Sweet Spring Humans

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine talks to Jacques Agbobly of Black Boy Knits on Intersectionality, Identity and Spreading Joy Via The Color Orange.

"Today I will walk in the sun, I will simply walk in the sun" - Charles Bukowski 

BSC: First off, congratulations on being named a CFDA Fashion Fund Finalist! How does that feel?

JA: It was all very sudden. The application came out in the first week of March, and it was due like a week later. So I just applied, and from that pool of over 500 applicants they selected around 50, and then narrowed it down to 10. I was told, like, a day before they announced it, that I got it. So now it’s just processing it and trying to figure out the logistics of the mentorship, and meeting all the other wonderful finalists. You know, there are brands that I've been fans of for a really long time. A lot of the people that are also finalists, I've known… I went to school with some of them, as well. So it's really nice to be in a cohort and be considered among people that I've also admired and witnessed rising in the industry. The community is everything.

BSC: SO true! And I really want to talk more about that. But let’s start at the beginning— I know you’ve probably told this story 1000 times, but can you tell us a little bit about your history and early influences? 

JA: I was originally born and raised in Togo, West Africa. It's a very small country right next to Ghana. And I moved to the US with my family on July 11, 2007. It's such an interesting date to remember because those numbers go so seamlessly together! There's four of us kids total, I have two brothers, one little brother and one older brother. And then I have my little sister who was born in America.

I remember growing up in my grandmother's home, and she rented part of her home to these seamstresses. In Togo, there's a lot of seamstresses, and there are also a lot of tailors. And so growing up, I was always just observing everything that was happening… I’d hide under the work tables. And that was where, for the very first time, I witnessed clothing being made, and I was just like, “Oh my god, this is so cool.” And at that young age, I didn't really know how to verbalize it or say anything about it. But when I came to the US, and you know, they would always just ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  I would remember that moment and just being in that place, and I would always just say, “I want to be a designer.” 

Chicago has a really strong sort of community with a lot of organizations that want see kids do well. I was put into a lot of those programs growing up. My mom was a single mom, and she worked a lot. So she would often have us go to these after school programs, just so that we had something to do while she was at work before she could come pick us up. And so they would encourage me to just dream big. You know, growing up, we didn't really have much, and I was also with a lot of kids who didn't have a lot. But these organizations really pushed us to think beyond just our own resources, our own capabilities, and, like, really strive for whatever we wanted to be. It was just really nice to be able to say, “I want to do this,” and have adults around me listen, and push me to do those things.

But growing up, you know, I would often watch my aunt, and my cousins— all women in my family— I would watch them dress. And I was really obsessed with the idea of how they would always just show up wearing really loud threads, and wearing really strong makeup and just showing up as their best self, or like their version of what their self is. And I always thought that was like, so powerful. I was really inspired by that. I often imagined myself in those silhouettes, you know, and put myself in those shoes. And I really wanted to dress like that, but growing up as someone masculine identifying or having more masculine features… That was never allowed, you know, that was never accepted.

BSC: Wow… It must have been a lot growing up with all of those influences and clearly understanding and knowing yourself at such a young age but without the language and the permission to express it. It’s such a huge leap to now, where you describe yourself on social media as non man. What does that gender definition mean to you?

JA: I just woke up one day and that word kept coming into my head so I just posted it… I mean, the idea of me saying non man is because visually when we look at people we assume things about them based off of our own life experiences. So for me, this idea of non men literally just means “Okay, you see me… short hair, mustache and you’re like, okay this is a man.” But there are multiple sides of me that don’t necessarily get to be shown and I want to say that there are a bunch of other areas that I want you to question or to wonder about me.

Jacques Agboblyat the Brownstone Cowboys Apt., May 2022
"We're not looking for spokespeople anymore. We are the spokespeople." - Jacques Agbobly

BSC: And this intersectionality, this diversity of identities is very much reflected in your work, which is a beautiful thing.

JA: It’s really just about having, you know, taking all my intersectional identities and trying to create one singular thing out of it… There are so many historical things about being Black, about being Queer, about all of those things, that are very negative, you know? A lot of what gets written is just the struggles. You see a Queer person, and you see a Black person, and you immediately associate hard work or struggle… because it takes a lot just to be yourself, when there is so much damage. But for me, as a designer, I really try to manifest through instances of joy. My goal with my clothing is to showcase all the beautiful things about just being Black, all the beautiful things about being Queer, or nonbinary, all those things, all those happinesses… The reason why I use a lot of bright colors in my work is because I want to be able to show people with intersectional identities, and to put them on a platform, where they're celebrated. Taking up space isn't just about your struggles or things that you carry with you. It’s about what you're able to offer,  or what you want to present to the world. And that really just goes back to the women in my family… On the day to day they're struggling, they're trying to make ends meet, they're working to provide for their families, right? But then when it's time to go to a party, you know, they're wearing their best. They're bringing their best out, you know? I try to put that little mix, those same energies and ideas into my clothing.

BSC: You really do use such strong colors— and a lot of orange in particular.

JA: I mean, for me color is like a lived experience. I associate memories of childhood, and a lot of my experiences, with specific colors and tones. You know, growing up on the west side of Chicago was not cute. I mean, when we first moved there in the first couple of months of living in the US, I walked out, and there was someone who was shot dead in front of me, like, in the middle of the street. And that was what I had to see before I went to school that morning, It was brutal. My mom worked really hard to move us out of that neighborhood and provide for us in a better way. As someone who has had family members who've been incarcerated, and having to dislike the idea and the connotation behind the color… orange on black skin… It’s something that historically doesn't get shown in a positive light. And so for a really long time, I would make everything in orange, everything. I would always gravitate to that color naturally. And I feel like I was so fixated on it, because I wanted to create positive experiences out of that. And, I just like orange. It brings a lot of joy. Seeing that color— neon bright orange— brings me a lot of joy. It's really in the contrast. I'm a dark skinned person. So I'm always looking for colors that are gonna look good on me. I always felt like orange looks really good on darker skin. 

BSC: Ok so here’s a kind of big question for you— Now that you’re starting to step out on the stage a little bit, and you’re in this cohort of CFDA winners, how do you see yourself using your platform?

JA: Growing up, I was always very active within my communities. And where I come from, we have a lot of conversations about representation, which is really great. But I also think that backing it up with actionable things is important. So I think that, as a designer, I'm really getting this platform to create commentary of what's going on socially. With each collection, I feel like there's always an element of home, an element of community, an element of things that I grew up with. And so in the future, as the brand develops, and as the collection develops, there's always going to be commentary on things that are happening in the world, but I also would love to develop structures and work with organizations that I can donate funding to, or create fundraisers for, and use my brand as an agent of change. You know, there are a lot of people who do this professionally, so I'm not going to pretend that I have all the skills or all the language around it. But if I can just help out by raising money, or raising awareness in any way— I would do that.

