ap fashion: an interview with designer jesse frimpong of streetchief

July 22, 2014

Meet Ghana born, Toronto based designer, Jesse Frimpong, the young innovator and creative mind behind STREETCHIEF. Jesse has transformed his inspirations—“merging” his Ghanaian roots with the urban flare of the western world, a merging of his past and present locations.
STREETCHIEF was born out of Jesse’s desire to in a sense convey a person “torn between two cultures”. I am loving his truly unique interpretation of street wear with bold patterns and sharp lines.
“The brand is an extension of inspiration for street youth to pursue their talents and passions while discovering their inner chiefs, prestige, and royalty.”, he says.
Once again, I am continually amazed by the artistic genius of this generation!
Check out my interview with Jesse Frimpong below! I am excited to see STREETCHIEF continually flourish.

By Aliyah Blackmore, AFROPUNK Contributor *
Name: Jesse Frimpong

Location: Toronto

Occupation: I am an artist and innovator and graduate student

Where were you born and raised?  I see that you are based in Toronto—does your current location or your past locations influence your work in any way?

I was born in Accra, Ghana, and then immigrated to Toronto, Canada with my family in 1998. My current location and past locations have the biggest influence on the brand. The whole concept behind STREETCHIEF is about the merging of my African roots with the urban streets of the western world, of Toronto, New York, or wherever it might be. I have always felt connected to my home country Ghana, while also completely adapted to the lifestyle of the West. This piece of information is the basis on which STREETCHIEF is build upon, the idea of a person torn between two cultures and not being able to choose one. Hence the garments give a certain kind of aesthetic that people are not used to seeing? It can appeal to people on different sides of the world.

How would you describe your own style?

Over the past few years my outfits have consisted of me just wearing whatever I can find in the morning. If I had to describe it, I would say my style changes with my mood. Essentially it is a mixture between afro-centric, neo-soul, street, and preppy. I am drawn to certain prints, colors, and patterns that exude a certain neo-soul and Afro-centric look. You would also find me in a snapback, sneakers, or a biker jacket, which I would often mix with preppy wear such as wingtips and some chinos. In one sentence I would describe my style has staying true to my roots, the streets, while maintaining a sartorial splendor (laughs).

What artists/musicians/designers/people inspire you?

I am inspired by artists, designers and people in general who are not swayed by the views of the general public. I am inspired by people who take risks, are not worried about what people will say and have an eye for art. Basically the people you would find at an AFROPUNK festival. People such as Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Joshua kissi and Travis Gumps from Street Etiquette have been the foundation on which my style is built on. My favorite designer would be Wil Fry. I like his outlook on fashion and the playfulness and informality of his designs. I don’t really care much for expensive brands and designer garments because for me it’s all about personal style and how you put things together.

What inspired your brand?  I love the fusion of various cultures with this concept of street wear.

I wanted to create a brand that gave credit to places where credit is not usually given. There is so much art and culture in the so called “Third World”. Many international brands have been seeking inspiration from these places for years yet no credit is given. This is why STREETCHIEF would be built on giving credit to Africa, the Caribbean, the “hood”, the slums and Favelas. These places are beautiful full of art and ideas, and I want to highlight that through the brand. STREETCHIEF is ideally meant to be an inspiration for the youth to pursue their talents and skills regardless of their circumstances and where they are from.

As the ‘about’ section on the website states.  “The brand is an extension of inspiration for street youth to pursue their talents and passions while discovering their inner chiefs, prestige, and royalty. STREETCHIEF is Hip Hop, Art, Music, Poetry, Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas, Asia, more. It is a brand for ALL.”

What would you say is one of your favorite pieces within your Pre-Fall 2014 “area boys” collection?  Why the name Area Boys? What inspired this particular collection?

My favorite piece from the “Area boys Collection” is the Coming To America Tee. It has received the most attention. The ‘98’ is also a representation of the year I migrated to Canada, hence the name. It does a great job in communicating the message of the brand, which is street wear meets culture.  Another favorite tee is the Kente Camo tee and it mixes the Kente print with camouflage. The Kente represents culture and the camouflage represents the streets. The camouflage print is a staple in a lot of street wear brands and I thought it will be a good idea to mix it with the cultural fabric that is Kente. It creates a finished look that most people are not used to and that is why I like it. .

The name “Area Boys” I believe fits the personality of the brand. The term “Area Boy” is an African term used to describe loosely organized street children and teenagers, who roam the streets of Accra, Lagos, Nairobi or wherever. As mentioned before the brand is inspired by the streets and the style that comes along with it. I wanted the garment to have a certain kind of feel and to be appreciated by people from the places I am seeking inspiration from. I also kept in mind while designing how the clothes will appeal to the people on this side of the world.
What is the importance of fusing multiple cultures, artistic styles, etc. in creating your brand (for yourself and even possibly for others)?  

Infusing multiple cultures and artistic styles is important for the brand because I want this to this to be more than clothes. I want to educate people along the way about other cultures and show them that anything and anyplace can be “dope”. There is a loophole in the market for a brand like STREETCHIEF at the moment. I am hoping to convey the message of the brand through photography, design, and art and ideally create a movement.

Moving forward, what would you say are your next steps?

I am also looking at ways in which I can involve people in promoting the brand and getting the name to the masses. I am looking to provide more products, expand the concept of STREETCHIEF and communicate the message accurately. One thing I can say is that the creative process that goes into designing is very therapeutic. It has helped me cope with a lot of stress and this means that I am going to keep designing and building a team and make it bigger.  

You can follow the brand on Instagram: @streetchief ; also check the website STREET-CHIEF.COM for more info.

* Aliyah Blackmore on Tumblr: echoesofnoise