On July 14th, 1987 Major League Baseball's Rookie of The Year Award was officially renamed the Jackie Robinson Award, 40 years after Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color line.
On July 14th, 1987 Major League Baseball's Rookie of The Year Award was officially renamed the Jackie Robinson Award, 40 years after Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color line.
Two names that abruptly come to mind when discussing top-notch celebrity jewelers are Johnny Dang, also known as “TV Johnny,” and Koreatown’s very own Ben Baller. Not only do they share an affinity for providing high-grade gems in extremely rare forms, both bling connoisseurs are of Asian descent. LA-based jewelry designer Ken Jen is meticulously molding and polishing his own diamonds to shine bright in the industry, just like his OGs from the Far East.
The 24-year-old entrepreneur’s come up is nothing short of spectacular. Born in Taiwan, Ken moved with his family to Shanghai at the age of seven. After receiving a green card eight years later, Jen and his brother (sans parents) flew to the states---Austin, Texas to be exact. “I was not a big fan of living in Texas,” Ken admits. “The culture is way different from China, but it wasn’t what I expected. I was pretty young at the time so no complaints. I was really there for school and to learn english.”
Although he disliked the new setting, Jen managed to graduate High School with honors. As a matter of fact, his studious ways helped him gain a full scholarship to the University of Texas. During his freshman year, Ken was presented with the opportunity to work in the retail/wholesale industry by an Instagram buddy, which prompted him to immediately drop out of school and move to the West Coast in 2013.
The city of Angels served as fertile ground that enabled Ken’s wildest dreams to bloom. He became the COO of his comrade’s retail company in just two years. In 2015, Jen’s interest in the jewelry industry blossomed and Ben Baller himself eventually gave him a shot to work under his wings. Fast forward to now, the former apprentice is flying high all by himself as owner of his three months old custom jewelry company Adamant & Co.
I recently sat down with the young CEO to further discuss his rise in the jewelry industry, celebrity clients, favorite pieces and fashion industry past. Check out our conversation below:
FRENDY: Where did you and your older brother crash when y’all moved to Austin?
KEN JEN: We moved there in 2008 and stayed with my dad’s friends, who were our guardians at the time.
FRENDY: What was so off putting about living in Texas?
KEN JEN: I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. I moved to Texas mainly to learn English. I wasn’t sure what I would be doing after.
FRENDY: I came to the United States when I was seven years old from Haiti so I know all about the culture shock that you felt. What HS did you attend in Austin? Were you able to make a lot of new friends?
KEN JEN: I went to Crockett High School in Austin. I didn’t make many friends my first year and a half because of the language barrier. Eventually, I made some.
FRENDY: How long did you know the person from Instagram that blessed you with the opportunity of working in wholesale?
KEN JEN: Instagram is great for our generation to link with people. We were friends for about 6 months before he offered me the job.
FRENDY: There are tons of catfishes online, what made you trust in him so much?
KEN JEN: The Internet is a dope place --- it brings a lot of dope people together. You just have to trust it. We just had similar interests in certain things like fashion, music etc, and he was in the business I wanted to be in. It was a win-win situation for both of us to work together.
FRENDY: Is it safe to say that you weren’t enjoying your stay at the University of Austin since you decided to dip from there at the drop of a dime?
KEN JEN: All day! It was one of the biggest decisions of my life. It’s all about trusting the process...taking risks. Everyone thought I was crazy when I dropped out *Laughs*. I didn’t have a major in college nor did I know what I wanted to do in life. I got into college on full scholarship, but I kinda went for my parents, you know.
FRENDY: Were your parents informed about the big move prior or after moving to LA?
KEN JEN: No. I booked a one way ticket to Los Angeles, logged into the wifi on the plane, facetimed my mom and told her the news. Of course my traditional Asian parents weren’t happy with my decision, but they didn’t say much because I was already on the plane.
I knew I would make it in LA, if not, at least I tried. I mean, I was 20, I had nothing to lose *Laughs*.
FRENDY: *Laughs* Talk about taking initiative. What was the first order of business when you moved to California? And was it difficult for you to flow with LA’s pace?
KEN JEN: First order of business? Make money! It all came pretty easy for me because my mentors put me on.
FRENDY: What were your initial job duties in LA?
KEN JEN: At the time, my friend and I were attending trade shows like Agenda, buying from other brands and then resale.
FRENDY: Where did you guys do the resale?
KEN JEN: Online and physical shops in Asia.
FRENDY: What sparked your interest in the jewelry Industry? And how exactly did you get acquainted with the legendary Ben Baller?
KEN JEN: I was always a fan of jewelry, but never thought I’d become a jeweler. When I was working with the guy from Instagram, we had a grand opening in China. We flew Ben out for the opening as a guest.
FRENDY: What made you depart from the business partnership with your Instagram friend?
KEN JEN: Failed business because the resale industry wasn’t doing so well. Ultimately, I had to do what was best for me.
FRENDY: You said you didn’t get involved with the designing aspect of jewelry while working with Ben, as you only focused on the marketing/sales aspects of things. I see you’re with celebs now, molding their teeth for grills etc. Are you currently involved with customizing pieces?
KEN JEN: Yes. Now I own my own company, where I'm hands on with all aspects of the business.
FRENDY: Who do you run Adamant & Co. with?
KEN JEN: I have two partners who are like family.
FRENDY: How do you obtain clientele? Word of mouth?
KEN JEN: Absolutely! Word of mouth is the best way to promote in the jewelry business. But at the end of the day, as long as I have good product and keep doing the right thing then we’re winning.
FRENDY: Do you remember the first person you helped make a piece for?
KEN JEN: Yeah, it’s been about 2 years and I actually spoke to him just the other day.
FRENDY: What’s the process of making a custom piece?
KEN JEN: To start we need a clear design, and then we will cut the wax of the design. After it is casted into gold. After the gold is done, we discuss diamonds. Last step is polishing/finishing.
FRENDY: What are some of your favorite jewelry designs?
KEN JEN: Machine Gun Kelly’s championship ring, Kendall Jenner’s grill, Lily Rose’s Chanel logo grill and my personal Bathing Ape piece. I like them because I was with the company I was working for, where I got to see them before the public.
FRENDY: In your opinion, what’s the biggest trend in the Hip Hop jewelry world right now?
KEN JEN: Custom jewelry is changing the game. Jesus pieces, cuban links, iced out Rolex, tennis chains and custom grills are always trending. The biggest one in my opinion are custom grills.
FRENDY: Most people reading this are aware of Nigo’s immense impact in the streetwear industry and jewelry culture. If he ever contacted you to provide him with a custom piece of your own creation, what would it be?
KEN JEN: *Laughs* I would probably make him an iced out Chinese To-Go box.
FRENDY: Are your parents aware of your increasing success?
KEN JEN: Yes. I’ve been taking care of them since I was 21.
Mélanie Myriam is a self-proclaimed “business womum.” Born and raised in Morocco’s most populous city, the headstrong 30-year-old is now living abundantly in New York as an entrepreneur, while being a wife and mother of three wonderful children under the age of four.
Mélanie’s unwavering drive and determination has led her on an incredible voyage. It all started in the northern African coast of Casablanca, where the then 16-year-old Myriam felt that it was time to escape from her home base so she could attend school in Paris. “My native language is French and I wanted to study in a more developed country in order to get a good education,” she states.
After two prosperous years of high school in Paris, Mélanie was accepted into the prestigious Applied Mathematics and Computer Sciences program at Dauphine University. She studied applied mathematics for five years and eventually received her master's degree in Financial and Statistical Engineering. During the last year of college, Myriam fell in love with her husband who received the same degree. Following graduation, the mathematically inclined lovebirds left their nest and headed to the U.S, where they are currently living out their long-desired American dream.
I recently sat down with the thriving luxury minaudière designer to further discuss her life back home in Morocco, the inspiration behind her huge career change and find out how she juggles work and family. Check out our dialogue below:
FRENDY: As a child growing up in Haiti, I frequently heard stories of how amazing Morocco was from family members who travelled there. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to go. Can you provide a glimpse of its beauty since you actually lived there?
MELANIE: Casablanca is the economic capital of Morocco. The streets are always crowded and loud. From the bazaar to the beach coast, the diversity of people is astonishing. Modern and traditional Muslims, Christians, Jews, Asians, Central Africans and tourists--you can discover and meet much more cultures and people than you would expect to. Casablanca is a developing city where modernity and traditions meet at every corner. You can buy handmade artisanal items in the souk or shop luxurious products at the Morocco mall - largest mall of Africa, whose fountains are way more captivating than the ones in Vegas. You can play in neat and selective golf/tennis /basketball courts or enjoy good surf and even horse rides in the public Atlantic sea beaches. The ideal weather makes life easier and more agreeable.
No one could resist the delicious and worldly renowned food--from couscous to tajines made of 100% organic veggies and fruits, like locally raised lemons, oranges, olives or even Argan oil (which are exported and used worldwide). For a fun night out, hookah bars, clubs or restaurants never get empty. For a more spiritual moment, the largest mosque of Africa and 2nd largest mosque of the world, the "Hassan II Mosque," is open to everyone. People are tolerant, welcoming, warm and helpful in Casablanca, although the traffic could try their nerves.
The history of the country is rich and full of surprises. It starts with the original Berbers -nomads that mostly lived in the mountains- to the Arab invasion that brought Islam and the Arab culture to Morocco, to then the Judeo Spanish culture brought by Jews escaping Spain and finding refuge in Morocco, to finally the late French influence debuting with the French protectorate in the 1920s. Please take a second to imagine the resulting multicultural and diverse country that Morocco is. Imagine that wonderful Mediterranean and oriental style - in architecture, fashion and art. I wouldn't have wished to be born and raised anywhere else.
FRENDY: Jheez! It feels like I know everything about Casablanca now. I’m definitely going to visit real soon. How difficult was it for you to leave such majestic scenery at the age of 16?
MELANIE: At that time, I was so ambitious, I felt “young, wild and free.” And I already loved traveling and discovering new places, people and cultures; it was exciting, not scary. Banal events would turn into fun adventures. For example, I remember my first time taking the subway- so cool, but it didn’t last long! *Laughs*
I left a very comfortable routine around my family in Casablanca for sure, but this move was much needed for my soul. Paris is magical! I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to live in such amazing city. The experience enabled my growth in so many ways.
FRENDY: Which high school did you attend in Paris? And was it difficult to get accustomed to the school system there?
MELANIE: I studied in Morocco at the Alliance group, and then transferred to the one in France quite easily. It was the same curriculum in both countries, so I was able to continue the program normally. I was a very good student. The transition happened smoothly and successfully.
FRENDY: You have an immense love for math and finance, when did it begin?
MELANIE: My interests began when I was 10 years old, playing all sorts of board games with my older brother--my favorites being Cluedo and BattleShip. The plot twists, schemes to bluff the adversary, and tactics to win enticed me. I was good at it and I enjoyed it. It reinforced my competitiveness and desire to tackle everything in my way. Mathematics is abstract, it relates to numbers, quantities and space. You must learn the rules, theorems and definitions, to play the game. Finance is strategic, you have to be able to predict the next move of your adversary, anticipate the next trend and be convincing. And so, I started acquiring most of my tricks as a young sister playing those games of logic.
FRENDY: When you moved to New York, did you abruptly acquire a job in your field of study?
MELANIE: I applied to a prestigious master’s program in Mathematics of Finance at Columbia University back when I lived in Paris. I was selected along with 30 other students from a pool of 800+ applicants. Opening the acceptance letter was one of the most intense moments of my life. I packed my luggage with my husband in less than a month and flew to realize my dream.
As soon as the school year started, I received job offers from renowned banks and financial institutions. The HRs placed me on a pedestal; I could feel I was already doing something unique and recognized. I accepted a full time job at Exane-BNP Paribas, and managed to take all my classes from 6pm and on at night. I juggled between work and school five days a week, and spent my weekends doing homework or touring in NYC. Overall, everything happened really quickly but I lived each moment intensely. It would be safe to say that it was an abrupt transition and goal reaching time.
FRENDY: What compelled you to eventually quit your stable 9 to 5?