The great thing, too, is that, I feel like we've sort of gotten into this space where everyone has a platform, right? We all have a platform, and we all have a responsibility to do something with that platform. You have things like Instagram and Tik Tok, where people are just going viral for like, any amount of reasons. And I think that that's such a powerful tool. We're not looking for spokespeople anymore. We are the spokespeople. That's a big, big thing for me, as a designer. My thesis collection was titled Afropolitan, which was thinking about Africans existing outside of Africa, outside of the continent, because there's a lot of us who are first, second, and third generation, whose African parents migrated here, or to Europe… So how do we create or formulate that identity and that intersectionality? How do you dress that? How do we create clothing for the modern African identity? That’s what I’m trying to do in my work. Creating a chunky knitted vest that has the word Togo on it is a way for a person to sort of stamp themselves and be like “I’m from Togo and I’m proud of that.” It’s almost like a uniform or a jersey.

"Taking up space isn't just about your struggles or things that you carry with you. It’s about what you're able to offer, or what you want to present to the world." - Jacques Agbobly

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Casting: Onell Ednao, Onell Ednao

Talent:

ISABELLA CARR @ MUSE

BISHOP @ MUSE 

ANTONIO MACEK @ The Society

PALMYRE TRAMINI @ SUPREME

Clothing Credits:

All Clothing by Black Boy Knits. Designer Jacques Agbobly 

Sweet Spring Humans

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine A Shirt Tale main image

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine talks to Jacques Agbobly of Black Boy Knits on Intersectionality, Identity and Spreading Joy Via The Color Orange.

"Today I will walk in the sun, I will simply walk in the sun" - Charles Bukowski 

No items found.

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Casting: Onell Ednao, Onell Ednao

Talent:

ISABELLA CARR @ MUSE

BISHOP @ MUSE 

ANTONIO MACEK @ The Society

PALMYRE TRAMINI @ SUPREME

Clothing Credits:

All Clothing by Black Boy Knits. Designer Jacques Agbobly 

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Sweet Spring Humans

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine talks to Jacques Agbobly of Black Boy Knits on Intersectionality, Identity and Spreading Joy Via The Color Orange.

"Today I will walk in the sun, I will simply walk in the sun" - Charles Bukowski 

BSC: First off, congratulations on being named a CFDA Fashion Fund Finalist! How does that feel?

JA: It was all very sudden. The application came out in the first week of March, and it was due like a week later. So I just applied, and from that pool of over 500 applicants they selected around 50, and then narrowed it down to 10. I was told, like, a day before they announced it, that I got it. So now it’s just processing it and trying to figure out the logistics of the mentorship, and meeting all the other wonderful finalists. You know, there are brands that I've been fans of for a really long time. A lot of the people that are also finalists, I've known… I went to school with some of them, as well. So it's really nice to be in a cohort and be considered among people that I've also admired and witnessed rising in the industry. The community is everything.

BSC: SO true! And I really want to talk more about that. But let’s start at the beginning— I know you’ve probably told this story 1000 times, but can you tell us a little bit about your history and early influences? 

JA: I was originally born and raised in Togo, West Africa. It's a very small country right next to Ghana. And I moved to the US with my family on July 11, 2007. It's such an interesting date to remember because those numbers go so seamlessly together! There's four of us kids total, I have two brothers, one little brother and one older brother. And then I have my little sister who was born in America.

I remember growing up in my grandmother's home, and she rented part of her home to these seamstresses. In Togo, there's a lot of seamstresses, and there are also a lot of tailors. And so growing up, I was always just observing everything that was happening… I’d hide under the work tables. And that was where, for the very first time, I witnessed clothing being made, and I was just like, “Oh my god, this is so cool.” And at that young age, I didn't really know how to verbalize it or say anything about it. But when I came to the US, and you know, they would always just ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  I would remember that moment and just being in that place, and I would always just say, “I want to be a designer.” 

Chicago has a really strong sort of community with a lot of organizations that want see kids do well. I was put into a lot of those programs growing up. My mom was a single mom, and she worked a lot. So she would often have us go to these after school programs, just so that we had something to do while she was at work before she could come pick us up. And so they would encourage me to just dream big. You know, growing up, we didn't really have much, and I was also with a lot of kids who didn't have a lot. But these organizations really pushed us to think beyond just our own resources, our own capabilities, and, like, really strive for whatever we wanted to be. It was just really nice to be able to say, “I want to do this,” and have adults around me listen, and push me to do those things.

But growing up, you know, I would often watch my aunt, and my cousins— all women in my family— I would watch them dress. And I was really obsessed with the idea of how they would always just show up wearing really loud threads, and wearing really strong makeup and just showing up as their best self, or like their version of what their self is. And I always thought that was like, so powerful. I was really inspired by that. I often imagined myself in those silhouettes, you know, and put myself in those shoes. And I really wanted to dress like that, but growing up as someone masculine identifying or having more masculine features… That was never allowed, you know, that was never accepted.

BSC: Wow… It must have been a lot growing up with all of those influences and clearly understanding and knowing yourself at such a young age but without the language and the permission to express it. It’s such a huge leap to now, where you describe yourself on social media as non man. What does that gender definition mean to you?

JA: I just woke up one day and that word kept coming into my head so I just posted it… I mean, the idea of me saying non man is because visually when we look at people we assume things about them based off of our own life experiences. So for me, this idea of non men literally just means “Okay, you see me… short hair, mustache and you’re like, okay this is a man.” But there are multiple sides of me that don’t necessarily get to be shown and I want to say that there are a bunch of other areas that I want you to question or to wonder about me.

BSC: And this intersectionality, this diversity of identities is very much reflected in your work, which is a beautiful thing.

JA: It’s really just about having, you know, taking all my intersectional identities and trying to create one singular thing out of it… There are so many historical things about being Black, about being Queer, about all of those things, that are very negative, you know? A lot of what gets written is just the struggles. You see a Queer person, and you see a Black person, and you immediately associate hard work or struggle… because it takes a lot just to be yourself, when there is so much damage. But for me, as a designer, I really try to manifest through instances of joy. My goal with my clothing is to showcase all the beautiful things about just being Black, all the beautiful things about being Queer, or nonbinary, all those things, all those happinesses… The reason why I use a lot of bright colors in my work is because I want to be able to show people with intersectional identities, and to put them on a platform, where they're celebrated. Taking up space isn't just about your struggles or things that you carry with you. It’s about what you're able to offer,  or what you want to present to the world. And that really just goes back to the women in my family… On the day to day they're struggling, they're trying to make ends meet, they're working to provide for their families, right? But then when it's time to go to a party, you know, they're wearing their best. They're bringing their best out, you know? I try to put that little mix, those same energies and ideas into my clothing.

BSC: You really do use such strong colors— and a lot of orange in particular.

