Tunde Ogunnoiki + FRESH.i.AM
How did you get your start in Fashion?
I would say my Aunt introduced me to fashion. She designed and sewed her clothes as well as painted; she always kept me fresh. I remember her buying my first pair of Dunks. Moving from Nigeria to Atlanta, I developed a love for “creating art for people to wear” and the community and culture that the clothes create.
What was the inspiration behind Fresh.i.Am?
The inspiration [for the brand] was more about filling a void. When I started Fresh.i.Am in 2010, the fashion scene in Atlanta was very limited. I wanted to bridge a gap between my fine arts background and my love for fashion. I wanted to make something that made my friends look fresh and removed the enigma that Atlanta didn't have anything to offer when it comes to fashion. Fresh.i.Am is about self-motivation and rising above the doubter and haters to see you as a genuinely fresh individual. When you say "Fresh.i.Am”, it is not a reference to the brand but the person wearing the clothes.
How would you describe the brand's aesthetic?
I would describe our current aesthetic as new classic with hints of rebellion against mainstream BS. Our goal is to make people look different. We want people who wear our brand to feel like they're apart of something unique and the idea of individuality.
How has your work evolved since you began Fresh.i.Am?
I've become more calculated and more minimal. I come up with concepts for the brand by trying to tell a story of the brand through each line. Our first chapter, the first four to five years, of the Fresh.i.Am we stayed strong on big letters, big graphics, and very striking images. That became a part of our DNA. Chapter 2, the FUKK Collection was about being a rebel. We made FUKK more than a state of mind but a state of being. Chapter 3, our new collections "New Roads" is a metaphor for where we are heading. We took emphasis literally from the streets. We are using a lot of street motifs such as a Plus sign and the double lines that you see on roads. Using the streets as a metaphor as to where it all starts and the place you have to be to get where you want to go.
How has social media and technology impacted your brand?
With Social media, it has helped us connect with like-minded people and cultivated some cool relationships. There are people we have worked with across the world and have never met. On the flip side, it can be overwhelming. It has evolved from something that connected people to a money machine for the social media companies. The introduction of the algorithms with social media has changed the organic engagement.
As far as technology, we are living in amazing times; tech has just made production ideas more accessible. Equipment that was very expensive and required teams of people for use is now cheaper and allowing us to create on another level. For example, our upcoming FUKK chain, I designed it with a 3-D artist, we made it with a 3-D printer, and the jeweler made it from pure silver. We were able to make something cool for under a thousand dollars whereas in the past, to go to a Jeweler and discuss your idea would cost a thousand not including time and material. The financial cost can put a stop on a lot of ideas.
What are some sacrifices you have made in pursuit of your career?
I would say my last relationship and being a father. My last relationship fell apart because she felt I cared more about the brand than her. I have had to put off being a father, but I had to put that on hold until the brand takes off in a way I feel comfortable. From the outside looking in, it seems like I have it easy or living the life, and there are great moments, but there is a lot of sacrifices. I'm not doing this for fun or to be cool, this is my contribution to the world. So the sacrifices are casualties in my pursuit.
As far as risks I've invested everything down to my last dollar into Fresh.i.Am and has put me in a do or die position because I put so much into the brand
What are your thoughts on luxury brands integrating more streetwear looks into their line?
I don't think it is a trend but more so the direction. High fashion is more of a status thing with a particular market and features. For instance, you see $300-$400 t-shirts from Alexander Wang, it looks like a regular silk screen printed shirt, but the minute when you pick it up you notice the layers and depth. It makes clothes feel accessible but elevates the status. High fashion is always trying to reinvent the wheel. I compare high fashion as a scientist in a lab trying to make a cure for Ebola, but instead is makes the new wax paint for fabric. Recently, high fashion has become more aware that the people don't need the wheel reinvent but modified.
Our FUKK chain will be released very soon as the first in the collection of accessories. I am also experimenting with the exotic materials. We are also experimenting with latex, denim, and Tyvek in our new collection.
What quote or motto do you live your life by?
The tagline for our brand is "There is a method to our madness."
We as a brand have our way of approaching situations, collections, etc. There are many ways to get the same solutions. Finding your unique way of doing things is more important than trying to fit into other people's idea of what you should be doing.