MELANIE: I found out that I was pregnant for the first time on my graduation day from Columbia. I decided to dedicate myself entirely to this happy event, in order to live the motherhood experience to the fullest. I neither wanted to miss a bit of it, nor be constantly stressed out at work, thinking about my baby at home. Although I loved my job, Pearl, my first baby girl, did not make me miss any of it. Every day was incredible, it gave me a sense of purpose and constant joy in my life. I had my first son Eli-Raphael and my second daughter Rose within the next two years. I rapidly became a full-time mother of 3 under 3 and felt showered with blessings. The journey of motherhood has been incredible. I will never graduate from this lifetime learning experience.
FRENDY: Incredible! There’s nothing more precious than a mother’s love. Moving forward to the business side of things, why did you start making minaudières and accessories instead of actual clothes?
MELANIE: In August 2016, I started designing my first clutch, simply driven by the desire to get my unique and own minaudière to match my outfit for my cousin’s wedding. As I began to look for a special motif, colors and an overall shape, I felt that my creativity was limitless. Ideas were bursting in my mind; I drew many schemes and patterns.
As my kids entered pre-school at that period, I had more free time to go back to work. And this time, I wanted to express my second passion, my love for designing and fashion. I developed this passion very early during my childhood, when I played running “fashion shows” with my friends as early as 4 years old and later, when I actually walked real kids runways at 10 years old. So, I decided to launch my brand and become a clutch designer. My husband was very supportive and pushed me to follow my heart, and do what I aspired to. He encouraged me to take that challenge and become an entrepreneur.
I believe I made a very good decision taking this path, as I am both creative and pragmatic. I need some hours of “rational math” or simply rationality during my day, but I also need my moments of evasion. I find inspiration by walking in the streets, looking at what surrounds me such as the urban life and different cultures. New York City was the perfect place to amplify the artistic side of me. Therefore, designing clutches represent to me much more than it seems to be. It is the realization of my inner self through matter. I make rectangular shapes, very straight very geometrical, and then add to them some “magic powder”, product of my artistic side - whether it is a particular pattern or a word that projects me to a specific context. And VOILA! I combined my love for fashion designing and mathematics.
FRENDY: You say that your brand is an “Invitation to your Voyage," citing Charles Baudelaire, from Morocco to NY, via Paris and London. How do we learn about your story through your creations?
MELANIE: Indeed, the names of the collections- Arabesque, Courtesy, Romance and Modernism- refer to my multi-stops journey. The “Arabesque” collection is an allusion to my Moroccan origins, both as an Andalusian (Spanish culture under Arab influence) from my mother, and as a Berber (Moroccan pre-Arab culture) from my father. The “Courtesy” collection is for the endless Londonian tea parties, which I attended for 3 months as I participated in an internship program with the Merrill Lynch bank, to warm up myself from the cold atmosphere. The “Romance” collection is inspired by the ten years I spent in Paris, its grandiose architecture, timeless fashion and gourmet food. Finally, the “Modernism” collection is for New York, the city I belong to, the city where I accomplish my dreams and where nothing seems impossible.
FRENDY: It’s astounding how you’re handling full time mommy duties and entrepreneurship. What’s your everyday schedule like?
MELANIE: I wake up everyday at 6am by the cheerful screams of my kids, re-energized from their night and eagerness to conquer the day. Then follows breakfast, dressing and school dropping. It’s now 10am. I have my first coffee break of the day at Starbucks, and immediately start dealing with the manufacturers and customers. Photoshoot scheduling, customer’s feedbacks to take into consideration, new ideas and inspirations to mark down, fixing the website, and more.
I make a quick stop at Whole Foods marketplace before going back home. It’s now time to organize the house and the dinner, to welcome the kids who are coming back from school. Mommy is busy from 3pm until the kid’s bedtime: fun at the park, playdate in the building’s playroom, shower, dinner and story time.
After an exhaustive day, I finally enjoy a peaceful one-on-one dinner with my husband before folding back my sleeves one more time and switching on my computer. From updating my social media and designing personalized orders, to preparing the next collection. I fill a milk bottle once in while.
FRENDY: Do you visit your hometown often?
MELANIE: Yes, at least once a year to refill my batteries and reconnect with my roots. It is also very important for me to go back home to enjoy some leisure time with my parents.
FRENDY: I truly commend you for following your passion. Do you have any words of encouragement for those who are reluctant to fully focus on accomplishing their lifelong goals?
MELANIE: The key is to believe in your project. Be prepared to face some obstacles, to start over many times and to make mistakes. But never forget your primary motivations and your final goal. Work hard and don’t lose hope or patience. People need your ideas out there.
“To all the ladies in the place with style and grace,” is how The Notorious B.I.G. kicked off his 1994 platinum-selling single, “Big Poppa.” Danielle Anabi wasn’t alive when the song initially released but she presently has the same swag as the women Biggie referred to.
Danielle is what you call a “rare gem” in the world of Instagram. With less than 5K followers, the Claremont, California beauty is silently bodying fits your #WCW wouldn’t dare to pull off. Whether in a pair of rare Air Jordan 1s or enthralling Vetements lighter heels, Anabi’s style effortlessly remains street yet chic.
But the sky wasn’t always sunny for Danielle. Before her parent’s astronomical success in the oil industry, the 21-year-old fashionista grew up residing in her grandparents’ home, with not only her mom and dad, but also aunts, uncles as well as younger siblings. Anabi’s humble beginning fuels her drive to become the first member of her clan to graduate college. As you can already infer, there is a deeper level to Danielle beyond her flashy exterior.
I recently sat down with Anabi to have a thorough discussion about her parent’s booming business, love of fashion, style and future goals. Check out our dialogue below:
FRENDY: Let me first confess that I’ve never heard of Claremont. Can you fill me in (no Craig David)?
DANIELLE: Cozy Claremont! The city of trees and PhD's. It's a small college town, and a good place to grow up. However, it's a bit of a bubble to say the least.
FRENDY: Cozy Claremont? Sheesh! Sounds like everyone is walking around in pajamas! Were you born there?
DANIELLE: Born and raised. Then I migrated about two hours away to San Diego for college.
FRENDY: Awesome. What are you studying there?
DANIELLE: Yeah, San Diego is a nice change of scenery. I'm majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Arabic. Graduating next year.
FRENDY: Congrats! I know this is a huge deal for you and your family. Did you receive any sort of pressure from your parents to finish school?
DANIELLE: It definitely is a big deal for my family and I. Neither of my parents went to college, so being the first person in my family to attain a degree is a blessing.
Initially though, I'll admit, I didn't want to further my education. Many of the people I surround myself with have been able to achieve great success with only a high school diploma. However, I've also seen these people experience a great deal of setbacks because of the lack of a degree.
FRENDY: Good on you for deciding to stick with it. I was unable to finish college due to finances, but when there's a will there's certainly a way to make things work out. It's a bit “easier” to progress in life with a degree, so at least you’ll have a great accessory.
DANIELLE: I feel you. I have a lot of respect for people who are able to create their own success without having a degree to back them.
FRENDY: After graduating, are you going to work in the field you majored in or take part in your parent’s booming business?
DANIELLE: That's the million-dollar question. My major is certainly not my passion. However, I think college really contributed to my intellectual growth.
FRENDY: What is your passion then?
DANIELLE: My passion is Art, specifically in terms of fashion and design.
I feel like the meaning of "fashion" has sort of deteriorated over time, or rather has just changed immensely. But that's the beauty of it. Fashion can mean whatever the hell you want it to mean, and its meaning varies depending on so many complex things revolving around each individual. I love it.
FRENDY: Your dope sense of style clearly indicates that you have an immense fashion infatuation. How do you go about selecting an outfit?
DANIELLE: I really enjoy feminizing masculine pieces. I'd say that about 65% of my closet consists of statement menswear pieces that I wear daily, regardless the weather, occasion, etc. I also like to implement some sort of sophistication into my fits. It's hard to explain, but the best way to sum it up is attempting to add depth with style.
Overall, I think to really understand my style, you have to see that I'm not just fabric oriented. Styling is more than just cloth. Many people don't realize that fabric is the most external layer of what lies beneath.
FRENDY: I like that *DJ Khaled Voice*. What are your favorite clothing lines right now? And what do you look for when purchasing a piece?
DANIELLE: My favorite brands change pretty frequently. It mostly depends on the designer and what their vision for the brand is.
I like when designers make me think and feel. Very few are able to perfect the balance of intellect and style, while still keeping true to their own identity. If they are able to implement themselves in their designs, rather than just conform to what's "trending,” it gives a sense of authenticity to the label. So when I do sense some sort of rawness, I cling to it. Because I believe the designer is the face of the brand, I spend a lot of my free time watching interviews and reading articles about what they have to say in order to get a feel of who they really are. This helps me pinpoint what they're trying to convey in their designs. Typically, I look for them to address why they chose specific concepts and what they mean to them as the designer. It creates a certain type of genuineness that adds intellectual depth to their label. When designers do articulate these points, it usually touches me on an emotional level and makes me feel some sort of connection or attachment to their brand. Once this bond is made, I ultimately feel inclined to purchase items because I value the individual's vision.
For example, Maison Margiela does an amazing job at perfecting, what I’d like to call “complex simplicity.” I think I was about 15 when I discovered Margiela. He actually was the first figure who cultivated my love for fashion. I saw how his designs were able to challenge the industry and change the meaning of "high fashion" altogether. Unlike other designers who constantly went out promoting themselves, Margiela refused to be photographed, interviewed, and even faxed people instead of meeting face to face.
His pieces truly captivate this aura about him. Creating a nameless, faceless brand, while still using your real name, was/is so cool to me. Made me feel something for sure, as I'm pretty reclusive myself. He gives me some inspiration when I think of how I would like my brand to be someday.
FRENDY: This might be a bit early to ask, but will your potential brand provide aesthetically sound streetwear pieces or the high luxury feel?
DANIELLE: Why not both? A streetwear brand can have luxury elements to it. However, I feel like by the time I decide to launch my brand, what we now know to be streetwear (as much as I love it), will be on the come down. Before I start getting heat for that statement, I guess I should define that by streetwear, I mean the trend-based nature of it today (a.k.a. track suits, athleisure, sportswear; being able to wear sweats to your wedding type shit).
Although there are so many new emerging brands right now that are specifically centered on being "street,” I don't see much longevity to it. This is because consumers dictate what's trending next... not the brands themselves. Take Off-White for example. I think Virgil is a prime example of streetwear-gone-vogue. He's able to comprehend that street style may just be a trend at the moment, and has elevated his brand with more sophisticated, luxury pieces in hopes to gain long term success.
FRENDY: Have you already thought of names for your brand yet?
DANIELLE: “Delusions of Grandeur,” which means a false impression of one's own importance. Clothing shapes how people feel. Typically when people buy expensive pieces that come with a high status and designer name, they feel like they're above others - more confident and cocky.
In short, people hide behind their clothes. Imagine investing in a brand, whose name alone contradicts the emotions you feel towards luxury items. I would want my brand to make people question their perceived self.
I haven’t really been able to take it too seriously with school and everything going on in my life right now. A lot of people ask me why I can't just juggle both, but when I put my name on something, you know I'm putting 100% of myself and time into it. I can't half ass it. I'm either all in or just not playing all together.
FRENDY: Since you’re so busy with school, do you still have time to shop for exclusive threads?
DANIELLE: All I got is time! *Laughs* Nah, I will admit, I do have a lot of good friends that help me get certain pieces. But really I'm pretty skilled at tracking down rare items myself. I guess I shouldn't be too proud about that. I'm just very drawn to the challenge of finding cool shit. I like knowing that I'm one of the few who has something. Makes me value it a hell of a lot more.
FRENDY: What are some of your grail pieces?
DANIELLE: *Laughs* Such a hard question. If I really had to pick just one... I would have to say my Gucci embroidered denim jacket with shearling on the inside. It was one of the most difficult pieces to hunt down--primarily because I wanted to have it first. In total, I waited around 6 months for it to come in because it wasn't actually made yet. Only a select few orders were being made, so it took awhile to get here from Italy.
Next in line would be my vintage Chanel pieces. I love vintage shit. There’s always a story behind each piece.
FRENDY: Ever thought about becoming a Stylist in order to guide those who can’t quite pull off a fire fit?
DANIELLE: I actually am doing my first “styling” gig for a close friend's start up clothing brand. I'm not sure if I would want to be a stylist full time though. Why not reach for more?
FRENDY: True. Who do you think has the best style in the game right now? And why?