JA: I mean, for me color is like a lived experience. I associate memories of childhood, and a lot of my experiences, with specific colors and tones. You know, growing up on the west side of Chicago was not cute. I mean, when we first moved there in the first couple of months of living in the US, I walked out, and there was someone who was shot dead in front of me, like, in the middle of the street. And that was what I had to see before I went to school that morning, It was brutal. My mom worked really hard to move us out of that neighborhood and provide for us in a better way. As someone who has had family members who've been incarcerated, and having to dislike the idea and the connotation behind the color… orange on black skin… It’s something that historically doesn't get shown in a positive light. And so for a really long time, I would make everything in orange, everything. I would always gravitate to that color naturally. And I feel like I was so fixated on it, because I wanted to create positive experiences out of that. And, I just like orange. It brings a lot of joy. Seeing that color— neon bright orange— brings me a lot of joy. It's really in the contrast. I'm a dark skinned person. So I'm always looking for colors that are gonna look good on me. I always felt like orange looks really good on darker skin. 

BSC: Ok so here’s a kind of big question for you— Now that you’re starting to step out on the stage a little bit, and you’re in this cohort of CFDA winners, how do you see yourself using your platform?

JA: Growing up, I was always very active within my communities. And where I come from, we have a lot of conversations about representation, which is really great. But I also think that backing it up with actionable things is important. So I think that, as a designer, I'm really getting this platform to create commentary of what's going on socially. With each collection, I feel like there's always an element of home, an element of community, an element of things that I grew up with. And so in the future, as the brand develops, and as the collection develops, there's always going to be commentary on things that are happening in the world, but I also would love to develop structures and work with organizations that I can donate funding to, or create fundraisers for, and use my brand as an agent of change. You know, there are a lot of people who do this professionally, so I'm not going to pretend that I have all the skills or all the language around it. But if I can just help out by raising money, or raising awareness in any way— I would do that.

The great thing, too, is that, I feel like we've sort of gotten into this space where everyone has a platform, right? We all have a platform, and we all have a responsibility to do something with that platform. You have things like Instagram and Tik Tok, where people are just going viral for like, any amount of reasons. And I think that that's such a powerful tool. We're not looking for spokespeople anymore. We are the spokespeople. That's a big, big thing for me, as a designer. My thesis collection was titled Afropolitan, which was thinking about Africans existing outside of Africa, outside of the continent, because there's a lot of us who are first, second, and third generation, whose African parents migrated here, or to Europe… So how do we create or formulate that identity and that intersectionality? How do you dress that? How do we create clothing for the modern African identity? That’s what I’m trying to do in my work. Creating a chunky knitted vest that has the word Togo on it is a way for a person to sort of stamp themselves and be like “I’m from Togo and I’m proud of that.” It’s almost like a uniform or a jersey.

Jacques Agboblyat the Brownstone Cowboys Apt., May 2022

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Casting: Onell Ednao, Onell Ednao

Talent:

ISABELLA CARR @ MUSE

BISHOP @ MUSE 

ANTONIO MACEK @ The Society

PALMYRE TRAMINI @ SUPREME

Clothing Credits:

All Clothing by Black Boy Knits. Designer Jacques Agbobly 

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Sweet Spring Humans

HASSON

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

"We're not looking for spokespeople anymore. We are the spokespeople." - Jacques Agbobly

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine talks to Jacques Agbobly of Black Boy Knits on Intersectionality, Identity and Spreading Joy Via The Color Orange.

"Today I will walk in the sun, I will simply walk in the sun" - Charles Bukowski 

No items found.

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Casting: Onell Ednao, Onell Ednao

Talent:

ISABELLA CARR @ MUSE

BISHOP @ MUSE 

ANTONIO MACEK @ The Society

PALMYRE TRAMINI @ SUPREME

Clothing Credits:

All Clothing by Black Boy Knits. Designer Jacques Agbobly 

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Sweet Spring Humans

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

No items found.

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine talks to Jacques Agbobly of Black Boy Knits on Intersectionality, Identity and Spreading Joy Via The Color Orange.

"Today I will walk in the sun, I will simply walk in the sun" - Charles Bukowski 

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Casting: Onell Ednao, Onell Ednao

Talent:

ISABELLA CARR @ MUSE

BISHOP @ MUSE 

ANTONIO MACEK @ The Society

PALMYRE TRAMINI @ SUPREME

Clothing Credits:

All Clothing by Black Boy Knits. Designer Jacques Agbobly 

Pink

frost

Thistle

brown

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Super talented stylist-turned-photographer Thistle Browne and stylist Heathermary Jackson — both in New Zealand during COVID-19 lockdowns — traveled to Rangitoto Island, a dormant volcano off the coast of Central Auckland, to shoot the new campaign for New Zealand jewelry designer Jasmin Sparrow. The shoot showcases Sparrow’s timeless gold and silver jewelry, and a beautiful collection of hand-beaded bras and skull caps designed with Glen Prentice. Models wore mainly vintage from Search and Destroy and Brownstone Cowboys’ collection, combined with some local, sustainable brands and New Zealand gumboots (rainboots).
Photography: Thistle Brown
Styling: Heathermary Jackson
Designers: Jasmin Sparrow and Glen Prentice
Models: Charlotte Moffatt, Nina Katungi, Obadiah Russon

Sweet Spring Humans

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine talks to Jacques Agbobly of Black Boy Knits on Intersectionality, Identity and Spreading Joy Via The Color Orange.

"Today I will walk in the sun, I will simply walk in the sun" - Charles Bukowski 

BSC: First off, congratulations on being named a CFDA Fashion Fund Finalist! How does that feel?

JA: It was all very sudden. The application came out in the first week of March, and it was due like a week later. So I just applied, and from that pool of over 500 applicants they selected around 50, and then narrowed it down to 10. I was told, like, a day before they announced it, that I got it. So now it’s just processing it and trying to figure out the logistics of the mentorship, and meeting all the other wonderful finalists. You know, there are brands that I've been fans of for a really long time. A lot of the people that are also finalists, I've known… I went to school with some of them, as well. So it's really nice to be in a cohort and be considered among people that I've also admired and witnessed rising in the industry. The community is everything.

BSC: SO true! And I really want to talk more about that. But let’s start at the beginning— I know you’ve probably told this story 1000 times, but can you tell us a little bit about your history and early influences? 

JA: I was originally born and raised in Togo, West Africa. It's a very small country right next to Ghana. And I moved to the US with my family on July 11, 2007. It's such an interesting date to remember because those numbers go so seamlessly together! There's four of us kids total, I have two brothers, one little brother and one older brother. And then I have my little sister who was born in America.

I remember growing up in my grandmother's home, and she rented part of her home to these seamstresses. In Togo, there's a lot of seamstresses, and there are also a lot of tailors. And so growing up, I was always just observing everything that was happening… I’d hide under the work tables. And that was where, for the very first time, I witnessed clothing being made, and I was just like, “Oh my god, this is so cool.” And at that young age, I didn't really know how to verbalize it or say anything about it. But when I came to the US, and you know, they would always just ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  I would remember that moment and just being in that place, and I would always just say, “I want to be a designer.” 

