The Influence of Africans in American Streetwear
Raise the bar.
That is what Virgil Abloh has done with his recent appointment as Creative Director of Louis Vuitton. The lines continue to be blurred but are becoming clearer in the sense of streetwear’s respectability and societies affinity for clothing that speaks to their senses. It’s interesting to see how Africans have contributed to the overall culture and society in America. Nonetheless, the ongoing growth in streetwear inspires youth to pursue their dreams.
Let’s take a look at Africans who have influenced American streetwear culture or started brands.
Somewhat the “Godfather” of Africans in streetwear and possible the definition of, “if you know, you know”. He has a creative and profound awareness of the new and the next. This individual curated one of streetwear’s most illustrious brands, 1O Deep as the Brand Manager from 06’- 10’. He’s also worked with Ronnie Fieg/KITH, Jordan, Hypebeast, Karmaloop and more.
Virgil’s contributions to fashion are prominent in today’s culture. Starting out working with Kanye West as a creative director many years ago, he has expanded his repertoire from RSVP Gallery, PYREX, OFF WHITE and now Louis Vuitton – he’s made a name for himself in the industry. With Virgil’s massive influence on pop culture and his Ghanaian origins, he may be the closest thing to a blueprint of success. His timing and knowledge of street culture in America have helped spawned many individuals express their creativity in many forms and different disciplines.
Desmond Owusu started Nerdy Brand with Eddie Kopong, and Church in 2009 and eventually transitioned to starting his own brand, Weallwegot, working with Fat Tiger Works in Chicago. Desmond has been an integral part of Chicago streetwear culture working closely with the likes of Joe Freshgoods and building his own lane with books and a recent project in Ghana.
He continues to grow with simple statements that carry a lot of weight for the city of Chicago and behind.
This Kente “Squad” patch looks fire by the way.
Anwar Carrots started Peas and Carrots with Josh Peas and Cassey Veggies and crafted their own lane in LA streetwear culture, where they were able to work with Puma and other major brands. Anwar continued in streetwear to create Carrots by Anwar that currently collabs with major brands in America and Japan. He recently released the Wildfire collection which paid homage to his Igbo roots and was photographed in Lagos.
Tyler The Creator
Love him or hate him, Tyler has made a stamp in streetwear with his unique and artistic designs. He started as a musician but has taken GOLF to be a well-respected brand and elevated the experience of pop-ups before “pop-ups” became the trendy thing to do. He is often compared to one of his idols, Pharrell, fashion-wise (think BAPE).
Another musician flexing his creative arm is Theo Martins who has grown Good Posture to do projects with Champion in connection with his alma mater The University of Rhode Island while running a cereal bar, modeling and hosting a podcast.
Somewhat of an obscure character, ambitiousade has put a mark on streetwear from his Tumblr days to now more of a background status. From being an A$AP Mob and Kanye West affiliate, stylist, model, people look on his page to check out what clothes he’s wearing for some inspiration.
The magnitude of +FRESH.i.AM+ is known amongst those that live in Atlanta specifically, but you may not know the face behind the influence. Through FRESH.I.AM, Tunde has built a cult-like following for his brand through blogging and refined taste in content creation. From Future, Migos, Coco & Breezy and more he has taken the simplistic nature of monochrome aesthetics and transcended his brand into movement.
Somewhat new to the game but turning nothing into something, DENG, from South Sudan to Atlanta in 2006. He has cultivated a following through his work as a model with significant brands and projects with some of the top names in entertainment. He has been featured in publications like Complex, Vogue, GQ, NYMAG, Highsnobiety, and Essence. He also dabbles in styling and production work with names like BOSCO, Cyhi the Prince, Sean Garett, Sonny Digital, Metro Boomin’, Made In TYO and more.
When you take a step back, you see that culture is something consumed by the masses. We make our interpretations and mix them into what influences us to create our best world. We recognize that Africans have been able to move in the space of multiple cultures and duality and create a nice lane for themselves in an ever-evolving industry that is now the definition of mainstream culture.