Yesterday, we promised three new brand features here on FatKidOnFire, so here’s the second interview for your enjoyment. As it happens, this feature is with one of the most exciting brands to come out of London City since we started covering streetwear back in March 2010. Let us know if you agree!
[All photography by Tim & Barry]
We first met Kara Messina at a Second Son bash last summer and have watched her stratospheric rise to one of FKOF’s favourite streetwear designers with delight. She launched Y’OH Streetwear back at the end of April and when we saw her first collection, ‘Heads Ain’t Ready’ we knew we’d eventually end up on these here pages chatting to her for a brand feature. So here it is; Y’OH x FKOF…
Who is Y’OH Streetwear? Me and my sister Danielle. You know how it works; one makes the design decisions and the other makes the financial decisions… It all crosses over though. We actually chose all the African fabric together.
You have a background in high fashion – you started out working for a designer in Italy, moved on to working as an assistant to a shoe designer and then a pattern cutter for some serious designers! What inspired the switch to streetwear? To be honest, I was ready to leave the industry all together before the idea for Y’OH came about. Working in high fashion felt a bit fictional… You know, designing stuff for people I didn’t know. I left my job as a pattern cutter and for months all I did was just research with no real objective, which lead me down the streetwear route. It wasn’t a conscious decision. It was more one of those things you notice in hindsight.
Your first collection, ‘Heads Ain’t Ready’ is one of the most exciting and different series of designs we’ve seen for a long time. What does or will distinguish Y’OH from the rest of the UK streetwear being dropped these days? I think the most obvious would be the use of print. Yes, African prints have been used loads of times before but no one has been able to present them in such a way that Western culture is comfortable enough to adopt them. More so than that though is the level of quality. For example, look at the number of varsity jackets around and then look at the original versions (bad ass thick leather heavy beasts!) – they don’t even compare. I wanted to maintain the integrity of the garment and I think Y’OH has achieved that.
Who or what influences you in your work? Sociology. How people behave, consumerism, subculture and all of that stuff. Recognizing style as a language rather than merely a means of adornment. I know it sounds naff but that’s what gives me ideas for concepts to work with. My work is heavily influenced by the 90s ‘but it’s not only limited to the aesthetic. I’m also inspired by the way people shopped back then. People invested more money in fewer pieces.
What’s your take on the independent clothing scene in the UK at the moment? How do we compare to the rest of the world – can UK brands compete on an international stage? I don’t really feel qualified to give my opinion on the scene. I am surprised there aren’t more decent UK brands but I think that will change over the next few years as we move away from streetwear as being perceived as hoodies and printed tees. It’s not to say printed tees are any less important but in order to compete on an international stage all you have to do is look at what the big brands like Supreme, Neighborhood and so on are putting out there.
Where do you see you and Y’OH being in 5 years time? No idea. I don’t work like that. I just concentrate on my job day to day and by doing that Y’OH has got to where it is now which is further than I expected at this stage. The response has been phenomenal. Where I’d like it to be in 5years ? Representing London on a global scale.
Where can people expect to catch your product, is Y’OH in any physical stores? No plans for that just yet – and that decision is based purely on retail costs. Once I sell it to a store, the price gets trebled meaning that it will no longer be accessible to “the street”. The prices are what they are because the fabrics are costly and manufacturing costs a bomb… It took my factory 4 hours to cut each shirt individually because there are all sorts of borders on African fabrics. They really are one-offs.
If you could say something to your fans, what would it be? Likewise to your haters? I’ve got say I really appreciate social networking because it has allowed me to be in direct contact with Y’OH “fans”. Everyone has their own individual take on it. So yeah all the feedback is important to me. Ultimately it will inform the direction in which Y’OH goes. I’m not trying to force it on anyone my job as a designer is to respond my audience’s needs.
Haters. None so far but I anticipate that I will get some negative comments at some point, it’s part of the process. Again their opinion is equally valid to me so I will take on board any criticism accordingly.
Top 5 favourite albums?
- Notorious B.I.G – Life After Death
- Snoop Dogg – Doggy Style (was the first hip hop cassette I bought)
- Dizzee Rascal – Boy In The Corner
- The Streets – Original Pirate Material
- Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
Shout Outs My homies… They all know who they are. Love you always.
We’ve not been this excited (as we keep saying) over British streetwear for a long time. Kara and Danielle have put an entirely new spin what you’d label streetwear and we think they’ve done a fantastic job. Not many other brands go this far or this hard for their first drop – we can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store for their next few collections! If you like what you’ve read, or what you’ve seen, hit up Kara on Twitter, peep Y’OH on Facebook and Tumblr and stay locked on the Y’OH website and webstore when it drops.
If you have any thoughts on what Kara from Y’OH Streetwear has had to say, or want to recommend us a new brand you’ve discovered or just want a chat about something you’ve seen on FatKidOnFire, fire us a comment below or get in touch via email, Twitter, Facebook or the FKOF TakesQuestions page.