Chicago has a really strong sort of community with a lot of organizations that want see kids do well. I was put into a lot of those programs growing up. My mom was a single mom, and she worked a lot. So she would often have us go to these after school programs, just so that we had something to do while she was at work before she could come pick us up. And so they would encourage me to just dream big. You know, growing up, we didn't really have much, and I was also with a lot of kids who didn't have a lot. But these organizations really pushed us to think beyond just our own resources, our own capabilities, and, like, really strive for whatever we wanted to be. It was just really nice to be able to say, “I want to do this,” and have adults around me listen, and push me to do those things.

But growing up, you know, I would often watch my aunt, and my cousins— all women in my family— I would watch them dress. And I was really obsessed with the idea of how they would always just show up wearing really loud threads, and wearing really strong makeup and just showing up as their best self, or like their version of what their self is. And I always thought that was like, so powerful. I was really inspired by that. I often imagined myself in those silhouettes, you know, and put myself in those shoes. And I really wanted to dress like that, but growing up as someone masculine identifying or having more masculine features… That was never allowed, you know, that was never accepted.

BSC: Wow… It must have been a lot growing up with all of those influences and clearly understanding and knowing yourself at such a young age but without the language and the permission to express it. It’s such a huge leap to now, where you describe yourself on social media as non man. What does that gender definition mean to you?

JA: I just woke up one day and that word kept coming into my head so I just posted it… I mean, the idea of me saying non man is because visually when we look at people we assume things about them based off of our own life experiences. So for me, this idea of non men literally just means “Okay, you see me… short hair, mustache and you’re like, okay this is a man.” But there are multiple sides of me that don’t necessarily get to be shown and I want to say that there are a bunch of other areas that I want you to question or to wonder about me.

Jacques Agboblyat the Brownstone Cowboys Apt., May 2022
"We're not looking for spokespeople anymore. We are the spokespeople." - Jacques Agbobly

BSC: And this intersectionality, this diversity of identities is very much reflected in your work, which is a beautiful thing.

JA: It’s really just about having, you know, taking all my intersectional identities and trying to create one singular thing out of it… There are so many historical things about being Black, about being Queer, about all of those things, that are very negative, you know? A lot of what gets written is just the struggles. You see a Queer person, and you see a Black person, and you immediately associate hard work or struggle… because it takes a lot just to be yourself, when there is so much damage. But for me, as a designer, I really try to manifest through instances of joy. My goal with my clothing is to showcase all the beautiful things about just being Black, all the beautiful things about being Queer, or nonbinary, all those things, all those happinesses… The reason why I use a lot of bright colors in my work is because I want to be able to show people with intersectional identities, and to put them on a platform, where they're celebrated. Taking up space isn't just about your struggles or things that you carry with you. It’s about what you're able to offer,  or what you want to present to the world. And that really just goes back to the women in my family… On the day to day they're struggling, they're trying to make ends meet, they're working to provide for their families, right? But then when it's time to go to a party, you know, they're wearing their best. They're bringing their best out, you know? I try to put that little mix, those same energies and ideas into my clothing.

BSC: You really do use such strong colors— and a lot of orange in particular.

JA: I mean, for me color is like a lived experience. I associate memories of childhood, and a lot of my experiences, with specific colors and tones. You know, growing up on the west side of Chicago was not cute. I mean, when we first moved there in the first couple of months of living in the US, I walked out, and there was someone who was shot dead in front of me, like, in the middle of the street. And that was what I had to see before I went to school that morning, It was brutal. My mom worked really hard to move us out of that neighborhood and provide for us in a better way. As someone who has had family members who've been incarcerated, and having to dislike the idea and the connotation behind the color… orange on black skin… It’s something that historically doesn't get shown in a positive light. And so for a really long time, I would make everything in orange, everything. I would always gravitate to that color naturally. And I feel like I was so fixated on it, because I wanted to create positive experiences out of that. And, I just like orange. It brings a lot of joy. Seeing that color— neon bright orange— brings me a lot of joy. It's really in the contrast. I'm a dark skinned person. So I'm always looking for colors that are gonna look good on me. I always felt like orange looks really good on darker skin. 

BSC: Ok so here’s a kind of big question for you— Now that you’re starting to step out on the stage a little bit, and you’re in this cohort of CFDA winners, how do you see yourself using your platform?

JA: Growing up, I was always very active within my communities. And where I come from, we have a lot of conversations about representation, which is really great. But I also think that backing it up with actionable things is important. So I think that, as a designer, I'm really getting this platform to create commentary of what's going on socially. With each collection, I feel like there's always an element of home, an element of community, an element of things that I grew up with. And so in the future, as the brand develops, and as the collection develops, there's always going to be commentary on things that are happening in the world, but I also would love to develop structures and work with organizations that I can donate funding to, or create fundraisers for, and use my brand as an agent of change. You know, there are a lot of people who do this professionally, so I'm not going to pretend that I have all the skills or all the language around it. But if I can just help out by raising money, or raising awareness in any way— I would do that.

The great thing, too, is that, I feel like we've sort of gotten into this space where everyone has a platform, right? We all have a platform, and we all have a responsibility to do something with that platform. You have things like Instagram and Tik Tok, where people are just going viral for like, any amount of reasons. And I think that that's such a powerful tool. We're not looking for spokespeople anymore. We are the spokespeople. That's a big, big thing for me, as a designer. My thesis collection was titled Afropolitan, which was thinking about Africans existing outside of Africa, outside of the continent, because there's a lot of us who are first, second, and third generation, whose African parents migrated here, or to Europe… So how do we create or formulate that identity and that intersectionality? How do you dress that? How do we create clothing for the modern African identity? That’s what I’m trying to do in my work. Creating a chunky knitted vest that has the word Togo on it is a way for a person to sort of stamp themselves and be like “I’m from Togo and I’m proud of that.” It’s almost like a uniform or a jersey.

"Taking up space isn't just about your struggles or things that you carry with you. It’s about what you're able to offer, or what you want to present to the world." - Jacques Agbobly

BSC: Your clothes feel musical… What do you listen to? Is music an inspiration?

JA: Thank you, that means a lot because music is really an important part of life, I mean, a lot of people say that, but for me, music is really therapeutic. I listen to music, basically all day from when I wake up, like at 7am. I mean, thank goodness, I have a really nice roommate who lets me play music loud in the morning. I'm really just obsessed with Afrobeats. As an African person I was always really proud of my culture, but it wasn’t really cool, in the context of going to school, to listen to non American music. But now I’m so happy to see Afrobeats artists that I’ve known for a really long time just taking over the world, you know?

BSC: Any favorites we should be checking out?

JA:  African Giant or Bank On It by Burna Boy, Bloody Samaritan by Ayra Starr, Monalisa by Lojoay & Sarz and Crazy Tings by Tems.

BSC: This has been so great. Thanks for spending some time with us and thank you for being in the world. You are a true inspiration. Keep on spreading your joy and your energy!