DANIELLE: I would have to say A$AP Rocky. Not going to lie, I peep his fits often to get some inspiration for myself. As you could probably tell, I love mixing designer with street. Rocky executes that shit so well. Rather than wearing a whole Supreme suit or a full on Raf fit, I think it's all about mixing and matching different brands that compliment one another.
FRENDY: Are your parents aware of your deep longing to work in the fashion industry?
DANIELLE: I'm extremely close with my family. Their opinions matter the most in my eyes.
My parents are tremendously supportive about any goal my siblings or I have. I'm grateful to have role models like them in my life who encourage creativity, push me to achieve more, and teach me to be the best possible version of myself.
When I think about starting up a brand, my chief inspiration comes from my family and the experiences taken from my upbringing.
FRENDY: If you had to rock one outfit for an entire year, what would it be?
DANIELLE: Crazy hard question! Probably my vintage Chanel velour tracksuit with my red satin Jordan 1s. Shit is way too cozy. *Laughs*
Buffalo isn’t necessarily known as a breeding ground for fashion icons but Tim Baldon is planning to change that.
Better known as Tim B, the 27-year-old Buffalonian is making waves in the industry as a Stylist. What sets him apart is his knack for hunting down threads that accentuate the distinctive personalities of his patrons. In 2011, Tim established a boutique agency, Epik Style, where he landed Lil’ Kim, one of Hip Hop’s most iconic figures, as his very first client just 3 months after its launch. Since then, Baldon has continued to work with prominent players in the entertainment arena and even expanded his personal brand by making several TV appearances, including LALA’s Full Court Life and BET ’s classic music video countdown show 106 & Park.
Tim’s interest in fashion developed when he began watching rap videos at the age of 13. “At that age I started listening to Hip Hop--I was really into music videos and I would take note of what all the artists wore so I could buy those same items,” Baldon states. “The first thing I made my mother buy me was a shiny jean suit like the one Puff used to wear.”
The modish teenager’s newfound love instantly transformed into a full-blown passion, as he went on to major in Fashion Merchandising at Buffalo State College. During his freshman year, Tim interned for Michelle Ten (former Fashion Editor of The Source Magazine for six years) and fell so in love with the short-lived gig that he quit his college career soon after. Baldon confesses: “I ended up getting an assistant job my junior year so I dropped out, packed my bags and moved to New York City. I felt like hands-on experience was all the education I needed.” Well, his decision sure proved to be beneficial.
I recently sat down with the thriving entrepreneur to discuss his life in Buffalo, wild college days, humble beginnings in the fashion industry and future goals. Check out our conversation below:
FRENDY: First of all, what color was the shiny jean suit your mom bought you?
TIM: It was metallic silver! *Laughs*
FRENDY: *Laughs* No doubt! Besides Diddy, which other Hip Hop artists served as a fashion inspiration for you growing up?
TIM: Kanye West was one of my biggest inspirations. I also admired Pharrell and Andre 3000’s style, but hands down Kanye was one of my biggest inspirations.
FRENDY: Which part of Buffalo are you from? And how was it like growing up there? I honestly thought you were from Brooklyn!
TIM: Everybody says that! I don't know why, I guess I give off that Brooklyn vibe.
Growing up in Buffalo was cool. I grew up in a city on the east side, which was a predominantly African-American community. Buffalo is very segregated; so on the east side you have Blacks, on the west side are Spanish and Puerto Ricans, North & South Buffalo is mostly Caucasian, as well as the suburbs.
Buffalo definitely had its ups and downs but for the most part it taught me many life lessons and made me who I am today. When I was younger Buffalo was full of life--it was a great place to live, but as I got older it started to become a ghost town. But I always made the most of it and I'm glad I grew up there. Best part was College! *Laughs*
FRENDY: Wow, I didn’t know it was segregated like that. Did you experience any sort of racism?
TIM: I've definitely experienced racism! I was always the type to venture off and explore, that's always been my thing. I would encounter racism when I would go shopping in different areas and sometimes at work because I worked in the suburbs. My sister went to school out in the suburbs and we had a situation where she was called a n*gger but me and my father handled that situation. So yeah I experienced it, but never in my community.
FRENDY: Are there a lot of stores in your hometown that provide scorching streetwear and high-end gear? If so, what are your favorite spots to shop?
TIM: Yes, we had a few spots in Buffalo. We had a store called Krudmart, Street Game, and Elmwood Village District. They were all in an area similar to Soho, New York but not as many stores. We later got Urban Outfitters; I worked there for about 3 years.
FRENDY: What are some of your favorite brands today?
TIM: DSQUARED2, Public School, Alexander McQueen, Asos, Maison Margiela, and Hood by Air.
FRENDY: How were you able to gain an internship as a freshman in college?
TIM: We weren’t supposed to be interning but I just felt like I needed to get a head start on my career. I didn't really care what the school said, I was always thinking about my career and where I wanted to go in it.
My first internship was amazing. I interned with Michelle Ten--that experience gave me so much knowledge of the fashion industry and its inner workings. It was a lot of work, but after interning with Michelle I knew that styling was exactly what I want to do.
FRENDY: So she didn’t care about your undergraduate status?
TIM: She did care, but I convinced her to let me intern with her. After my first summer with Michelle she hired me the following summer to be her summer assistant.
FRENDY: Damn, your work ethic must of been epic! (no pun intended).
TIM: *Laughs* I did everything she told me to do with a smile, even when I was tired to the point I couldn't keep my eyes open. I was so hungry to learn and gain knowledge about the industry.
FRENDY: What was your first job when you moved to New York City?
TIM: When I first moved to New York I was working with three stylists at one time Michelle Ten, Julie Matos and Crystal Street. My duties included: emailing and contacting showrooms to pull clothes, picking up and returning clothes, organizing fashion closets, managing budgets, scouting shoot locations, managing interns and sitting in on meetings.
Basically, my job was to make by boss’ job easier so they can focus on the creative side and not worry about all the other details that goes into being a stylist.
FRENDY: When did you meet Lil’ Kim?
TIM: I met Kim in 2011 at her rehearsals for a tour she was doing in Africa. We have a mutual friend so she invited me to sit in on the rehearsal.
FRENDY: What set of events occurred that allowed you to work with her?
TIM: We clicked from jump! I think it was because we had a mutual friend so she already had an idea of my personality. When we initially met, we joked around about a few things and she invited me to come out to a party with her. We’ve been friends every since. A few months later she ended up parting ways with her stylist and my friend suggested that we try working together.
Kim gave me the opportunity to style her and my first gig was to dress her for her mother's wedding--let’s just say it didn't go so well! But she gave me another opportunity to work with her on her birthday and we have been working together off and on every since.
FRENDY: How long have you guys worked together?
TIM: It's been five years now.
FRENDY: Are you currently working with the Queen Bee?
TIM: I do still work with Kim on and off. Right now I’m doing commercial work for Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.
FRENDY: Speaking of grinding, you did a great job on 106 & Park. How did that opportunity come about?
TIM: Thanks man, I was so nervous! It was my first time doing live television so my nerves were all over the place. A friend of mine named Sonya actually referred me. she was apart of Kim's PR team at the time and the producers at 106 were looking for a stylist to host a style segment on the show. She sent my portfolio to the producers and fortunately they contacted me to do a segment. After the first segment they brought me back for two other segments. *brushes shoulder off*
FRENDY: What does a stylist’s portfolio consist of?
TIM: A stylist portfolio is like a tear sheet of all of the work you've done. It's like a resume but with pictures.
FRENDY: How did you prepare for your big 106 debut?
TIM: I actually had no prep time! When they scheduled me the first time they canceled a few days later and when they rescheduled it they told me a day before, so I kind of had to wing it, and that made me even more nervous because I was reading off a Teleprompter and cue cards.
The first segment was a prom fashion show. 106 set up the fashion show and I gave style tips and spoke on what each model was wearing. For the other two segments it was more about celebrity fashion, what's hot/what's not and critiquing trends very similar to fashion police.
FRENDY: What does your boutique agency offer? And where can people reach you?
TIM: We offer celebrity, editorial and commercial styling, personal shopping, and closet cleaning. I can be reached at: EpikStyle.com all of my contact info is listed on the site.
FRENDY: Who is on your wish list of people you would absolutely love to work with?
TIM: I would like to work with Bruno Mars, Drake and Odell Beckham Jr. That's who I'm currently after right now.
FRENDY: Your parents must be very proud of what you’ve accomplished thus far. Were they supportive even in the midst of your decision to drop out of school?
TIM: They were very supportive because they knew I had a plan. They told me that I would have to work harder if I don't have a degree, but I already knew that.
FRENDY: If fashion wasn’t an option, what would be your career of choice?
TIM: Fashion is the only option! I love making my clients feel good about themselves and being the best person they can possibly be.
When you know what you want out of life at an early age, the faster it’ll be to manifest your deepest desires. The universe always provides––especially when one’s eyes are fully focused on the prize. While most 22-year-olds are gearing up to face the real world after four eventful years of college, Hosea Choga is already living an abundant life as a Developer.
Born and raised in Toronto, Hosea and his twin sister grew up in a home where real estate was at its very core. “My parents were always in the business growing up so it was always familiar to me,” he states. Choga’s father and mother are Zimbabwean immigrants who instilled in him the value of honest, hard work. When Hosea was 13 he got his first job at Canada’s top coffee shop, Tim Horton’s. Shortly after, the determined teenager decided to get right into the family business where he's been flourishing ever since.
I recently sat down with Choga to discuss his early beginnings in the real estate industry, biggest accomplishments and how exactly he’s enjoying the fruits of his labor. Check out our conversation below:
FRENDY: The energy surrounding Toronto has surely grown since your days there as a child. How do you feel about everything that’s transpiring?
HOSEA: The energy of the city is remarkable! I feel like it was always there, but with Toronto getting more exposure globally it's more vibrant than ever. I'm really happy with everything that's happening, like a lot of people from Toronto are proud of it and you can make a name for yourself right here. You don't have to go to New York for exposure. We've really grown and people from other places are always curious about life in Toronto. We're such a diverse community––I grew up with people of completely different backgrounds, religions, color all just mixed into this city we call the “6.”
A lot of people in Toronto have a certain way of talking; it's almost like an accent if you're not from the city. It’s like a Jamaican, UK mixed with Canadian type of slang, which Drake kind of pushed in the spotlight. Most people will know if you're from Toronto based on your style, the slang and just the vibes it's pretty unique.
FRENDY: What a time to be alive in T Dot right? It’s funny because we’re having this convo literally right after Drake finally released his highly anticipated project, More Life. You must be motivated more than ever after listening to it.
HOSEA: Yes, I'm I am very motivated by Drake. I used to watch him on Degrassi and also watched him turn himself into a global superstar, while pretty much putting Toronto on the map in the music industry. I relate to his music because I feel like we're very similar people. I'm also a fan of the way he handles his brand and business. I've been listening to More Life non-stop! It's cool to see someone that's from your city reach that level of success. He took a risk doing music and at the beginning people didn't really have a lot love for the guy. Depsite it all, he remained true to his values and I respect that.
FRENDY: Since we’re on the topic of motivation, what compelled you to take a plunge into the real estate world? Did your parents push you towards it?
HOSEA: Because I was around it for so long, I really started to understand more and more about the business and just enjoyed the process. My parents always gave me the option to do whatever I wanted; I chose to do something I enjoyed. I guess for me you could say working on a development project can be compared to working on an album where you put in months of work, build from nothing and put an endless amount effort. Furthermore, multiple people contribute to perfect the project.
FRENDY: That’s a great comparison. How old were you when you embarked on your journey as a Developer?
HOSEA: I started to take real estate seriously after high schooI-–I was 18. It wasn’t easy at first because I kind of watched all my friends go to school and do the whole college experience. But I’m grateful for the way everything turned out.
FRENDY: I could imagine how isolated you felt. What were your initial duties as a Developer?
HOSEA: I did a lot of property management when I was younger. I really got experience dealing with different types of people. I try to create schedules, depending on timelines and costs, make sure everyone is aware of their roles and the time they have to complete each job, basically making sure everything is running smoothly. I also enjoy doing a little marketing as well.
FRENDY: Are you currently working on any big projects?
