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As the first post-millennial party in Atlanta to pull together a seemingly disparate mix of cool kids, Sloppy Seconds helped dissolve the boundaries between high fashion and streetwear, graffiti art and graphic design, EDM and trap rap. That shared aesthetic found a home on freshiam.net.
"The good thing about the blog was that it was giving Atlanta people a platform to the outside world, because Atlanta has a tendency to be a bubble," says Roman, a fashion design and marketing graduate of American University London.
The blog also gave the rest of the world a dope close-up of a rarely seen side of Atlanta, and led to ghost jobs for Ogunnoiki and C.Will producing local party fliers and eventually their first unofficial product: a do-it-yourself sticker they still make fun of today.
"You couldn't even stick it on anything unless you had some double-sided tape," C.Will recalls.
One year, one T-shirt line, and a popular pendant design (Lok & Ki) later, they debuted their first collection, State of Mind. It featured their first rendition of the FUKK hat, along with nine others, each spelling out a different "state of mind" in white letters, including BORD, C•V•L, EVOL, FRSH, and NOPE, an upside down M * A * D, even an image of a third eye. In the three years that followed, the FUKK hat would take on its own identity.
Ogunnoiki, Roman, and C.Will make for a peculiar trio. Though longtime Atlanta residents, all three originally hail from various spots abroad: 27-year-old Ogunnoiki from Nigeria, 31-year-old Roman from Puerto Rico, and 27-year-old C.Will from Jamaica. While they may not scream cool at a glance, their mix of nerdy but worldly sensibilities makes an immediate impression when we gather for an interview at their new live/work digs, where Ogunnoiki and Roman reside together with two black cats. Roman joined the team in 2009, after Ogunnoiki talked her into leaving her job at Spelman College's campus bookstore to become their production manager.
During working hours, the couple shares the space with three apprentices and up to five interns. Ogunnoiki casually sits in a black leather office chair at an executive-size desk. In the black bookcase behind him, tomes on art history and cultural shape-shifters share space on the shelves: Alexander McQueen: Genius of a Generation; The Dada Painters and Poets; Pharrell: Places and Spaces I've Been.
As creative director, Ogunnoiki's responsibilities include marketing and communicating the brand's look and language. A visit to freshiam.net pulls up an auto-play look book video for the current FUKK collection. The stark black-and-white treatment features a sharply appointed male model of ambiguous ethnicity posing in the shadows while wearing different looks designed in white with bold, black lettering — the FUKK hat, the FUKK tank top, the extended FUKK shirt, the FUKK jacket. An ominous but seductive luxury trap track from Heroes x Villains plays in the foreground.
Ogunnoiki labels +Fresh.i.Am+'s design aesthetic "minimalist, with a sense of style and a taste of rachetness," but it's the brash attitude inherent in the FUKK collection that offers a peek into his background as a trained artist.
About four years ago, the former design major was suspended from Georgia Southern University after submitting a controversial art project in which he attempted to voice the anguish he and his classmates felt over what he characterizes as the professor's misuse of power. The piece, which featured a silk-screened hand flicking off the viewer, had the professor's name secretly embedded in it.
He got kicked out for a year, and ended up couch-surfing with friends while picking up freelance jobs here and there. "I never went back [to school] after that because I felt really betrayed," he says. Though he admits it wasn't the most mature move at the time, "it helped me understand visual art can still move people to action. It was a turning point for me that led to what I'm doing now."
The world's most successful streetwear brands are cultish in their appeal. Like secret societies, they become synonymous with the indie subcultures they help cultivate. And the emotional connection formed by die-hard fans often acts as brand mythology more than brand marketing. It's why Berlin culture magazine O32c called 19-year-old New York-based urban skatewear leader Supreme "the Holy Grail of high youth street culture." Certain founders, like Nigo of Japan's über-influential sneaker and streetwear label A Bathing Ape (BAPE), even become countercultural celebrities of a sort.
In five years time, +Fresh.i.Am+ has already started to garner its own bit of legend and it has everything to do with the ambivalence surrounding the word that Ogunnoiki refers to, without a hint of sarcasm, as the "polite" spelling of the well-known profanity.
The marketing copy accompanying the video look book swells with innuendo: "The FUKK hat has gained so much attention that its hashtag has been banned from instagram, multiple images of it have been tumbled and when you search 'FUKK' in google you actually get the FUKK image from the original look book instead of porn ... ."
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