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Casting: Onell Ednao, Onell Ednao

Talent:

ISABELLA CARR @ MUSE

BISHOP @ MUSE 

ANTONIO MACEK @ The Society

PALMYRE TRAMINI @ SUPREME

Clothing Credits:

All Clothing by Black Boy Knits. Designer Jacques Agbobly 

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Sweet Spring Humans

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine CONSCIOUS GIVING Main Image

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine talks to Jacques Agbobly of Black Boy Knits on Intersectionality, Identity and Spreading Joy Via The Color Orange.

"Today I will walk in the sun, I will simply walk in the sun" - Charles Bukowski 

BSC: First off, congratulations on being named a CFDA Fashion Fund Finalist! How does that feel?

JA: It was all very sudden. The application came out in the first week of March, and it was due like a week later. So I just applied, and from that pool of over 500 applicants they selected around 50, and then narrowed it down to 10. I was told, like, a day before they announced it, that I got it. So now it’s just processing it and trying to figure out the logistics of the mentorship, and meeting all the other wonderful finalists. You know, there are brands that I've been fans of for a really long time. A lot of the people that are also finalists, I've known… I went to school with some of them, as well. So it's really nice to be in a cohort and be considered among people that I've also admired and witnessed rising in the industry. The community is everything.

BSC: SO true! And I really want to talk more about that. But let’s start at the beginning— I know you’ve probably told this story 1000 times, but can you tell us a little bit about your history and early influences? 

JA: I was originally born and raised in Togo, West Africa. It's a very small country right next to Ghana. And I moved to the US with my family on July 11, 2007. It's such an interesting date to remember because those numbers go so seamlessly together! There's four of us kids total, I have two brothers, one little brother and one older brother. And then I have my little sister who was born in America.

I remember growing up in my grandmother's home, and she rented part of her home to these seamstresses. In Togo, there's a lot of seamstresses, and there are also a lot of tailors. And so growing up, I was always just observing everything that was happening… I’d hide under the work tables. And that was where, for the very first time, I witnessed clothing being made, and I was just like, “Oh my god, this is so cool.” And at that young age, I didn't really know how to verbalize it or say anything about it. But when I came to the US, and you know, they would always just ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  I would remember that moment and just being in that place, and I would always just say, “I want to be a designer.” 

Chicago has a really strong sort of community with a lot of organizations that want see kids do well. I was put into a lot of those programs growing up. My mom was a single mom, and she worked a lot. So she would often have us go to these after school programs, just so that we had something to do while she was at work before she could come pick us up. And so they would encourage me to just dream big. You know, growing up, we didn't really have much, and I was also with a lot of kids who didn't have a lot. But these organizations really pushed us to think beyond just our own resources, our own capabilities, and, like, really strive for whatever we wanted to be. It was just really nice to be able to say, “I want to do this,” and have adults around me listen, and push me to do those things.

But growing up, you know, I would often watch my aunt, and my cousins— all women in my family— I would watch them dress. And I was really obsessed with the idea of how they would always just show up wearing really loud threads, and wearing really strong makeup and just showing up as their best self, or like their version of what their self is. And I always thought that was like, so powerful. I was really inspired by that. I often imagined myself in those silhouettes, you know, and put myself in those shoes. And I really wanted to dress like that, but growing up as someone masculine identifying or having more masculine features… That was never allowed, you know, that was never accepted.

BSC: Wow… It must have been a lot growing up with all of those influences and clearly understanding and knowing yourself at such a young age but without the language and the permission to express it. It’s such a huge leap to now, where you describe yourself on social media as non man. What does that gender definition mean to you?

JA: I just woke up one day and that word kept coming into my head so I just posted it… I mean, the idea of me saying non man is because visually when we look at people we assume things about them based off of our own life experiences. So for me, this idea of non men literally just means “Okay, you see me… short hair, mustache and you’re like, okay this is a man.” But there are multiple sides of me that don’t necessarily get to be shown and I want to say that there are a bunch of other areas that I want you to question or to wonder about me.

BSC: And this intersectionality, this diversity of identities is very much reflected in your work, which is a beautiful thing.

JA: It’s really just about having, you know, taking all my intersectional identities and trying to create one singular thing out of it… There are so many historical things about being Black, about being Queer, about all of those things, that are very negative, you know? A lot of what gets written is just the struggles. You see a Queer person, and you see a Black person, and you immediately associate hard work or struggle… because it takes a lot just to be yourself, when there is so much damage. But for me, as a designer, I really try to manifest through instances of joy. My goal with my clothing is to showcase all the beautiful things about just being Black, all the beautiful things about being Queer, or nonbinary, all those things, all those happinesses… The reason why I use a lot of bright colors in my work is because I want to be able to show people with intersectional identities, and to put them on a platform, where they're celebrated. Taking up space isn't just about your struggles or things that you carry with you. It’s about what you're able to offer,  or what you want to present to the world. And that really just goes back to the women in my family… On the day to day they're struggling, they're trying to make ends meet, they're working to provide for their families, right? But then when it's time to go to a party, you know, they're wearing their best. They're bringing their best out, you know? I try to put that little mix, those same energies and ideas into my clothing.

BSC: You really do use such strong colors— and a lot of orange in particular.

JA: I mean, for me color is like a lived experience. I associate memories of childhood, and a lot of my experiences, with specific colors and tones. You know, growing up on the west side of Chicago was not cute. I mean, when we first moved there in the first couple of months of living in the US, I walked out, and there was someone who was shot dead in front of me, like, in the middle of the street. And that was what I had to see before I went to school that morning, It was brutal. My mom worked really hard to move us out of that neighborhood and provide for us in a better way. As someone who has had family members who've been incarcerated, and having to dislike the idea and the connotation behind the color… orange on black skin… It’s something that historically doesn't get shown in a positive light. And so for a really long time, I would make everything in orange, everything. I would always gravitate to that color naturally. And I feel like I was so fixated on it, because I wanted to create positive experiences out of that. And, I just like orange. It brings a lot of joy. Seeing that color— neon bright orange— brings me a lot of joy. It's really in the contrast. I'm a dark skinned person. So I'm always looking for colors that are gonna look good on me. I always felt like orange looks really good on darker skin. 

BSC: Ok so here’s a kind of big question for you— Now that you’re starting to step out on the stage a little bit, and you’re in this cohort of CFDA winners, how do you see yourself using your platform?

JA: Growing up, I was always very active within my communities. And where I come from, we have a lot of conversations about representation, which is really great. But I also think that backing it up with actionable things is important. So I think that, as a designer, I'm really getting this platform to create commentary of what's going on socially. With each collection, I feel like there's always an element of home, an element of community, an element of things that I grew up with. And so in the future, as the brand develops, and as the collection develops, there's always going to be commentary on things that are happening in the world, but I also would love to develop structures and work with organizations that I can donate funding to, or create fundraisers for, and use my brand as an agent of change. You know, there are a lot of people who do this professionally, so I'm not going to pretend that I have all the skills or all the language around it. But if I can just help out by raising money, or raising awareness in any way— I would do that.

