As the streetwear genre continues to blossom and new labels emerge almost daily, it’s becoming easier to make a distinction between the brands that have something to say and those that are just going along for the ride. 21 Maroons, a conceptual streetwear line who’s mission is to honor black history and culture, is definitely the former of the two. Clutch caught up with Yego Moravia of 21 Maroons to find out more.
Q: So, tell us about the tastemakers behind the 21MC brand?
Both Emeka and myself are 24, and we are both of African descent. I’m West Indian and Emeka is African, but we were both born in the U.S.. We went to school together since we were ten years old and have been very close friends ever since. We used to draw comics together in fourth grade and somehow, we each ended up being graphic designers, but we arrived at this profession independently. Before we started 21MC, I was doing a lot of work for Nike, Emeka was doing a lot of design for musicians and record labels.
Q: I must say, we have seen lots of streetwear lines and 21MC has got to be one of our favorites! How do you come up with the concepts and ideas for your designs?
Our project is essentially about two things: honoring our ancestors and the creative legacy that making Black histories relevant and important in the 21st century, which is why we are called 21st Century Maroon Colony (21MC). Maroon culture is ultimately about trying to maintain and establish individuality, community, autonomy and freedom in the face of a society which wants to keep you shackled and without the knowledge of where you came from. So when we sit down to design our collections, we think about how we have been inspired. Often we are inspired by: West African design and textiles, Afro-punk culture, Nas, Black Britain, Afro-American religions and cosmology, King Tubby, Big Youth, Lee Scratch Perry, skateboarding, M.I.A., ESG, Dead Prez, and the Tropics.
Q: When did 21MC’s launch?
We came together to start 21MC in March 07. Emeka had recently come back from living in Africa, and I had just gotten back from living in the Caribbean. We both had a lot of visuals do process, and a lot of it came out in the 21MC Fall/Winter collection which ended up launching in Oct/Nov 07.
Q: In your opinion, what does 21MC’s bring to the streetwear game?
Well first, there ain’t that many Black owned streetwear labels (not to mention “conceptual streetwear”) even if a lot of streetwear/fashion is based off what Black kids on the street is wearing. So right there we come at the game knowing who we make 21MC for. Also, not too many people are coming out with much meaning in their clothing, each garment we make has a story and a long process behind it. Aesthetically, very few companies are really exploring the areas we’re in right now, though we do feel there a few companies that we have some things in common with.
Q: Speaking of “streetwear”,did you choose to label 21MC’s streetwear brand or did it just happen? I’m asking because it seems like you can translate some of the pieces into the mainstream arena of fashion. Do you ever think you would expand the line to do other types of designs?
Well, when we started, we were concerned about being pigeonholed by the label “streetwear”, which is why we say we do “conceptual streetwear.” We did this so we could come out with whatever we were interested in in the future and not have look at us all screw-faced. We want to put out all sorts of things: clothing obviously, but also mixtapes and records, posters, a zine, throw events, make shoelaces, etc. We have also been commissioned to art direct other design projects under the 21MC name. So as we have continued, we haven’t really seen the title as limiting, we kinda just do everything we’re interested in doing.
Q: What other labels/brands inspire you and/or keep you on your toes?
That’s a hard question because I tend to be very “particular” about that sort of thing, but I find inspiration from Cassette Playa from London, Official Tourist from SF, I like Rockers NYC, I’m hit or miss with Peg Leg, and I’m pretty impressed by how 10 Deep has maintained the quality of design even though they have grown so much.
Q: As a fashion influencer, what could we spot you rocking regularly ?
Right this moment, I usually wear something like this: red California Classic Vans, Bright shoelaces, 21MC shirt, vintage Pendelton/Woolrich jacket, a substantial sag in my grey jeans, Greedy Genius shoes, 21MC mini poncho, San Jose Sharks New Era fitted hat, and hella necklaces.
Q: We are big music enthusiast and we’ve noticed some Afro-punk influences in your line. How does music and culture influence you when it comes to 21MC?
Music is very central to 21MC’s ideas and process. The rhythm especially, it holds really important histories within it, so we can find out more about ourselves through the music our ancestors made. Lately, the kind of interesting connection between dub/DJ-ing/hip hop/punk has had us thinking in a very particular state of mind. We are really appreciating the creative renaissance that happened within dub to go on to create the two types of music that have been so influential to us: Hip Hop and afro-punk. Also, we been paying a lot of attention to dubstep/grime, crunk, baltimore bass, balie funk, soca, and of course new Hip Hop. But yeah, Afro-punk is part of our culture.
Q: What kinds of techniques are used in 21MC?*
We do everything! The most important part for our first collection was to “remix” some of the printing techniques and textile methods found in Africa. We did a lot of hand done design work mixed within a little production. All the care labels were all hand done and as well as the scarfs and hoodies we got coming out next collection! Coming up we are gonna be hand-dyeing garments, using gold foil, embroidery, screen printing, also we have a lot of plans for accessories in the near future. Weaves and more dyes in the future fo’ sho!
Q: What’s next for you and 21MC?
We are premiering some new garments at our fashion show in New York next week (January 20th, 2008) at Dante’s Fried Chicken’s 1st anniversary party. But to give people some idea, our Spring/Summer ’08 collection will be much more about Afro-American symbology, creole typography/graffiti, and mixtape dedications. We will work in screenprinting, foil prints, and embroidery on an array of crewneck sweaters, t-shirts, fitted hats (depending on how this New Era boycott goes), jackets and leggings. We’ll have some dope collaborations released during Spring/Summer as well.
Q: Where can readers purchase 21MC?
The best place to find us is on our website, www.21maroons.com. Soon you will be able to find 21MC in most major cities here and abroad including West Africa. But right now you can also find them in LDRS 1354 in Chicago, Laced Up in Seattle, Blackbird in Seattle, but we add store to our list weekly.