HOSEA: Yes, definitely working on some new projects in real estate and getting involved in tech also. I can't say too much but this is going to be a great year for me and I'm very humbled and grateful.
FRENDY: Nice! Hopefully we’ll get a part two of this going so you can finally unveil what the projects are. When you’re not hustling, what do you do for fun?
HOSEA: I definitely will! My idea of fun is trying out different restaurants and traveling. Basically just trying new things. I also enjoy calling up a group of my close friends and just kicking back, joking around and whatever.
FRENDY: I took a quick look at your Instagram and to say that you’re low-key would be an understatement, though, I can tell you’re making major moves. The best way to describe your account is “calm but heavy,” as Juan would say.
HOSEA: *Laughs* Yea that's exactly how I would describe it. I'm pretty private, I like to just to keep it relaxed and post whatever I think is cool at the time. There's no real theme or anything, it's just me being myself. But I definitely got some special things coming in the near future and I love using Instagram as platform to share.
FRENDY: Do you have any other passions besides being a Developer? Are you heavily into fashion and music?
HOSEA: I wouldn't say I'm heavily into music and fashion but I'm definitely a fan of hip hop and trap music. I'm a fan of all the young kids coming up and making bangers. People hate on them but they're good at the music they make, which is Trap. Future I think is one of the greats of our time! Drake, PartyNextDoor and NAV have been on my playlist lately.
I'm into chill fashion--I'd say I think my style is pretty random. Most days it's John Elliott with some Chelsea boots, and other days it's a Supreme hoodie with some Vans, or Palace with some Yeezys. Really all depends on the occasion...it could be a Fear of God flannel and some Visvims. Whatever vibe is for the day.
FRENDY: I feel you. You’re basically a chameleon when it comes to style. It's safe to say that your hard work is allowing you to fully indulge in anything that you please––whether it's traveling or dining virtually anywhere. What advice do you have for those who desire to live a lavish lifestyle but have no idea how to actually get their funds up?
HOSEA: I feel like if you're doing anything at all, you should do it for yourself and not anyone else. I think patience is key, just keep putting in hard work and effort. However you choose to reward yourself is up to you. I think you shouldn't really compare your life to anyone else's because everyone's situation is different, but if you're looking for inspiration and motivation I encourage that. I'd just say put in the work and everything will fall into place.
In order to accomplish a great feat, sacrifice is needed. Whether it’s dedicating an ample amount of time to perfect a craft or cutting certain individuals off from your inner circle, a subtraction of some sort is necessary to enhance the chances of accomplishing a mission. Shemoi Gidden did just that.
The 22-year-old Lensman departed from his comfort zone of NYC to soar with the stars in Los Angeles. Shemoi’s move may sound a bit cliché, but his rapid success is truly something to behold. In less than a year of living on the west coast, the Portland, Jamaica native has already photographed more celebs than all of the Paparazzis’ in SoHo combined! From snapping Instagram’s hottest sensations to multi-talented celebrities like Keke Palmer, Shemoi is well on his way to possibly become La-La Land’s very own version of Mario Testino.
I recently sat down with the thriving shutterbug to talk about his life in NYC, love for photography, the motivation behind his major relocation and find out exactly how he befriended all of these celebs.
FRENDY: Man, I am extremely proud of you. Your success thus far is not a big surprise to me because I saw something special in you ever since we first met at BAPE. How are you taking all of this in?
SHEMOI: Well, I’m taking it in pretty well. I’m basically speaking things into existence and then living them shortly after. If I tell myself that I’m going to be the greatest at what I do, believe it and have the drive for it, then it’s going to fall into place and eventually happen.
FRENDY: I totally agree with you. When we initially got acquainted 4 years ago, you clearly expressed your passion for taking photos. When did your love for photography actually begin?
SHEMOI: I fell in love with photography when I came across a famous photographer named 13th Witness on Instagram around 2012. I fell in love with his work because he had an uncanny method of capturing a photo in a way that it draws your attention to every detail. He inspired me so creatively and I realized that shooting photos isn't just about capturing an image, it’s about giving that image a certain character and lifestyle to it .
FRENDY: What was the first camera you started shooting with?
SHEMOI: I started off with a Canon t2i. After making some good money I ended up getting a Canon 7D. I hated that one so I saved up to buy a Canon 5d mark III. Now I shoot with a Canon 5d mark III, mark II, Sony a7s for video and the big boy himself a Canon 1dx mark II.
FRENDY: Are there any specific features you look for when purchasing a camera?
SHEMOI: Basically full frame and fps for video. You need both for everything.
FRENDY: You’re originally from Jamaica and I know how skeptical Caribbean parents can be when their child has an urge to go down the “risky” creative path. Did you receive any sort of criticism from your parents about your dream to become a professional photographer?
SHEMOI: Oh, my mom didn’t take me serious one bit! I tried my best to show her that my career choice can take me places, but she wouldn't budge. It only took for me to pack up my things, leave the house and move to state where I was completely alone for her to see that I mean business.
FRENDY: Much respect for taking that bold step. When did you move out West?
SHEMOI: I moved out on January 1st, 2017. I literally did a “new year, new me“ at the time and I only told 3 people I was leaving. My mom was included in the 3.
FRENDY: Yeah, I had no clue you left for California until I saw you consistently take new pics in a sunny, palm tree-filled setting *Laughs*. Did you have any connections in LA prior to moving there?
SHEMOI: Yeah, I felt like I went to the wrong state all my life . LA is where I should of been years ago because I wasn’t happy at all in New York to be honest. I wasn’t around people that were willing to take risk or ambitious like how I am. It was the biggest turnoff to me about NYC.
I met people in the year of 2015 that kept on telling me to move to LA until i was just like, fuck it, it won't hurt.
FRENDY: Those people were New Yorkers or Californians?
FRENDY: So since moving to New York at the tender age of 6, you felt like you didn’t belong there?
SHEMOI: Well, at the time growing up I didn’t know my worth until my high school days.
I never knew I was going to move to LA but people just said that I belonged in LA all this time because of how happy I’ve been since I moved here.
FRENDY: I’m guessing you didn’t leave any real friends behind in New York?
SHEMOI: It's not about having real friends. I had to figure myself out not just as a person, but also a businessman. I needed to make sure that I’m on the right path and if someone was my friend they would understand why I moved and look it as motivation. This world is tough and I’m all about helping people, but I can’t help people when I need to help my self. All I want in life is to be killing it and look over to the side and see my brothers killing it. And as harsh as this may sound I have to go by my word that I can't be around you if you’re not driven by anything, because that can bring me down. The last thing I want in my life is to impede my development.
FRENDY: What do you love about LA (besides the babes, of course)?
SHEMOI: Man what is there not to love about LA , opportunities is just in arms reach , it only took me a month to meet people that were already on, like really on. All it takes here is for you to just meet one person that believes in you, and wants to help you with your aspirations and dreams.
FRENDY: What sets of events occurred that allowed you to work with so many Instagram stars and celebs?
SHEMOI: I was introduced to a man named Eric Galen, who is the one guy that believed in me to start it all. He's very well connected, and a lot of his clients are the biggest influencers and celebrities I wouldn't even dream of meeting but he makes it all happen.
FRENDY: Do you remember your very first shoot in LA?
SHEMOI: Yeah man, I could never forget that! Before moving to LA I was prepping myself to shoot for Zanerobe, and I thought it was a good idea to change the scenery and go out to the desert . We brought out jeeps, drones, real katanas, etcs we did a lot that day.
FRENDY: Who is your favorite subject to shoot thus far?
SHEMOI: I don't have a favorite subject to shoot -- I think it's better to say I like to capture the lifestyle of a subject. I feel like my photos tell you a lot about the person I shoot just on the way how I center the person in the image to focus the viewer's eyes, giving the intimacy of the subject and the viewer.
FRENDY: I saw that you just came back from the first weekend of Coachella 2017. Did you go for work or leisure?
SHEMOI: Ah man! Coachella, Coachella, Coachella I look forward to that weekend for so many reasons. It's mainly for the connection aspect of it and you also get to meet some of this biggest artist that kills the game on a more personal level. Plus you get to make money depending on your profession.
FRENDY: How long are you planning on living in the City of Angels?
SHEMOI: LA is my home now, I can't see myself living in New York anymore. If you fly first class on a regular basis, would you go back to flying coach? I definitely won't!
FRENDY: Without photography, where do you think you would be in life?
SHEMOI: I'll prolly be lost! Still in school, hating life and going by the same routine for a long period.
FRENDY: What can we expect from you in the near future?
SHEMOI: It's for me to know and you to find out brother. *Laughs*
I was fortunate enough to become friends with the exceptional photographer Justin Amoafo, right before his ascension into elite lensman status. Justin was only 15 years old when we initially met but his tremendously poised demeanor and go-getter mentality positioned him light years ahead of his peers.
Born and raised in Queens, New York by Ghanaian parents, the multi-talented visionary was instilled with an immense value for education. As a matter of fact, at the age of 11 Justin suggested that he should attend boarding school. “I was always an outcast and wanted to expand my horizons, experience a new environment,” says Amoafo. With his parent’s approval and a lucrative scholarship, the young adventurer was enrolled at the prestigious Eagle Brook in Western Massachusetts.
Justin was one of only six black kids in the entire institution but the statistic didn’t cast a shadow of fear on his pursuit of enlightenment. Amoafo was so in awe with the refreshing scenery at his new abode, he decided to freeze it all in time. Using his roommate’s state-of-the-art camera, Justin began to take pictures of the beautiful landscape surrounding Eagle Brook. Since then, photography instantly became Amoafo’s primary focus. He started posting photos on Flickr, which ultimately led him to gain fans across the world.
Immediately following boarding school, Justin attended Brooklyn Tech HS with an increased passion for snapping. After a year of saving up lunch money, the bright-eyed shutterbug was able to purchase his very first camera, the Canon t2i. Mastering the art of Flickr, Amoafo leveled up to Tumblr, where he garnered even more admirers.
Justin is currently attending NYU Shanghai with a major in Interactive Media arts and Business but that isn’t stopping him one bit from putting work in behind the lens.
FRENDY: What compelled you to study abroad after high school?
JUSTIN: As a kid, I always dreamt of traveling the world. After a summer abroad in high school, I made it my business to take advantage of every opportunity to see a new place. Naturally, I had to pursue college options outside of the USA.
FRENDY: Is it difficult for you to find a balance between schoolwork and photography? Are you able to find steady shooting gigs in Shanghai?
JUSTIN: One of the most difficult things for humans in general is maintaining a balance. Whenever you find yourself in that comfortable place, life switches up your situation. Thankfully, my major at school and my real life career/hobbies are intertwined, so usually it’s not too difficult.
Work in Shanghai has been steady, thankfully. People here show a lot of love. When they see you doing great work, they’ll always go out of their way to help you get gigs. As usual, staying hungry & seeking out opportunities is also a great way to close gigs.
FRENDY: You’re one of my favorite people to follow on Snapchat due the display of your worldly adventures. Are your travels for leisure or work?
JUSTIN: Both. Living internationally already makes it much easier to pick up clients that require me to travel or have an opportunity abroad. I’m always itching to travel regardless, so most of my free weekends and ‘vacations’ are spent visiting a new city.
FRENDY: How did the relationship with your muse Sira P Kante come about?
JUSTIN: *Laughs* She’s definitely my muse. A modern day Naomi Campbell. Sira and I met through one of my good friends. We met up for a test shoot one day in Summer 2016 and the rest is history.
FRENDY: I admire your effortless ability to network with the industry’s finest. I noticed that you’ve been shooting superstar musicians and promising actors who are from the motherland. What set of events lead to such astounding opportunities?
JUSTIN: Every connection I’ve made, both business & personal has been organic. I never force relationships, but I’m definitely not above a cold email or intro. That being said, the world is smaller than we all think. It’s so often you want to work with someone and a friend (or friend of a friend) can make the connection for you. Organic networking is the best, especially when you’re already social.
FRENDY: What are the top 3 pictures you’ve ever taken?
JUSTIN: I don’t think I have 3 strict top favorites but here are some that I like -
FRENDY: Are you planning to take your creative talents into new heights?
JUSTIN: I’m always striving to be my best self. Photography is one of my passions, but by no means is it my only means of expression. I am working on expressing myself fully, with no filters or limitations. We’re in the era of the multidimensional artist and I think that’s so great. Everyone should be able to create with no filter.
