CURATED BY:

OUIGI THEODORE




TODD SNYDER: I FEEL LIKE WE MET ABOUT EIGHT YEARS AGO WHEN YOU BOUGHT ONE OF THE FIRST SWEATSHIRTS I DESIGNED FOR CHAMPION AND THEN YOU WERE NICE ENOUGH TO INTRODUCE ME TO THE PF FLYERS PEOPLE FOR A COLLABORATION. BUT BEFORE THAT, TELL ME ABOUT HOW YOU GOT INTERESTED IN STYLE?

OUIGI THEODORE: Growing up Haitian-American in Crown Heights, [Brooklyn], I was heavily influenced by the women who raised me—my grandmother, my mother and my aunt. The importance of presentation and appearance was drilled into my head as a young man.

TS: SO THAT EXPLAINS PART OF YOUR AESTHETIC...

OT: Crown Heights was the best of both worlds. There was street life. You know fire hydrants spewing water in the summer for kids to cool off under but then around the corner was the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Museum. It was interesting. My mother always pushed me to the library, museum, the park, but there were also my homeys on the corner. So I had to dress in a manner where I could navigate the library and then come back to the neighborhood and not feel like a nerd. And all of that is inside me on a day-to-day basis when I’m getting dressed each morning. My style grew out of that tension. I call it, “Tailored Casual.”

TS: HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO START THE BROOKLYN CIRCUS?

OT: I grew up on Polo. And I loved the way that when you went to other cities you could come back with a shirt or a different style of sneaker than you could not find in New York. And I wanted to create a store that recreated that experience of people saying, “Where’d you get those?” I called it the Circus because the circus is for everyone—black, white, straight, gay...And I created this alter-ego, The Bearded Man, that allowed me to be one thing in public and Ouigi when I was home. I shaved my beard a few years back when beard companies started contacting me about being a beard influencer, and guys with beards and bow ties started showing up at the store. And we were like, “No. We’re not hosting beard parties.”

TS: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU WANT TO SHARE WITH THE FASHION INDUSTRY AT A TIME WHEN OUR COUNTRY IS GRAPPLING WITH SYSTEMIC RACISM?

OT: I’m not a fan of the melting pot, more the mosaic. Because the melting pot turns the outsider into part of the mainstream rather than celebrating and supporting his or her individuality. Let me use the example of a streetwear designer working for a major fashion house. He’s trying his best to remain street, but the house has its own history and logos that the company wants to see on its products. So, at what point is he no longer himself? Instead the fashion industry should be helping black designers build their own brands.