The great thing, too, is that, I feel like we've sort of gotten into this space where everyone has a platform, right? We all have a platform, and we all have a responsibility to do something with that platform. You have things like Instagram and Tik Tok, where people are just going viral for like, any amount of reasons. And I think that that's such a powerful tool. We're not looking for spokespeople anymore. We are the spokespeople. That's a big, big thing for me, as a designer. My thesis collection was titled Afropolitan, which was thinking about Africans existing outside of Africa, outside of the continent, because there's a lot of us who are first, second, and third generation, whose African parents migrated here, or to Europe… So how do we create or formulate that identity and that intersectionality? How do you dress that? How do we create clothing for the modern African identity? That’s what I’m trying to do in my work. Creating a chunky knitted vest that has the word Togo on it is a way for a person to sort of stamp themselves and be like “I’m from Togo and I’m proud of that.” It’s almost like a uniform or a jersey.

BSC: Your clothes feel musical… What do you listen to? Is music an inspiration?

JA: Thank you, that means a lot because music is really an important part of life, I mean, a lot of people say that, but for me, music is really therapeutic. I listen to music, basically all day from when I wake up, like at 7am. I mean, thank goodness, I have a really nice roommate who lets me play music loud in the morning. I'm really just obsessed with Afrobeats. As an African person I was always really proud of my culture, but it wasn’t really cool, in the context of going to school, to listen to non American music. But now I’m so happy to see Afrobeats artists that I’ve known for a really long time just taking over the world, you know?

BSC: Any favorites we should be checking out?

JA:  African Giant or Bank On It by Burna Boy, Bloody Samaritan by Ayra Starr, Monalisa by Lojoay & Sarz and Crazy Tings by Tems.

BSC: This has been so great. Thanks for spending some time with us and thank you for being in the world. You are a true inspiration. Keep on spreading your joy and your energy!

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Casting: Onell Ednao, Onell Ednao

Talent:

ISABELLA CARR @ MUSE

BISHOP @ MUSE 

ANTONIO MACEK @ The Society

PALMYRE TRAMINI @ SUPREME

Clothing Credits:

All Clothing by Black Boy Knits. Designer Jacques Agbobly 

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Sweet Spring Humans

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine talks to Jacques Agbobly of Black Boy Knits on Intersectionality, Identity and Spreading Joy Via The Color Orange.

"Today I will walk in the sun, I will simply walk in the sun" - Charles Bukowski 

Jacques Agboblyat the Brownstone Cowboys Apt., May 2022

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Casting: Onell Ednao, Onell Ednao

Talent:

ISABELLA CARR @ MUSE

BISHOP @ MUSE 

ANTONIO MACEK @ The Society

PALMYRE TRAMINI @ SUPREME

Clothing Credits:

All Clothing by Black Boy Knits. Designer Jacques Agbobly 

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Sweet Spring Humans

FASHION & BEAUTY

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine talks to Jacques Agbobly of Black Boy Knits on Intersectionality, Identity and Spreading Joy Via The Color Orange.

"Today I will walk in the sun, I will simply walk in the sun" - Charles Bukowski 

BSC: First off, congratulations on being named a CFDA Fashion Fund Finalist! How does that feel?

JA: It was all very sudden. The application came out in the first week of March, and it was due like a week later. So I just applied, and from that pool of over 500 applicants they selected around 50, and then narrowed it down to 10. I was told, like, a day before they announced it, that I got it. So now it’s just processing it and trying to figure out the logistics of the mentorship, and meeting all the other wonderful finalists. You know, there are brands that I've been fans of for a really long time. A lot of the people that are also finalists, I've known… I went to school with some of them, as well. So it's really nice to be in a cohort and be considered among people that I've also admired and witnessed rising in the industry. The community is everything.

BSC: SO true! And I really want to talk more about that. But let’s start at the beginning— I know you’ve probably told this story 1000 times, but can you tell us a little bit about your history and early influences? 

JA: I was originally born and raised in Togo, West Africa. It's a very small country right next to Ghana. And I moved to the US with my family on July 11, 2007. It's such an interesting date to remember because those numbers go so seamlessly together! There's four of us kids total, I have two brothers, one little brother and one older brother. And then I have my little sister who was born in America.

I remember growing up in my grandmother's home, and she rented part of her home to these seamstresses. In Togo, there's a lot of seamstresses, and there are also a lot of tailors. And so growing up, I was always just observing everything that was happening… I’d hide under the work tables. And that was where, for the very first time, I witnessed clothing being made, and I was just like, “Oh my god, this is so cool.” And at that young age, I didn't really know how to verbalize it or say anything about it. But when I came to the US, and you know, they would always just ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  I would remember that moment and just being in that place, and I would always just say, “I want to be a designer.” 

Chicago has a really strong sort of community with a lot of organizations that want see kids do well. I was put into a lot of those programs growing up. My mom was a single mom, and she worked a lot. So she would often have us go to these after school programs, just so that we had something to do while she was at work before she could come pick us up. And so they would encourage me to just dream big. You know, growing up, we didn't really have much, and I was also with a lot of kids who didn't have a lot. But these organizations really pushed us to think beyond just our own resources, our own capabilities, and, like, really strive for whatever we wanted to be. It was just really nice to be able to say, “I want to do this,” and have adults around me listen, and push me to do those things.

But growing up, you know, I would often watch my aunt, and my cousins— all women in my family— I would watch them dress. And I was really obsessed with the idea of how they would always just show up wearing really loud threads, and wearing really strong makeup and just showing up as their best self, or like their version of what their self is. And I always thought that was like, so powerful. I was really inspired by that. I often imagined myself in those silhouettes, you know, and put myself in those shoes. And I really wanted to dress like that, but growing up as someone masculine identifying or having more masculine features… That was never allowed, you know, that was never accepted.

BSC: Wow… It must have been a lot growing up with all of those influences and clearly understanding and knowing yourself at such a young age but without the language and the permission to express it. It’s such a huge leap to now, where you describe yourself on social media as non man. What does that gender definition mean to you?

JA: I just woke up one day and that word kept coming into my head so I just posted it… I mean, the idea of me saying non man is because visually when we look at people we assume things about them based off of our own life experiences. So for me, this idea of non men literally just means “Okay, you see me… short hair, mustache and you’re like, okay this is a man.” But there are multiple sides of me that don’t necessarily get to be shown and I want to say that there are a bunch of other areas that I want you to question or to wonder about me.

Jacques Agboblyat the Brownstone Cowboys Apt., May 2022

"We're not looking for spokespeople anymore. We are the spokespeople." - Jacques Agbobly

BSC: And this intersectionality, this diversity of identities is very much reflected in your work, which is a beautiful thing.