Those who follow Aaron Liaw ( Aarons_World ) on Instagram are fully aware of his lavish lifestyle and ultimate group of close friends, which consists of Levi, Kai and the forever seemingly-annoyed Angelo Nitsopoulos. Although much is known of Aaron, whom I previously featured on the blog, and the Bent Lee bros, Nits is somewhat of the odd man out.
With a quick scroll down his gram, one can instantly get a sense of Ang’s expensive taste but there has to be more to him right? Other than the quick cameos on his clique’s hilarious insta stories and vlogs, not much is revealed about the sporty Toronto, Ontario native. Well, that’s why I’m here.
Let’s take a look into the real world of Angelo and find out about his immense love for hockey, fledging business, spending habits and why he looks so damn pissed all the time. Peep my exclusive interview with him below:
FRENDY: I must say it’s quite incredible to witness how close you are with Aaron and the gang. Nowadays, not many can proclaim they are tight with even a handful of people. How did you meet them?
ANG: *Laughs* Yeah its pretty wild that three Asians and a Greek/Macedonian can hang out daily. So, I met the guys during the winter of 2014. As I sat in my basement watching hockey while simultaneously creeping on Instagram, I saw a 5’3 140Lbs Aaron doing stick handling moves on the ice pretending he was Sidney Crosby. I thought to myself ok that's different, but then started to take in all the gear he had and wondered who he actually was. At the time, Levi and Aaron had a men's hockey team called The Trillers and a buddy of mine told me I should go play with them. So I hit up Levi and said if you ever need players let me know. A week later I was playing my first game with them. I walked into the dressing room, turned to my left and saw the “5’3” kid who said to me, “ Here sit here Angelo”. As if I had never been in a hockey dressing room in my life. Levi was sitting across from me, looking like a pro MMA fighter flooded with tats (I was a bit intimidated).
My first game with them was amazing! I scored three goals. After that Aaron was like ok “you can play with us,” like it was some sort of accomplishment for me. As we were changing in the locker room I hear someone on the team say to Aaron, “YOU GOT BALMAINS IN THAT HOCKEY BAG BRO ” and that’s what got me thinking ok I need to learn about what the hell they are doing/ talking about because I had no idea what any of these brand names were back then. I saw Aarons Instagram and figured to myself that “Balmains” must be what he wears.
So throughout our hockey team that's how myself Aaron and Levi hung out. Kai never played hockey at all so he was never around the rink unless he was pretending to coach us. I would always hear stories about him though. I met Kai on our (Aaron, Levi, Kai) first trip to NYC and boy what a story/trip that was. That's when my passion for fashion really began and I instantly switched my look. Happy I met them though, I never had any siblings so they taught me a lot about things. When I was 18-19 they took me on some crazy experiences that most kids don't get to do, so they are kind of like older brothers in a way for the most part.
FRENDY: That’s a pretty epic story. I assumed you knew them for way longer than 3 years. What was your “look” before your fashion awakening?
ANG: Yeah, I mean friendship grows pretty quick when you hang out as often as we do. OMG, my look I don't even want to talk about *Laughs*. To be honest I didn't even have a look. I guess I could say it was the “hockey style.” Long hair, sperry boat shoes, golf shorts and a V-neck t-shirt, which makes me cringe thinking about it. I didn't even really take fashion seriously; I would wear sweatpants every day, whatever shirt I found in my room and just went about my day. I was too focused on my hockey career at the time and didn't care how I dressed outside the rink. I knew what Yeezys were and what not but never had a clue on how to get them or even knew they were so limited. But to say the least, my look was terrible *Laughs*.
Looking back at what I wore then compared to now is like a two year old messing up all his toys when he is pissed off. That's the best way to look at it. Its funny thinking back at it, I would get so excited to wear these pants that don’t even fit right or shoes that don’t even go with the fit and thinking “wow this is sick,” when it's really god awful.
FRENDY: Aw man, I needed that good laugh. Do you remember your very first fire fit?
ANG: I do remember it actually, but I wouldn't say it was fire. I would say my first favorite fire fit is my Supreme patchwork outfit with my Red Octobers *Laughs*. I was so happy when I got the sweat suit in the mail. Most will say it's ugly but half the world tried to buy it and failed miserably. That Aside, it really is a crazy piece. The hoodie and pants are both hand-made with different patches. Most don't understand that, they just see a “grandma-like table cloth” because they don't understand it. The Red Octobers were worn just so I could be over the top. Shout out to Mike at 'On The Arm' in Vegas who plugged me with it too. My favorite thing is wearing either full tracksuits or full sweatsuits as you can probably tell. I don't really care what people think, I don't buy clothes for people I buy them for me.
FRENDY: Going back to what you stated earlier, the great impression you left on Aaron due to your hockey playing skills eventually paved the way to a solid brotherhood. How long have you been playing Hockey? Was it your goal to turn pro growing up?
ANG: *Laughs* Aaron was impressed to say the least, I guess most people on Instagram don't follow me for hockey, I never post anything related to it. I started skating at around three years old and started playing hockey at four, which is really young. I've played for 17 years and counting and won't ever stop playing for fun. It’s every kids dream and goal to play in the NHL. I went to PEAC, which was a private hockey school. All we did was skate, train four hours a day and screw around in class. I kid you not, a teacher quit because we “stressed her out” too much.
Our team was unstoppable, our first line was, Ho Sang, Mcdavid, Subbans and so many more it was hilarious. We didn't lose all year and wasn't allowed in tournaments. I was talented but as I got older I slowly lost interest in the game and at 18 decided to stop playing competitively. I will say though I don't regret any of it, hockey taught me a lot about certain things in life. Most of my best friends play in the NHL so it's cool to see them succeed and because of that I still get to be apart of the game somehow.
Once you play hockey and are born into the hockey world you never really get away from it. Hockey gets my mind off things when I can't find a piece of clothing that I want *Laughs*. I never would have thought when I was 15 that at 19 I would be addicted to fashion. Thank the guys for that one.
FRENDY: Here comes the million-dollar question: when you’re not copping the finest threads or slithering on the ice, what is it that you do for a living to remain so fresh?
ANG: *Laughs* Yeah the million-dollar question that people are soooooo curious to know. Never really understood why people have to ask that nonstop. From now on I'm just going to say “yeah, I won the lottery in grade 6, kept it quiet though.” But yeah, myself, Aaron, Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavalier, Savas, and Simon (which are Tristan's close friends) own ProLocker together.
FRENDY: Can you tell me more about ProLocker? Aaron mentioned it during my sit down with him.
ANG: Of course, the easiest way I can map it out for you, without giving too many features away since we are launching very soon, is to say that it's a platform where we show what players use on and off the court/field/ice. Furthermore, we also provide info on where you can buy that exact equipment model around the world and different places to get it. That's the basis of it but there are loads of features besides that. I don't want to give too much away but we are excited for it. Check us out at Prolocker.com!
FRENDY: Sounds amazing, I'm sure you guys can’t wait to launch it. When will that happen?
ANG: Yeah we are really excited about it, in a perfect world we want to launch in the next month or so but we are all still fine-tuning the site. Plus we are gathering content prior to release but you can pre subscribe to the site now and follow us on Instagram ( @Prolocker ) to find out more.
FRENDY: I sincerely hope your followers will stop asking about what you do for a living now. Doubt it though. Since we got that out the way, let's explore your closet. What are some your favorite brands right now?
ANG: Yeah, they probably won’t to be honest *laughs*. My favorite brands...well obviously you can tell I like Supreme. I also have other labels in my closet, people think I’m a hypebeast and just wear one particular brand. I have a lot of Saint Laurent; their jackets I own are my favorite pieces. The detail on them and the way they look is crazy! I also have Haider Ackermann items that I like a lot, wouldn’t say its my favorite brand though. Bape obviously, I had a crazy Bape phase where I was just copping from them non stop but I kind of got sick of it. Stone Island is really comfy to wear; I got a bunch of that. I honestly have most brands you can think of. I just hate when people say “Nits you’re a hypebeast.”
My take on that is at the end of the day most people in fashion, besides the people creating, are hypebeasts in their own special way. Just because I have a Supreme item that everyone wants I automatically get identified as a “hypebeast.” It’s ok in my opinion if someone buys a piece of clothing that an artist or influencer may have worn first. Unfortunately, most consider that as being “hype”.
When you see someone wear a piece that you like, why not buy it for yourself? Nothing wrong with that at all but most people get mad and call it hype. I don't know, maybe they’re just jealous. Either they don't have access, have a plug to get an exclusive item or simply just can't afford it, which is totally understandable! I feel blessed that I am able to purchase things I like and have never been the type to bring someone else down because they can’t get something. I'm not going to lie and pretend I don't like things that are hyped, there's a meaning behind it. Most of Supreme’s prized pieces have some sort of unique backstory, which is another reason why that brand is so strong. At the end of the day, people call me a hypebeast but deep down inside they all wish they were able to cop what I got.
FRENDY: Which sneakers are in your constant rotation?
ANG: I wear APLs all the time. Shout out to Adam and Ryan! Jordans for sure, bred 1’s, royal 1’s, all the 1’s really. I used to wear Yeezys a lot but its getting saturated in the market now. I try to stay away from wearing them all the time. If I get a pair early, I’ll throw them on. I really like my Nike Presto x Acronym kicks, they’re extremely comfy and their colorways. Last but not least, my Air Max 98 ’s. I never really got in to the Adidas NMD wave.
FRENDY: Who do you feel has the best style in the entertainment industry right now?
ANG: A$AP Rocky. I respect him because he barely wears what’s “in." The guy literally flies to Japan to buy brands nobody knows about so you have to respect that. He started so many trends it’s insane! He is always ahead of the game and steps outside the box.
FRENDY: On one of your recent insta stories, I saw you were putting your followers on to alot of rising brands. How often are you researching for potential new gear?
ANG: Yes I was, people don't understand that I’m young and got into this just a few years ago. Most of them will say I am a “culture vulture” but I am the furthest thing from that. So for those reading just know I spend hours daily looking at what's up and coming in fashion. I will literally sit on my computer and log on to Japanese sites that aren’t even written in English and Google translate it to read articles on what's next.
If we want to talk about Supreme culture, I literally learned about each season, each piece and so on. Till this day I am researching meanings behind their pieces. So no, I did not just see Supreme and decided to hop on buying stuff for fun. I put the effort into learning about it, which most do not do. That's what a culture vulture does, buys stuff to say they have it and not know anything about the brand’s ethos. I hate that. Daily, I am always looking for new stuff to get and new brands that people don’t know about. Aaron will always we call me and say, “let me guess researching?” I enjoy doing it. It’s fun to learn about upcoming stuff and their origins.
FRENDY: Since your passion for fashion runs deep, did you ever think about fully diving into the industry with your own brand or investing in one that you really believe in?
ANG: No, probably not. I am to busy with ProLocker and other stuff. I rather support brands by buying their clothes, never really thought about creating my own but who knows maybe I could do it. I definitely put the time into researching about it.
FRENDY: You have the money, cars and clothes but is there a special lady out there you’re sharing it all with?
ANG: *Laughs* Well I definitely don't have it all. There are way more important things in life than money, cars and clothes. In terms of special ladies, I am single but have a one on the radar. Once you get a girl, “you have to put her in designer,” as Future says. The guys always make fun of me though by always saying “Nits brings the tings to Fring’s”.
FRENDY: That’s hilarious. Well I’m sure there are tons of tings who are willing kick it for a day...or couple of months. Since you’re always in the latest gear, is it a requirement for them to have a sense of style or it doesn’t really matter?
ANG: * Laughs* Actually yes I if I were to date a girl I would want her to be into fashion like I am. She doesn't have to wear the latest stuff but definitely needs her own sense of style 100%. It’s always cool to have a girl that can relate to what you like. At the end of the day though it's not everything! But yes I would prefer it.
FRENDY: For sure, it’s all about being on the same frequency. Man, it was a pleasure having this conversation. Looking forward to see what you and the fellas will get into next. One more thing I need to know before we end though, if you were stranded on a desert island what three things would you bring?
ANG: Likewise! If I were stranded on an island the three things I would bring is a boat to get off the island, food, and a laptop with 4G so I can stay up to date with gear. Stay Woke!
