're not assholes," Ogunnoiki says. "I'm not phased by hype anymore. We don't do individuals anymore."
Perhaps the one person who best embodies +Fresh.i.Am+'s FUKK aesthetic — and all of its inherent contradictions — is Ian Connor, the self-proclaimed King of the Youth. Even his tweets are epic: "I Don't Give A Fuck About Paris or Fashion Week." "The Streets Been The Runway." Those are just the examples safe enough to print in an alt-weekly.
Originally from Stone Mountain, the 20-year-old model/brand consultant has already achieved fashion icon status on the Internet and in New York where he now resides. The perfect role model for an ironic generation of youth weaned on Odd Future and Tumblr porn, he's been credited with making ugly the new beautiful due to his villain-next-door looks. His face has even become fashion thanks to an allover print jersey and short set designed by well-known graphic artist/fashion provocateur Wil Fry featuring Photoshopped images of Connor's creepy mug. But the piece that took him from virtual anonymity to Internet infamy was the FUKK hat.