JA: It’s really just about having, you know, taking all my intersectional identities and trying to create one singular thing out of it… There are so many historical things about being Black, about being Queer, about all of those things, that are very negative, you know? A lot of what gets written is just the struggles. You see a Queer person, and you see a Black person, and you immediately associate hard work or struggle… because it takes a lot just to be yourself, when there is so much damage. But for me, as a designer, I really try to manifest through instances of joy. My goal with my clothing is to showcase all the beautiful things about just being Black, all the beautiful things about being Queer, or nonbinary, all those things, all those happinesses… The reason why I use a lot of bright colors in my work is because I want to be able to show people with intersectional identities, and to put them on a platform, where they're celebrated. Taking up space isn't just about your struggles or things that you carry with you. It’s about what you're able to offer,  or what you want to present to the world. And that really just goes back to the women in my family… On the day to day they're struggling, they're trying to make ends meet, they're working to provide for their families, right? But then when it's time to go to a party, you know, they're wearing their best. They're bringing their best out, you know? I try to put that little mix, those same energies and ideas into my clothing.

BSC: You really do use such strong colors— and a lot of orange in particular.

JA: I mean, for me color is like a lived experience. I associate memories of childhood, and a lot of my experiences, with specific colors and tones. You know, growing up on the west side of Chicago was not cute. I mean, when we first moved there in the first couple of months of living in the US, I walked out, and there was someone who was shot dead in front of me, like, in the middle of the street. And that was what I had to see before I went to school that morning, It was brutal. My mom worked really hard to move us out of that neighborhood and provide for us in a better way. As someone who has had family members who've been incarcerated, and having to dislike the idea and the connotation behind the color… orange on black skin… It’s something that historically doesn't get shown in a positive light. And so for a really long time, I would make everything in orange, everything. I would always gravitate to that color naturally. And I feel like I was so fixated on it, because I wanted to create positive experiences out of that. And, I just like orange. It brings a lot of joy. Seeing that color— neon bright orange— brings me a lot of joy. It's really in the contrast. I'm a dark skinned person. So I'm always looking for colors that are gonna look good on me. I always felt like orange looks really good on darker skin. 

BSC: Ok so here’s a kind of big question for you— Now that you’re starting to step out on the stage a little bit, and you’re in this cohort of CFDA winners, how do you see yourself using your platform?

JA: Growing up, I was always very active within my communities. And where I come from, we have a lot of conversations about representation, which is really great. But I also think that backing it up with actionable things is important. So I think that, as a designer, I'm really getting this platform to create commentary of what's going on socially. With each collection, I feel like there's always an element of home, an element of community, an element of things that I grew up with. And so in the future, as the brand develops, and as the collection develops, there's always going to be commentary on things that are happening in the world, but I also would love to develop structures and work with organizations that I can donate funding to, or create fundraisers for, and use my brand as an agent of change. You know, there are a lot of people who do this professionally, so I'm not going to pretend that I have all the skills or all the language around it. But if I can just help out by raising money, or raising awareness in any way— I would do that.

The great thing, too, is that, I feel like we've sort of gotten into this space where everyone has a platform, right? We all have a platform, and we all have a responsibility to do something with that platform. You have things like Instagram and Tik Tok, where people are just going viral for like, any amount of reasons. And I think that that's such a powerful tool. We're not looking for spokespeople anymore. We are the spokespeople. That's a big, big thing for me, as a designer. My thesis collection was titled Afropolitan, which was thinking about Africans existing outside of Africa, outside of the continent, because there's a lot of us who are first, second, and third generation, whose African parents migrated here, or to Europe… So how do we create or formulate that identity and that intersectionality? How do you dress that? How do we create clothing for the modern African identity? That’s what I’m trying to do in my work. Creating a chunky knitted vest that has the word Togo on it is a way for a person to sort of stamp themselves and be like “I’m from Togo and I’m proud of that.” It’s almost like a uniform or a jersey.

"Taking up space isn't just about your struggles or things that you carry with you. It’s about what you're able to offer, or what you want to present to the world." - Jacques Agbobly

BSC: Your clothes feel musical… What do you listen to? Is music an inspiration?

JA: Thank you, that means a lot because music is really an important part of life, I mean, a lot of people say that, but for me, music is really therapeutic. I listen to music, basically all day from when I wake up, like at 7am. I mean, thank goodness, I have a really nice roommate who lets me play music loud in the morning. I'm really just obsessed with Afrobeats. As an African person I was always really proud of my culture, but it wasn’t really cool, in the context of going to school, to listen to non American music. But now I’m so happy to see Afrobeats artists that I’ve known for a really long time just taking over the world, you know?

BSC: Any favorites we should be checking out?

JA:  African Giant or Bank On It by Burna Boy, Bloody Samaritan by Ayra Starr, Monalisa by Lojoay & Sarz and Crazy Tings by Tems.

BSC: This has been so great. Thanks for spending some time with us and thank you for being in the world. You are a true inspiration. Keep on spreading your joy and your energy!

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Casting: Onell Ednao, Onell Ednao

Talent:

ISABELLA CARR @ MUSE

BISHOP @ MUSE 

ANTONIO MACEK @ The Society

PALMYRE TRAMINI @ SUPREME

Clothing Credits:

All Clothing by Black Boy Knits. Designer Jacques Agbobly 

Sweet Spring Humans

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine talks to Jacques Agbobly of Black Boy Knits on Intersectionality, Identity and Spreading Joy Via The Color Orange.

"Today I will walk in the sun, I will simply walk in the sun" - Charles Bukowski 

BSC: First off, congratulations on being named a CFDA Fashion Fund Finalist! How does that feel?

JA: It was all very sudden. The application came out in the first week of March, and it was due like a week later. So I just applied, and from that pool of over 500 applicants they selected around 50, and then narrowed it down to 10. I was told, like, a day before they announced it, that I got it. So now it’s just processing it and trying to figure out the logistics of the mentorship, and meeting all the other wonderful finalists. You know, there are brands that I've been fans of for a really long time. A lot of the people that are also finalists, I've known… I went to school with some of them, as well. So it's really nice to be in a cohort and be considered among people that I've also admired and witnessed rising in the industry. The community is everything.

BSC: SO true! And I really want to talk more about that. But let’s start at the beginning— I know you’ve probably told this story 1000 times, but can you tell us a little bit about your history and early influences? 

JA: I was originally born and raised in Togo, West Africa. It's a very small country right next to Ghana. And I moved to the US with my family on July 11, 2007. It's such an interesting date to remember because those numbers go so seamlessly together! There's four of us kids total, I have two brothers, one little brother and one older brother. And then I have my little sister who was born in America.

I remember growing up in my grandmother's home, and she rented part of her home to these seamstresses. In Togo, there's a lot of seamstresses, and there are also a lot of tailors. And so growing up, I was always just observing everything that was happening… I’d hide under the work tables. And that was where, for the very first time, I witnessed clothing being made, and I was just like, “Oh my god, this is so cool.” And at that young age, I didn't really know how to verbalize it or say anything about it. But when I came to the US, and you know, they would always just ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  I would remember that moment and just being in that place, and I would always just say, “I want to be a designer.” 

Chicago has a really strong sort of community with a lot of organizations that want see kids do well. I was put into a lot of those programs growing up. My mom was a single mom, and she worked a lot. So she would often have us go to these after school programs, just so that we had something to do while she was at work before she could come pick us up. And so they would encourage me to just dream big. You know, growing up, we didn't really have much, and I was also with a lot of kids who didn't have a lot. But these organizations really pushed us to think beyond just our own resources, our own capabilities, and, like, really strive for whatever we wanted to be. It was just really nice to be able to say, “I want to do this,” and have adults around me listen, and push me to do those things.