A few months back, I deleted my old Tumblr account and decided to start things fresh with my newly found “Frendy Vibes ” flow. While skimming through various pages on the popular social networking site, I would regularly stumble upon numerous photographs of a uniquely striking female. Ok, most of you are probably thinking, “Duh! its Tumblr, tons of hot girls are scattered on there,” but this particular fashionista was extremely consistent with her stylish aesthetic.
Remaining true to my investigative nature, I tracked down the beauty to find out who she really is behind the meticulous garments. Check out my exclusive sit-down with her below:
Frendy: Pardon my ignorance, but I honestly thought “Maki Rolls ” was your real name at first. What is the meaning behind your Instagram handle?
Alice: *Laughs* Alot of people call me Maki and the worst part is I respond to it! My name is Alice. Everything was taken so I had to come up with something different. I remember sitting on my bed last September thinking I love sushi, and I guess “Maki Rolls” just came to my mind. A lot of people don't know what a Maki Roll is (which surprises me every time,) but it's actually just the round sushi pieces that are wrapped in seaweed.
Frendy: Where are you originally from? And how was life growing up there?
Alice: I was born in Yancheng, China. It's a city two hours south of Shanghai. I moved to Toronto, Canada when I was 6 and then New Hampshire, USA a year later. I barely remember anything from life in China and Canada, so I just say that I grew up in Nashua. I lived there from the age of 7-15, and then moved to Europe (Oslo, Norway) from 15-present.
Life in Nashua was pretty normal (at least to the onlooker.) Living the whole American dream with a house, dog and a fence in a nice neighborhood. I was the biggest nerd and had perfect grades in school. My personal and private life was a whole different story though.
Frendy: Did your love of fashion come about at an early age?
Alice: I've always really liked clothes since I can remember. I didn't start being "stylish" until I moved to Oslo and I definitely never thought of taking a career path in fashion until earlier this year actually. I was taking courses for my Masters in Finance thinking I was going to be an investment banker. One day, I just realized that I'm actually a creative person and wanted to work with clothes, so I immediately quit Masters school.
Frendy: What did your parents think when you stopped going to school for your Masters degree?
Alice: They were pretty shocked at first, but at the same time both my mom and stepdad have been a bit of adventurers themselves when they were young. They've gone out and explored the world before they settled anywhere. And that's what I'm doing. So they get it.
Frendy: For those who are not aware, what is your occupation?
Alice: Right now, I'm working as a consultant for a brand based in LA, in both brand management and creative direction. I also do freelance styling. Most would also say I'm a blogger, but since I don't have a blog, I guess I'm an Instagram influencer.
Frendy: Can you recall your first big break in the fashion world?
Alice: What I'm doing now is my first big opportunity I would say. Building a brand together with someone, having a load of responsibilities. It gives me real experience in all aspects of the field.
Frendy: Have you faced any sort of discrimination as a female in such booming industry?
Alice: No, I actually feel that being a female in the streetwear scene dominated by dudes makes you stand out more. I've never worked with streetwear, I just wear it a lot and have a lot of friends in the scene.
Frendy: You recently moved to LA. Was it work-related or simply because you desired a change of scenery?
Alice: I’m here for a few months first and see what’s up. It was both work-related and because I needed a change. I fell in love with LA during my first visit in October and had to come back!
Frendy: Public transportation is certainly not effective in Los Angeles as it is here in New York, are you able to maneuver in your new home without great hassle?
Alice: Oh yeah, definitely. People don't use public transportation here-ubers are super cheap, and usually for work meetings I get picked up in the morning so that's not a hassle at all. I live in West Hollywood so it's a five minute drive to everything.
Frendy: You have an incredible, natural sense of style. Do you undergo an intricate process to choose the perfect outfit?
Alice: Not at all…I just put on whatever I feel goes together. People probably think I spend hours picking out my outfits but I really spend 10 minutes max.
Frendy: Your knowledge of the fashion industry is equally impressive as your striking look. How important is it for someone to know the backstory of a particular label or fashion house?
Alice: To be honest, I know very little about any particular label or designer. I feel that lot of people who have been in fashion for a while (especially high fashion,) and have gone to fashion school know every single detail and history about designers. They take it very seriously. I just haven't been in the industry long enough to really "care" yet.
Frendy: What are some of your favorite brands right now? And what exactly makes you so fond of them?
Alice: My favorite is Gosha Rubchinskiy, simply because the brand provides quality garments that are worth every penny. Also, everything about the line is dope af, from the aesthetics to the models.
Y Project, Alyx Studios, G.V.G.V, Enfants Riches Deprimés are up there too. For me to like a brand, I need to be captivated by the way it is presented. It's not even about the design of each piece but the whole brand universe.
Frendy: Music and fashion go hand in hand. What sounds inspire you the most?
Alice: I wouldn't say I'm inspired by music like that...but either Travis Scott's new album and The Weeknd's new album Starboy, is literally on repeat all day.
Frendy: I’m asking this question on behalf of all the fellas out there: do you have a particular type? Is it necessary for him to be a ‘fashion head’ in order to gain your undivided attention?
Alice: No, I don't have a particular type, but I do like someone who can intellectually stimulate, challenge and inspire me. I would want someone that "gets it," and I feel very few do.
Yes, he would need to have good style to have my attention *laughs* I would prefer someone who wasn't fully submerged in the fashion scene just because it's already such a small world, and I want to learn different aspects of life from someone.
Frendy: What would you like to say to all the girls who are trying to work in the fashion field, but have absolutely no clue of how to get their feet wet?
Alice: I get this question almost every day in my email and dm. People think there is only that one "correct" way, but there are countless options. There are so many degrees and backgrounds you can take: Marketing/PR, architecture, graphic design, business, art, design. 90% of people in fashion never even went to fashion school.
Also, put yourself out there! Instagram is a GREAT tool for showcasing your work or just sense of style/mood boards. Like they say, “Instagram is the new CV.”
Frendy: One last question, which do you prefer: Skittles or Starburst?
Follow Alice on instagram here.
BAPE NYC served as a medium to encounter so many incredible people. From iconic entertainers and fashion gods to multi-millionaire businessmen, the second floor of the ‘Busy Workshop’ was my personal space for meeting sessions with them all.
I’ve had several moments of forgetfulness when dealing with certain past acquaintances. In some cases, my attentive silence during a conversation was just my way of trying to figure out who I was actually speaking to (no offense, of course).
Aaron is surely not on my list of Forgettables. The stylish Canadian has been a loyal BAPE customer ever since my Omarion braid days. A year before my departure from Nigo’s former fashion empire, Aaron stopped by the shop to cash out (per usual). That was my first time seeing him in ages, so we definitely reminisced and since then remained in contact through social media. I was pleasantly surprised to discover he had quite a strong following on the Internet.
Aaron’s nonchalant showing of his splendid lifestyle online prompted me to have a sit-down with him to dig a little deeper into his wonderful world. There’s always more than what meets the eye, so this will be a perfect chance to really understand the man behind the grandeur. Enjoy!
FRENDY: Alot of people may know you strictly from Instagram where your flex fits and lavish lifestyle are on full display. What are some of the biggest misconceptions about you?
Aaron: One of the biggest misconceptions about me is that I only buy and like "expensive" things. That is 100% false. I am a resourceful and smart shopper. Rarely do I ever buy things at retail, and if I do pay retail; chances are I sell some things that I don't wear anymore to help make closet space. I never just go blow money for no reason. I'm not the type of person to buy something just to flex on Instagram and then end up selling it the day after. If you scroll all the way down on my Instagram to the first few photos, you will see that I've been wearing and copping fresh shit from the start. I'm not new to the streetwear/fashion culture. I've been on ISS since 2007 and did not suddenly start buying gear since Instagram started. I actually kind of hate this new Instagram hypebeast culture because I know over 90% of these guys you see "flexing" don't know shit about the history of sneaker/streetwear game and just started buying because they can get some likes. If you notice on my pics, I never tag brands or use hashtags. That shit is wack and just shows you how bad these people care about getting more followers & likes from the shoes or clothes that they are wearing. You can smell the corniness of people through the iPhone screen from their 20 hashtags and 15 tags.
FRENDY: Which part of Canada are you from exactly?
Aaron: I'm from Toronto, Canada. 6ix side let it fly.
FRENDY: What was your childhood like there?
Aaron: My childhood was sports 24/7. I played competitive AAA hockey from 9 till I was 14. Then I changed to competitive tennis from 14 to 18. I was playing a lot of tournaments and was training almost every day. Balancing school, sports, and work was hard for me because the hours were insane. I remember having to bring my tennis bag with me into Champs Sports on some days because I didn't have time to go home. I would go straight from the tennis courts to the mall and clock in for my shift. Champs taught me a lot about time management though.
FRENDY: The last time I saw you at my old workplace you were with a couple of friends, 2 of which included the famous Bent-Lee brothers. How long have you known them for?
Aaron: I've known the Bent-Lee brothers since I was 14. We all played tennis growing up so we would see each other at tournaments all the time. Me and Kai have had some crazy battles throughout our OTA (Ontario Tennis Association) careers. A lot of broken rackets and questionable calls happened. We also all went to the same high school together, Vaughan Road Academy. To be 100% honest with you, Kai was the first person that influenced me in the sneaker game. He would always show up with a brand new pair of Nike SB's. He was on that shit early during the pink box era.
FRENDY: Can you tell me about Fring’s?
Aaron: Fring's is that place in Toronto where you can get an amazing meal and feel like you're somewhere else in the world. The vibe of the restaurant is like no other in our city. Where else can you eat oysters and chicken sliders while listening to trap music?
FRENDY: Since we’re on the subject of restaurants, what are some of your favorite spots to dine in?
Aaron: The majority of my favorite spots are actually in NYC. I think Ben's Pizza in SoHo is one of the best I've had! J.G. Melon's on 3rd & 74th makes a crazy cheeseburger. Minetta Tavern's "Black Label" burger is on point as well. I'm a big burger guy so of course I love Shake Shack. But, I think In N Out is better.
FRENDY: I’m sure tons of people are dying to know so I’ll just go ahead and ask; what is your occupation?
Aaron: I own ProLocker.com. We are currently going through re-development right now, but be on the lookout for the new launch.
FRENDY: You’re a pretty fly fella; do you have any interest in entering the fashion realm?
Aaron: I am actually helping my boy open up a fashion boutique in Toronto. I just want to help bring a unique shopping experience to the city. The shopping up here is not the greatest, so it would be great to have a refreshing spot.
FRENDY: What are some of your favorite brands at the moment?
Aaron: My favorite brands are APL, Saint Laurent, BAPE, Supreme, Fear of God, Balmain and John Elliott.
FRENDY: I see that you’re an avid traveler. Out of the many places you have been globally, which is your favorite?
Aaron: The best place I've been to has to be Italy. The food is just so good out there. Best meals I've had are all in Italy. The culture over there is very laid back and easy going.
FRENDY: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Aaron: In 10 years I see myself feeling good, living better.
FRENDY: Thank you for taking the time to shed more light on your life. Are there any last words you’ll like to leave with the readers?
Aaron: Stay humble, stay hungry. We are all just trying to live better than yesterday.
Written by: Frendy Lemorin
Photos by: Omair Khan
The Internet has a wonderful way of connecting souls beyond the physical plane. I personally became E-Friends with a slew of people that I’m patiently waiting to encounter in real life. One of those distant yet remarkable individuals is the glamorous Elisabeth Hadida.
The Parisian Fashionista was introduced to me through Instagram. At the time, my photographer Erick Hercules and I initially embarked on our levitation spree, and she just so happened to catch a glimpse of the ethereal shots. Fascinated by them, Elisabeth followed me on the app. I abruptly returned the favor after viewing her lavish feed, filled with amazing landscapes of Paris and exclusive fashion content. More than just obtaining a keen vision, I later discovered how much of a great person Elisabeth actually was after our conversations. We connected so well she bought my FRNDY LMRN™ Logo Tee without me having to persuade her one bit!
Having such an amazing personality and even richer spirit, Elisabeth left me no choice but to share her story with you all. Allow me to introduce, the original "Balenciaga Mama."
FRENDY: You have an interesting last name. What exactly is your background?
ELISABETH: My family is from North Africa. My parents migrated to France with absolutely nothing. They met each other thanks to a mutual friend and have been together ever since! It was the best image of love I could witness as a child. Since both of them built their careers from scratch in Paris, they taught me the value of hard work, tolerance and sharing. I will always be thankful for that.
