In this world there are 2 different types of people: those who wait for things to happen and those who go and make things happen. Designer and CEO of -cide has definitely proved this to be true. Kenzo's passion and eagerness to not only perfect his craft but to out-do himself in each collection demonstrates determination, ambition and commitment. He has manifested his life, from overcoming homelessness to succeeding in building an impeccable brand that is now being sold in over 70 countries.
"If I didn't go through that, I don't think I'd have the ambition that I have now." -Kenzo
Kenzo, Guyana native, came to the U.S. at the age of 3. His family faced hardships that later led up to the unfortunate event of becoming homeless. He expressed this to be the most degrading time in his life and vowed to never be in that position again. Determined to provide for himself and his family, he chose to join the army. After being deployed into the national guard in 2011 for a few years, he returned to chase after his passion for fashion. It all started with the idea of a t-shirt line in 2014.
KENZO :"I wasn't crazy about it so I took up photography and videography. I was trying to find myself. During that time, I even invested in cryptocurrency. I was in shark mode."
He utilized the open field of social media and connected with other creatives in fashion. Manufacturing was too much of an unnecessary cost so he decided to take matters into his own hands. Early January 2017, he learned different techniques of sewing which blossomed into something life altering. His brand launched 3 months later! In addition to the capability of launching, he sold in over 70 countries within the first year. How amazing is that? I was so taken back by the time frame of his success. Although he wasn't 100% sure of what direction he wanted to head in when he first started, he invested in an idea and followed through. Hard work and faith can really bring you places you can't even imagine. I couldn't help but question how he felt when he got the news regarding sales.
KENZO: "It became a crazy passion after the epiphany that it really reached over 70 countries. I look at my pieces as art work. It gave me a feeling that I've never felt before."
"The meaning behind -cide is to kill it." Kenzo focuses on keeping the brand fresh and stylish to assure that anyone who wears his pieces feel confident, comfortable and fashionable. One of the things I found really cool is that he is inspired by his early childhood obsession, Dragonball-Z. If you look at the style of the pieces, you can certainly see the connection and recognize his attention to detail. His motivation also stems from the inspiration from lyrics of Drake, Biggie Smalls and overall 80's and 90's fashion. He has even collaborated with the late rapper's daughter, T'yanna Wallace, to create a Biggie inspired line. Yet another moment of manifestation! -cide has been sold in Africa, France, China, Algeria, Dubai and so many other parts of the world.
Kenzo is currently working on his new collection and I'm ecstatic for the launch! He quotes "I am aiming to outdo the last collection and break the boundary." In addition to how excited he is about putting out doper content and getting more people involved with the brand, he also mentioned upward mobility. His consistent seek for inspiration and his aggressive work ethic doesn't allow him to miss a day. "Time is way too valuable to waste." In fact, he urges every up-and-coming designer to keep that same focus.
KENZO: "Upcoming designers, use your resources to the best of your ability and use what the internet has to offer you. All it takes is one piece to change your life."
Kenzo's journey and rise to becoming designer and CEO of -cide defines the power of manifestation, passion, creativity and faith. From start to finish of our conversation, I was inspired and I am extremely encouraged. There is so much power in turning struggle into success. Faith takes you a long way and the passion behind that will get you to where you're destined to be. With the support of his beautiful wife and children by his side, his brand continues to break barriers in fashion in all parts of the world. After reflecting on his story and journey to where he is today, I asked Kenzo to give a word of advice to all creatives and to those who are trying to find their way in life.
KENZO: Creativity can change your life. Rest at the end of the day, not the beginning. Always stand at the brink of creativity. Make use of every day because every day matters. Whatever you want out of life you can get. It's really crazy how everything played out."
The world is constantly in awe of and inspired by the work of the iconic Dapper Dan. It excites me to witness that same passion and creativity in the work of his grandson, Akil Loving. I had the pleasure of going LIVE with Akil Monday night on Instagram where we discussed his latest feature in the New York Times, his passion for design, his love for 3-D printing and so much more.
Growing up in Harlem, he was surrounded by the style, culture and Dapper Dan's great influence and impact on fashion. Exposed to the world of fashion at the early age of 5, Akil learned and studied the techniques his grandfather taught him.
AKIL: "Cutting patterns was the biggest learning curve for me. It's a different beast."
We laughed about his stories of trial and error when it came to making a few of his first pieces in his kitchen. After overcoming this challenge and mastering the art of pattern cutting, he excelled in creating projects of his own as well as assisting Dapper Dan. Creating many of the looks we see on the red carpet and huge events like the Met Gala. I asked him one of the hardest questions that any designer would hesitate on, "what's your favorite design that you've made to-date?" He expressed that each design tops the last and his self-approval comes from that moment of this is it, this is the one. We also chatted about his preference in design and his view on what it really means to be considered "fashionable."
AKIL: "I like shit that's cool but makes your life easier. Something that serves its purpose. My grandfather always says you're not dressed fashionable unless it suits the occasion. You know? You could have the waviest streetwear fit ever but if it's a formal gathering, then you're not fly."
Humble as ever, Akil expressed his excitement and appreciation for the acknowledgment from NY Times quoting "It was a very nice surprise. It's cool to get recognition because I'm usually the guy behind the scenes." It was definitely well-deserved Akil! Reading the title alone "Dapper Dan's Grandson Sews His Own Gucci" was mind blowing. It was dope to not only recognize that talent is in the blood but that our generation does indeed have our very own "Dapper Dan" in a creative sense which just so happens to be his grandson. There is a bloodline within fashion and the connection doesn't always have to be family related but through creativity, style and passion. This is inspiring to all creatives in fashion because it demonstrates a historic flow of evolving culture within fashion. Akil is using his passion, gift and talent to aim beyond the meter and step outside of the box of society's definition of a designer.
AKIL: "I see when it comes to fashion, a lot of brands and a lot of people do shit that is so easily replicated and it doesn't really serve any purpose besides looking cool. It's all about aesthetics. It's not about quality anymore. I'd rather make that pair of jeans that you can literally wear everyday until they fall apart opposed to that t-shirt you can wear, take the pic for insta and that's it."
Akil Loving with grandfather and mentor Dapper Dan
Intrigued by overall design, Akil is very inspired by industrial designer Dieter Rams. So inspired that he even informed Dapper Dan about the luxury of 3-D printing. He shared with me that there are so many opportunities in 3-D design and that has sparked his interest among other areas such as furniture design. That's only a piece of what he plans on tapping into. Although I know that the mind of a creative is very complex, I was amazed and extremely inspired by this response.
AKIL: "I want to make the world around me a more cooler and beautiful place. I want to create my world around me when it comes to clothes, jewelry, accessories... no matter what it is."
This conversation was exceptionally inspiring especially in the midst of the dark and discouraging time that we're in right now. It was a much needed reminder to keep going, keep persevering and to keep creating. Fashion is constantly changing and is in consistent need of fresh, innovative ideas. The main objective is to keep each other (designers, wardrobe stylists, style bloggers, etc.) creatively inspired and motivated. I'm excited to continue to watch Akil grow within the fashion industry but even more excited to see how his skills will add to the evolution of fashion. Enjoy some of the designer's looks below. Sketch to finished look.
Designs by Akil Loving