But growing up, you know, I would often watch my aunt, and my cousins— all women in my family— I would watch them dress. And I was really obsessed with the idea of how they would always just show up wearing really loud threads, and wearing really strong makeup and just showing up as their best self, or like their version of what their self is. And I always thought that was like, so powerful. I was really inspired by that. I often imagined myself in those silhouettes, you know, and put myself in those shoes. And I really wanted to dress like that, but growing up as someone masculine identifying or having more masculine features… That was never allowed, you know, that was never accepted.

BSC: Wow… It must have been a lot growing up with all of those influences and clearly understanding and knowing yourself at such a young age but without the language and the permission to express it. It’s such a huge leap to now, where you describe yourself on social media as non man. What does that gender definition mean to you?

JA: I just woke up one day and that word kept coming into my head so I just posted it… I mean, the idea of me saying non man is because visually when we look at people we assume things about them based off of our own life experiences. So for me, this idea of non men literally just means “Okay, you see me… short hair, mustache and you’re like, okay this is a man.” But there are multiple sides of me that don’t necessarily get to be shown and I want to say that there are a bunch of other areas that I want you to question or to wonder about me.

"We're not looking for spokespeople anymore. We are the spokespeople." - Jacques Agbobly
Jacques Agboblyat the Brownstone Cowboys Apt., May 2022

BSC: And this intersectionality, this diversity of identities is very much reflected in your work, which is a beautiful thing.

JA: It’s really just about having, you know, taking all my intersectional identities and trying to create one singular thing out of it… There are so many historical things about being Black, about being Queer, about all of those things, that are very negative, you know? A lot of what gets written is just the struggles. You see a Queer person, and you see a Black person, and you immediately associate hard work or struggle… because it takes a lot just to be yourself, when there is so much damage. But for me, as a designer, I really try to manifest through instances of joy. My goal with my clothing is to showcase all the beautiful things about just being Black, all the beautiful things about being Queer, or nonbinary, all those things, all those happinesses… The reason why I use a lot of bright colors in my work is because I want to be able to show people with intersectional identities, and to put them on a platform, where they're celebrated. Taking up space isn't just about your struggles or things that you carry with you. It’s about what you're able to offer,  or what you want to present to the world. And that really just goes back to the women in my family… On the day to day they're struggling, they're trying to make ends meet, they're working to provide for their families, right? But then when it's time to go to a party, you know, they're wearing their best. They're bringing their best out, you know? I try to put that little mix, those same energies and ideas into my clothing.

BSC: You really do use such strong colors— and a lot of orange in particular.

JA: I mean, for me color is like a lived experience. I associate memories of childhood, and a lot of my experiences, with specific colors and tones. You know, growing up on the west side of Chicago was not cute. I mean, when we first moved there in the first couple of months of living in the US, I walked out, and there was someone who was shot dead in front of me, like, in the middle of the street. And that was what I had to see before I went to school that morning, It was brutal. My mom worked really hard to move us out of that neighborhood and provide for us in a better way. As someone who has had family members who've been incarcerated, and having to dislike the idea and the connotation behind the color… orange on black skin… It’s something that historically doesn't get shown in a positive light. And so for a really long time, I would make everything in orange, everything. I would always gravitate to that color naturally. And I feel like I was so fixated on it, because I wanted to create positive experiences out of that. And, I just like orange. It brings a lot of joy. Seeing that color— neon bright orange— brings me a lot of joy. It's really in the contrast. I'm a dark skinned person. So I'm always looking for colors that are gonna look good on me. I always felt like orange looks really good on darker skin. 

BSC: Ok so here’s a kind of big question for you— Now that you’re starting to step out on the stage a little bit, and you’re in this cohort of CFDA winners, how do you see yourself using your platform?

JA: Growing up, I was always very active within my communities. And where I come from, we have a lot of conversations about representation, which is really great. But I also think that backing it up with actionable things is important. So I think that, as a designer, I'm really getting this platform to create commentary of what's going on socially. With each collection, I feel like there's always an element of home, an element of community, an element of things that I grew up with. And so in the future, as the brand develops, and as the collection develops, there's always going to be commentary on things that are happening in the world, but I also would love to develop structures and work with organizations that I can donate funding to, or create fundraisers for, and use my brand as an agent of change. You know, there are a lot of people who do this professionally, so I'm not going to pretend that I have all the skills or all the language around it. But if I can just help out by raising money, or raising awareness in any way— I would do that.

The great thing, too, is that, I feel like we've sort of gotten into this space where everyone has a platform, right? We all have a platform, and we all have a responsibility to do something with that platform. You have things like Instagram and Tik Tok, where people are just going viral for like, any amount of reasons. And I think that that's such a powerful tool. We're not looking for spokespeople anymore. We are the spokespeople. That's a big, big thing for me, as a designer. My thesis collection was titled Afropolitan, which was thinking about Africans existing outside of Africa, outside of the continent, because there's a lot of us who are first, second, and third generation, whose African parents migrated here, or to Europe… So how do we create or formulate that identity and that intersectionality? How do you dress that? How do we create clothing for the modern African identity? That’s what I’m trying to do in my work. Creating a chunky knitted vest that has the word Togo on it is a way for a person to sort of stamp themselves and be like “I’m from Togo and I’m proud of that.” It’s almost like a uniform or a jersey.

"Taking up space isn't just about your struggles or things that you carry with you. It’s about what you're able to offer, or what you want to present to the world." - Jacques Agbobly

BSC: Your clothes feel musical… What do you listen to? Is music an inspiration?

JA: Thank you, that means a lot because music is really an important part of life, I mean, a lot of people say that, but for me, music is really therapeutic. I listen to music, basically all day from when I wake up, like at 7am. I mean, thank goodness, I have a really nice roommate who lets me play music loud in the morning. I'm really just obsessed with Afrobeats. As an African person I was always really proud of my culture, but it wasn’t really cool, in the context of going to school, to listen to non American music. But now I’m so happy to see Afrobeats artists that I’ve known for a really long time just taking over the world, you know?

BSC: Any favorites we should be checking out?

JA:  African Giant or Bank On It by Burna Boy, Bloody Samaritan by Ayra Starr, Monalisa by Lojoay & Sarz and Crazy Tings by Tems.

BSC: This has been so great. Thanks for spending some time with us and thank you for being in the world. You are a true inspiration. Keep on spreading your joy and your energy!

Photo: Nate Margolis

Stylist: Heathermary Jackson

Interview: Brooke Williams

Casting: Onell Ednao, Onell Ednao

Talent:

ISABELLA CARR @ MUSE

BISHOP @ MUSE 

ANTONIO MACEK @ The Society

PALMYRE TRAMINI @ SUPREME

Clothing Credits:

All Clothing by Black Boy Knits. Designer Jacques Agbobly 

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