Hip Hop is one of the most influential music genres, not just in America, but the whole world. The whole lifestyle is an expressive art form, ranging from vocal and instrumental music to dance and visual art. I Do It For Hip Hop is a streetwear brand that takes its conceptual design from contemporary hip hop culture. Check out our interview with Faisal Khan, the founder of the brand.
TM: What inspired you to start a t-shirt brand?
FK: My long term goal is to have a clothing brand, but I decided to start with just t-shirts first. A t-shirt company is the “easiest” way to get into fashion because there are minimal expenses and less to worry about in terms of product range. Designing a t-shirt is less complicated than designing and manufacturing a full clothing collection. This is also a good stage where you can rectify your brand for any errors.
TM: Why did you choose to focus on Hip-Hop?
FK: I grew up in the Hip Hop culture but I couldn’t rap, breakdance, or DJ. So I wondered “How can I make my voice heard?” And that’s when it came to me–I can use fashion as my expressive outlet. Jay-Z said that Roca Wear is an extension of himself. Hip Hop is an extension of me so it was natural for me to start a Hip Hop brand.
TM: What’s your creative process for making a t-shirt design?
FK: I have a bunch of pictures and notes that I scribble in my black book and iPhone. I show them to my graphic designer, who puts my designs ideas into a physical format. The phrase used for the “Word Up” tee is a lyric from a song by my friend Rameen: “Hip Hop is so much more than words and beats, without heart your soul is incomplete.” All my tee’s have been named after typical Hip Hop phrases like “Word Up”, “Word Is Bond” and “Reflection Eternal” which is named after the Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek album and has an upside down mirror effect concept. Each tee has four dots located in the back neck which represents the four elements of Hip Hop. The colors are coordinated to match with Nike AF1’s and the first collection are all white tee’s which is the most basic apparel you can find in a Hip Hoppers wardrobe.
TM: I notice your designs are mostly typography. Why did you choose to use words and phrases, rather than pictures?
FK: I’m an 80’s baby and a 90’s Hip Hop head and I have always been fascinated by rap music. I like lyrics and words that have meaning and backbone. Many people still have negative connotations against Hip Hop so I wanted to enlighten people of its true origin. I decided to go with humble words and phrases that have a message…something that can get a reaction and create a dialogue.
TM: You’re originally from Bangladesh, one of the biggest garment manufacturers in the world. Was that a major reason for your success? Are there a lot of other t-shirt entrepreneurs in your country?
FK: Two thirds of the Bangladeshi GDP derives from the garment industry. There are more than 6,000 garment and textile factories in Bangladesh, where many of the powerful fashion houses go to manufacture their products. It feels like everyone in Bangladesh is in the garment industry. There are so many clothing entrepreneurs, so sourcing the right person is utterly important. It is vital for your brand to work with an agent that understands your needs.
I put special attention to quality control by picking the right cotton and the best ink. You need to be aware of every process in the manufacturing chain. There is nothing worse than washing a newly purchased tee and the fabric and color come out distorted. My tees will look crisp just like when you unwrapped it from the poly bag even after numerous washes.
One challenge I had was producing small quantities of t-shirts. You see Bangladesh is known for mass production so I had to pull a lot of strings to put in a small test order. When I visited the factories they assumed I wanted at least 10,000 tees!
TM: How’s the Hip-Hop scene in Europe?
FK: I’m from Sweden and I take pride in all European Hip Hop. The Swedish Hip Hop scene has been shaping its sound and finding itself spiritually the past few years. I am really proud of how far Swedish Hip Hop has come especially since the Swedish record industry does not support it. They feel that Hip Hop is just speaking over beats. French Hip Hop is definitely the European pride. They have been doing this for years and made their mark in the global Hip Hop community. Germany has crazy DJ’s.
TM: Who are your top five favorite rappers?
FK: Ha ha I have only one favorite rapper– my brother from another mother, Rameen, who doesn’t rap anymore. We had ambitions to pursue the music business together, him as the rapper and me as the business “honcho” but we called it quits a few years ago because of personal reasons. The passion for music transcended into street wear. If you’re into reality rap go ahead and visit the I Do It For Hip Hop blog at blog.idoitforhiphop.eu search for Rameen and you will see why he is my favorite rapper.
TM: How would you describe the current state of Hip-Hop? Do you think Hip-Hop is dead?
FK: I can understand why people say Hip Hop is dead, but just like life Hip Hop is always evolving. Hip Hop is a young genre so it hasn’t even reached its peak yet. If you think about it Hip Hop is not love or hate, it is love AND hate. There are certain aspects of the culture you really dislike and some parts you really love which constantly remind you why you fell in love with it in the first place.
TM: Have you collaborated with any other designers or brands? Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with in the future?
FK: I am huge fan of Johnny Cupcakes, LRG, Hundreds, Scifen. They have set a high standard in the industry and are all built on passion and dedication. They inspire me to develop my brand and make my mark in street fashion.
TM: What can we expect from “I Do It For Hip-Hop” in 2011?
FK: Innovative guerrilla marketing. This summer a new line of tees will launch which will have more graphic images as well as wordplay. The 2011 line will have more color and variation. I plan on spending the summer in New York with my brand to get a feel of the creative environment. After all that is the place where the magnificent culture of Hip Hop was born. Like Frank Sinatra said, “If you can make it here you can make it anywhere”.
Thanks to T-Shirt Magazine for the interview.
Faisal Khan/ Founder “I Do It For Hip Hop”
I Do It For Hip Hop Network