FRENDY: What was it like to grow up in the city of love?
ELISABETH: I feel blessed to be born in Paris! It’s truly a magical city, steeped in history. I grew up with an array of people from various countries and origins. As a child, I was lucky to know different cultures without the need to leave my country. I think it's a gift that every new generation born in France should acknowledge everyday!
FRENDY: Your positive energy is always bursting through my phone screen whenever we converse. What values were instilled in you as a young girl that allowed such magnificent aura?
ELISABETH: Well, Thank You *Blushes*. It was friendship-at-first-sight with you! To be honest, it’s really difficult to talk about myself in such a way without being seen as pretentious. I rather learn about others than rambling about myself, but thank you for the kind words Frendy!
FRENDY: Your love of fashion runs deep. When did it begin?
ELISABETH: I was seven years old when my dad began bringing me to his men’s clothing store. The shop was absolutely incredible to me! I spent my time playing dress up with the numerous amounts of threads and accessories available. I loved to wear men’s pieces even when I was young, which now explains my obsession with androgynous looks rather than feminine ones.
My father taught me everything about fashion. I learned how to trade and even recognize a man’s size as soon as a client entered the door (it was very helpful). My father was and still is the Master of Fashion in my eyes *laughs*.
FRENDY: Who are your style inspirations?
ELISABETH: I really like to mix different kinds of brands -- from luxury to mass market, and from women’s dress code to men’s style. I do not have any specific inspirations; my main goal is to wear something that makes me feel comfortable, but always different from an actual fashion trend.
My weakness is vintage clothes. They are very dangerous for my bank account! When pieces have a past, the attraction is stronger for me.
FRENDY: It would be a dream come true for most people I know to work for Balenciaga. How is it like working in the headquarters of the luxury fashion house?
ELISABETH: Yes indeed! I know how blessed I am to wake up every day and go to work for this brand. The best quote that can sum up the way I see my work life is, “choose a job that you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Balenciaga was the brand I chose amongst all the others because of its history and uniqueness. The product, either RTW or accessories, stands out for it's avant-garde qualities and beauty.
The fashion house is like a little family. You learn to grow, sometimes fall but will always have someone or something to help innovate and find a solution. That's why I've remained there for seven years now!
FRENDY: When did you start working there?
ELISABETH: Well, I started in 2010. My bosses granted me a great opportunity to make such a huge step in my career. I will always be thankful because they gave me a shot as I was coming from a mass-market industry. It was a daring bet *Laughs*. I have the chance to grow up by their side and they teach me alot everyday.
FRENDY: What is your role in the company?
ELISABETH: I am the Europe Senior Buying Manager. I select all the products that will be offered in stores in each country (France, UK, Italy, Spain and Germany) for men, women, accessories and RTW.
It’s also a great opportunity to work in retail because it allows me to be connected with many departments, such as the press office, studio, merchandising and production. Basically we never get bored!
FRENDY: Would you ever branch out and create your own line?
ELISABETH: In fact, when I was pregnant I found it very difficult to wear something cool and I thought, “wow! I can really create a line of stylish maternity clothes”. There is so much to do in this industry, but I know my limits and unfortunately I do not have an entrepreneurial spirit. I don’t have the shoulders to start from scratch, especially in this new competitive fashion world.
FRENDY: Apart from the world of Fashion, you are happily married and have a wonderful bundle of joy. Is it difficult to be a family woman while working at such a fast-paced industry?
ELISABETH: Well…yeah! Nobody knows how hard it is to have a baby until they actually have one of their own * laughs *. I really think it’s an everyday struggle for businesswomen. However, my mum was the best example of having an impressive career with two children. She is the one who taught me the most about finding a balance between family and the professional life. She was always there as a mother but also as a working girl!
FRENDY: I see that you love traveling whenever you have a break from work. What’s the best place you’ve visited around the world?
ELISABETH: I am very lucky to have married a globetrotter! The best place I’ve visited is Japan. We did a big trip around many cities for our honeymoon--from Tokyo to Okinawa, through Kyoto, Hiroshima…
It was so amazing to learn about the Japanese culture. They are so respectful and kind. I was impressed by their landscapes and way of life. I’ll definitely go back.
FRENDY: What advice would you give those who are interested in entering the fashion business?
ELISABETH: The fashion business has changed a lot since I entered it 10 years ago. I chose to go to business school and obtain an English Business diploma in order to build a strong profile. I really think it’s important to have this kind of basis to understand the complexity of the fashion industry.
But above all, passion is truly the key to success.
FRENDY: Thank you so much for your time Elisabeth. I hope my readers caught a glimpse of your wonderfulness. Any last words?
ELISABETH: Yes, thank YOU Frendy for giving me the opportunity to talk about my experience and I hope to have lived up to the expectations of your many readers.
I prefer to let “Frendy Speak ” now * laughs *.
Written by: Frendy Lemorin
Photos by: Jonathan Hadida & Nicolas Chauveau
“Birds of a feather flock together." This particular proverb has been forever embedded in my brain ever since it was introduced in middle school. The familiar saying truly resonated with me later in life, when interactions occurred with characters that altered my world for the best. Even the confrontations I experienced were blessings because they served as lessons that expanded my palette in this vibrant journey.
Imran Sajid is a perfect example of an individual that plays an important role in the betterment of my life, due to our similar aspirations. All credit goes to Delroy Smith who introduced me to the young, brilliant entrepreneur. Delroy is someone whom I consider a superstar, so there was no doubt that his praise of Imran was worthy.
If there was one word to describe the Queens bred native, it’ll have to be ‘Bawse’ (sorry Renzel). Not only is Imran a full-time student at St. John’s University, the prospering 20 year old owns several booming businesses including 212 Steakhouse, New York’s only restaurant that serves authentic Kobe Beef from Japan. May I also state that the humble Pakistani descendant is a proud American Express titanium black card recipient? (too late, just did).
Now that I have your undivided attention, let’s take a deeper dive in the extraordinary life of Imran. Indulge in my intimate interview with the slick businessman discussing his humble beginnings, hectic schedule and overall purpose.
FRENDY: Delroy briefly told me the epic story of how you both became friends. Can you elaborate on that fateful encounter?
IMRAN: Very epic story actually. While 212 Steakhouse was being constructed, I temporarily worked at Zara’s 5th avenue store location just for the heck of it. I met Delroy while working the fitting room shift. It was pretty cool interacting customers in that particular section of the store so I didn’t mind one bit. When Delroy walked in, I noticed he had on a pin from Louis Vuitton, and I always wondered what it was like to work there. While he was changing in the fitting room, I began asking him questions about his experience at LV. Our energies connected well so we conversed like old time buddies. I quickly asked for his business card before he departed. We kept in touch and the rest is history.
FRENDY: How was life growing up in the States being of Pakistani descent?
IMRAN: Growing up in the States being of Pakistani descent never really impacted my life, not even after 9/11. People never bothered me because I was always the type to mind my own business. It was fun to be left alone. As far as being Muslim, I try to practice my religion the best I can with my hectic schedule.
FRENDY: You are an extremely diligent worker; did your parents play a major role in obtaining this quality?
IMRAN: My parents actually never really wanted me to work. They said I should focus on school and that education is first. My mom didn’t really work much, but my father did. I barely saw him because he was always grinding, providing for the family. I wanted to be able to do that as well, just not work as much hours. Working is not bad, its fun but also a sacrifice. To be brutally honest, I rarely go out. It’s kind of frustrating but I hope it’s all worth it later on in my life. I have a goal to retire before the age of 30 so everyday matters.
FRENDY: What was your very first job?
IMRAN: My first ever job was working for a clown who lived next door. He was a really nice guy so I asked him if he needed any help. He said he needed aid setting up for his parties and that’s exactly what I did. I was paid $30 for every party. It was amazing when he said he had 4-5 parties because I would come home with more than $100!
FRENDY: How long were you working at Zara?
IMRAN: I worked at Zara for about 4 weeks and it was just to pass time. Not to mention, I used to drive to work in a 2014 Maserati. I paid more for parking in a day than what I made in two weeks at the job! Working there was cool though; I met some very interesting people and was able to network. After all, its 5th avenue and everyone shops at Zara.
FRENDY: Hold Up, how were you able to afford a 2014 Maserati already?
IMRAN: Affording the car was easy; parking it was the hard part! When I was 18 I woke up wanting the vehicle, so I treated myself to the 2014 Maserati Quattroporte.
FRENDY: Being so experienced in the real world of business, what can you possibly be studying at St. John’s University?
IMRAN: Like I mentioned before, my parents always stressed the importance of education and how it is needed to succeed. Truthfully, during the first two years of my college career I was carefree. I was a Liberal Studies major, but I recently transferred to the business field particularly in Finance. Being a business owner is cool but it is imperative to know what to expect when you hand over your finances to an accountant. The classes I am taking are giving me more knowledge in regards to that.
FRENDY: 212 Steakhouse is top notch! Thanks for treating the homies and I to dinner at the spot a few months back. Describe the hotspot for those who haven’t yet experienced its fine offerings.
IMRAN: 212 Steakhouse is the only restaurant in New York City authorized to sell authentic Japanese Kobe Beef. Kobe Beef is a very tender and rich steak that is only found in a specific region in Japan called Kobe. The restaurant is truly a nice spot. I personally enjoy eating the food there -- not only because its my own establishment, the food is quality all around. We’ve been featured on Forbes, Zagat and multiple culinary shows. We’re located on 53rd street between 1st and 2nd avenue.
FRENDY: When did you conceive the thought of opening such establishment?
IMRAN: One day I decided to speak with the chef of my favorite restaurant. He was extremely talented so there was no choice for me but to compliment him on his food. During our convo, the Chef gave me a few suggestions on opening up a restaurant. He mentioned that one thing NYC is missing is Kobe Beef, so if I was ever interested in opening an eatery of my own, that should be on the menu. Being inspired, I went home and did some research. I eventually completed the necessary procedures to get approval from the Kobe Beef Council out in Japan. Once approved, my business partner and I knew we had to open up a steakhouse.
FRENDY: How did you build enough Capital to make the restaurant? What was the process like?
IMRAN: The capital for the restaurant came from the proceeds of my online business. I’ve had my online business for a couple of years now and developed a clientele well enough to have it run by itself. The process of building the steakhouse didn’t consist of much. Just a few pieces of advice from accountants but other than that it was simple.
FRENDY: Since we’re on the subject, what other businesses do you own?
IMRAN: I have a few investments in some areas, which are working out pretty well. Other than 212 Steakhouse, I have an online company in which I distribute products to retailers and provide inventory for them. That business is my main focus, as I am trying my best to improve results at the restaurant.
My online business derived from my knack of selling items in HS! At age 15, I was known as the candy man because I was selling sweets in class. That same year, I also began to sell Coke cans at the park. I then graduated to selling products online such as clothes and appliances. I save 70% of my income and spend 30% on necessities (cars, clothing, etc.).
FRENDY: Do you have any free time? If so, how do you spend it?
IMRAN: I do have free time. I usually like to spend it with my girlfriend who’s studying upstate. She comes back and forth to New York during her breaks. As a matter of fact, she’s returning to the city tomorrow and I bought about 20 gifts for her!
Other than that, I’m usually just spending time by myself watching Netflix or something. It’s important to give yourself some time throughout the day to breath because one can handle only so much. It may seem as if some individuals go through life without a worry, but in all reality everyone has problems. It’s very important to take alone time and appreciate life and the people you love. Tomorrow isn’t promised.
FRENDY: What’s the biggest misconception about you?
IMRAN: People often tend to think I’m an asshole. You know what, I might be an asshole but only if someone is being that way to me. Other than that, I’m a very nice person. I never like to stress about anything in life because there’s always someone who is wishing to live the life you have. Often times in business, mishaps occur, but I never like to panic. I don’t like to show any signs of weakness because people tend to take advantage over those that display it.
FRENDY: I personally know tons of individuals the same age as you that are blowing their money on nonsense, and pretty much living their life dangerously. How do you maintain such calmness despite having such hefty funds at your disposal?
IMRAN: That’s a funny question man. You know what it is; I don’t have time to spend money. I’ve been occupied with so many school/business projects that I don’t have time to spend bread. I mean, I like to go out and eat with my boys, but that’s about it. There’s no limit when it comes to shopping, which can be a bad thing. In the past, I was known to blow a lot of money, only to realize the things I purchased were unnecessary. I like to buy nice things for myself but if it’s something that I detest, not even the best salesman can sway me. Purchasing something you like lasts way longer than something that’s been sensationalized by the hype beasts of this era.
FRENDY: With already so many accomplishments, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
IMRAN: I never look that far, who knows?
Written by: Frendy Lemorin
Photos by: Erick Hercules
Those who follow me on instagram will remember my historical Frendy's Bape Couch Countdown hashtag, where I sat down next to all of the beautiful people that showed me extreme support throughout my years at Nigo’s former brainchild. One of the stand out individuals featured is my lil’ bro Dillon Hughes whom I refer to as Beizus (an inside joke made from his similar traits to Justin Beiber combined with his immense love for Kanye West). I have known the budding creative for about 3 years now and his growth is truly commendable.
Born in Long Island, Dillon grew up in a stimulating environment. He states, “my parents were constantly playing music or movies growing up. Their musical taste ranged from Jimi Hendrix to RUN DMC. They would have me watch old school movies and documentaries on anyone, from James Dean to Muhammad Ali”. Furthermore he added, “my parents supported me in all of the outlets I was involved in. All of the hardworking/creative mindset they embodied has had a huge influence on me.”
The strong support system that Dillon was blessed to have led him to become the free-spirited trendsetter he is today. Biezus now runs DillonHughes.com which serves as his very own hub providing tips and inspiration on everything style. He confesses, “my ultimate goal in life is to become successful in all of my endeavors. I believe that anything is possible as long as you have patience, put in the work and have unrelenting faith.”
Written by: Frendy Lemorin
Photos by: Corey D'Angelo
Merry Christmas everyone! Y'all been rocking with the kid for quite some time now and my appreciation runs deeper than Richie Rich's stocking full of gifts. To commemorate such blessed occasion, allow me to present a special piece on Charles Wingate better known to the hoods of the world as Max B.
For years now there has been tons of speculations surrounding the Harlem street legend but as you know there's two sides to a story and then the truth. It is my pleasure to introduce the homie and fellow BAPE employee Erick Shaw who just so happens to be related to Biggaveli.
Below is the transcript of our brief sitdown pertaining to his immortalized cousin:
Frendy: You've been working at BAPE for about a year now and it was only 2 months ago that I found out you were related to Max. I'm assuming only a few individuals know about your relation to him?
Erick: Yeah. It's funny how people come across or figure it out lol. I usually do a good job of keeping it a secret. The only people that really know that I'm related to him besides my family obviously is my closest friends. They actually got to meet him. For those that don't know and aren't aware, he and I are 1st cousins. His mother and my mother are sisters. My mother being the baby and his mother being the eldest female out of 8 kids. We make up 10 grand-kids so it's a big family lol.
Frendy: What's your fondest memory of Max?
Erick: I have a few fond moments of my cousin and I. It's funny because he considers me his favorite so I take that to heart. One memory I have is when I was little, his sister and I used to always come home from school and play Super Mario on Nintendo. We'd get to the last level and no matter how hard we'd try we could never beat it. Charlie would come from outside doing whatever he was doing in the street and we'd tell him to help us out. He'd beat Bowser in 2 minutes flat! Made it look so easy lol. Another memory that I have with him is when I graduated High School and he surprised me by showing up. Everyone was so shocked to see him. Here I am carrying a normal convo with him as if it's nothing while everyone's jaws are dropped. That was a pretty cool moment for me.
Frendy: For those who don't know, explain Max's relevance in Hip Hop and how did his nickname "Biggaveli" come about?
Erick: Well, that name comes from 3 artists. Bigga is Biggie and Jigga is Jay Z and of course Veli at the end for 2Pac. Those were the artists that he looked up to coming up and that's how the name came together. He does everything to the max so "Max Biggaveli". He's responsible for alot of the lingo in New York including the iconic word "Wavey" and "Owww". Max put out hood classics like the "Public Domain" series, the "Domain Pains" series and of course mentoring French Montana into what he is today. And to think, he was primed to be something big.
Frendy: Did you know much of his street life?
Erick: I was still pretty young to comprehend his street activities. As I got older, I started to piece things together. He spent alot of time in and out of jail with his two brothers Michael aka "Mike Murder" and Eric (who was murdered). Charlie was the only brother out of the three to have both parents around (for the most part) but the streets still called his name and majority of the time he answered.
Frendy: To be honest, I really don't know the set of events that led to Charles' arrest. Can you elaborate on that situation?
Erick: Basically what happened was, there were two desperate parties attempting to rob the same person/persons and claimed that my cousin was the mastermind behind it all. Mind you, he wasn't even present at the time. If my knowledge serves me right, he was doing shows when it happened. If I'm correct, Max was found guilty for 9 out of 11 counts for Manslaughter and Conspiracy to commit robbery. SMH, It truly hurt me because before that he was in jail facing a 2 million dollar bail that was later paid. To just have him home and then I gotta see him go away......sucks alot.
Frendy: Any update on when he'll be free?
Erick: There are alot of dates people are giving out. From what I know, he still has to do a considerable amount of time. On a positive note, he's got a new lawyer team and is fighting for a retrial. As for as release date.....that's in God's hands.
Frendy: Do you still keep in contact with Charles?
Erick: Of course! If I'm not speaking to him, I'm speaking to my aunt about him. Last time I spoke to Charlie was like a month and a half ago. He was trying to have me work with one of his engineers to make music and before that he tried to get me to work with Dame Grease. I can't front Grease was kind of a asshole lol. That's another story though...
Frendy: What's Max's biggest misconception?
Erick: People seem to think that he's this troublemaker but that's not the case. We all make bad decisions. He just tried to live his life and sometimes the company you keep can also be your downfall.
Frendy: Any thoughts of working in the music industry like your big cuz?
Erick: Like him, music is also my passion. I kinda want to take a different approach than him though. Seeing him go through all of this and watching his life change from feeling like you had nothing to having it all and then having it taken from you....that will make anyone open their eyes! It hurt me so much but at the same time it helped me realize what mistakes not to make, how to move, how to trust, and how people perceive you when you're down. I learned so much from him and we didn't even spend that much time together because of his lfe decisions. Despite it all, I still love and want to do music. If there was an opportunity to work with Charlie I would in a heartbeat! Not just because he's "Max B" but because I want to keep him close to me. Keep him out of trouble and bond more as a family, doing something we both love.
Frendy: I appreciate your time E for giving us a deeper insight into Max's life and your relationship with him. Any words you'll like to leave with the people?
Erick: I just want to say thank you to all of your loyal fans that have supported him for years. Y'all mean the world to him and myself because you guys help keep his work alive. We just gotta hope and pray that he gets his time to come home. I guarantee if he does, things will be different. He'll be staying home for good this time. But again thank you and stay wavy.
Written by: Frendy Lemorin
Life's surprises are truly the best occurrences anyone could ever ask for. A few months ago, I informed you all about my good friend Grant Martin of the sensational Dover Street Market NY. One day as Grant finished giving me and my photographer Erick Hercules a personal tour of the exclusive shop, he introduced us to Delroy Smith. What I didn't expect is that our initial meeting would transform into a brotherhood of epic proportions.
What drew me to Delroy is his extremely tasteful fashion sense and equally radiant spirit. In this day and age (especially in New York), arrogance is expected when one is acquainted with a being who possess a 'larger than life' aura. I was pleasantly surprised by his comforting nature and positive attitude. Its as if we were long lost brothers in this world of perpetual false ego. In just one day after our introduction, we all began communicating on how we could join forces to potently share our respective gifts to the world. This is part 1.
The 5th Avenue Louis Vuitton store highest-grossed salesman's (sold over $2 million worth of items in his department last year) story is so inspirational that I've decided to let him tell it in his very own words. With that said, here is Delroy Smith....out the box.
My name is Delroy Smith and I am 25 years of age born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. As a child, I always fancied the idea of creating; sculpting, building, sketching, painting, poetry and even music. My mother always knew I had a gift. Therefore, she frequently planned trips to the museum, zoo and library so that we could always engage in activities that were constructive.
During my adolescent stage, I was constantly picked on by other students in my elementary and junior high school, and even though it seems cliché, that was the norm for me especially because I had to deal with my father's death in the 1st grade. I learned to defend myself, even if it meant being violent to the individual that threatened to do me harm. My younger siblings, Ethan and Tracey all went to the same elementary school as me because my mother always wanted us to stick together and taught us that friends can always lead us to the wrong path. Which is why she made sure to instill love, courage, faith, and the joy of sticking together as a family.
My mother and grandmother were my 2 best friends and sole providers growing up. They supplied me with relentless self-confidence to stand strong despite what anyone else thought. My grandmother always preached that "it doesn't matter who hates you, Jesus and I love you" and that stuck with me even up to this day. HS was a dilemma because during that period of time I was struggling with my identity. I wanted to fit in every popular clique but felt that I wasn't "cool" or had enough "swag". I had no interest in fashion, just trends. My mom accepted me but I wanted everyone to feel the very same. I thought wearing Jordan's would make my school peers accept me. Talking the way they do, dressing like them...cloning myself to what I thought HS society wanted every teenager to be. Interestingly enough, during my last 2 years of HS I became extremely popular due to the fact I learned to be comfortable with myself (but was still struggling with inner demons).
In college, I experimented with so many looks and made sure to stick out like a sore thumb. I kicked it up 10 notches not because I wanted attention but because I found my identity which was expressing my inner being through clothing. In my last two years of college, I was known as the kid that could "dress his ass off!" but remained humble through it all. My grandmother always said, "clothes do not make the man, its their morals and attributes." She instilled humility, kindness and always told me to appreciate every moment and to love everyone. Afore I mentioned that I was battling an inner demon....my sexuality. The fact that my mother and I have a great relationship, I needed to tell her. I also came out to many of my friends who fortunately still accepted me. Finally, I accepted myself and relinquished all of the negative forces that were in my head.
My grandmother passed away on December 22nd, 2013 and was saddened so deeply that I couldn't even function. I miss and love her so much. My grandmother as well as my mother played a big part in becoming who I am today. They accepted me for me. She would state "You can make a child, but not their heart and mind." Even today I can see her, everything around me reminds me of her beauty. My grandmother worked extremely hard raising 9 children, 21 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren! Her work ethic was unparalleled and that is why I don't complain. "You have it too good, what you see as complaint someone sees it as triumph. Never complain because there is someone out there in the world that has it worst than you."
On a more positive note, many people want to know about my style and what I think about when getting dressed. My motto is: everything goes! There are basically no boundaries. My closet consists of silk, leather, cotton, python, croc, beading, embroidery, bright colors, dark colors, plaid.....and the list goes on and on. I like things that are daring but also my taste, which isn't hard to find (it just has to grab me emotionally). My mom loves the way I dress so did my grandmother. Even though there were times she made fun of me, I knew it was from a loving place. I thoroughly enjoyed style and fashion from the moment I was working at the Flagship Abercrombie & Fitch. I then moved on to Flagship Tommy Hilfiger, and now Flagship Louis Vuitton.
I read up on other cultures because I like to incorporate international influences to my style which includes my own cultivation being that my mom is Suriname, father from Jamaica, grandmother from Guyana and her ancestors being Chinese. From turbans to wearing Chinese robes or embroidered garments from India to an event, being ashamed to do so never existed...just sheer excitement and anticipation of the expressions on people's faces! Pictures of my father before he passed away played a huge role in my style. People know me for the amount of gold rings that I wear and that's because my father wore so many of them.
In conclusion, I love being me and extremely excited for what the future holds. Many people stare at me day-to-day and sneak pics of me on the subway. Some even ask for permission to take a flick because they think I might say no but since I'm extremely humble and shy (ironically enough my clothes speaks volumes) I always say yes. My style varies. I'm still learning and growing as a Stylist and Designer so I continually do my research! I know that I have a strong look...so I own it. It took a long time to find my identity.....just imagine if I gave up and decided to just blend in? The Delroy Smith you know today would have been just a thought.
To purchase your very own FRNDY LMRN 3M jacket, simply click HERE.
Written by: Frendy Lemorin
Photos by: Erick Hercules