Assistant Editor Lauren Miller sits down to talk with Darius Northern, the creator of People of Colour Clothing. They discuss logos, designs, and color themes of POC, as well as where the brand is headed in the future.
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Q&A Transcript of this Podcast:
Lauren: Just to start off with a simple topic, what is People of Colour and what is it about?
Darius: People of Colour was a brand that I started here at Oregon State. And it was just, it started out as a personal project for me. It was a means of relief. It was a cathartic activity for me, having to deal with anxiety, depression, and feeling isolated in this type of environment where diversity isn't at a premium. So moving from the East Coast to the West Coast, Oregon State specifically or Corvallis specifically, it came with its side effects. And the side effects like I said it was developing anxiety, battling depression. And just isolating myself and I wanted to use fashion as a means of expressing myself and creating awareness.
So the brand kind of took the idea of... well the brand took shape in summer of 17'. And then I had the courage to buy the equipment and I started making shirts in my room and it was for myself and I started wearing the shirts that I made to class. The brand didn't have a name, it just had like words on the back. I sat in front of all of my classes, so I made sure that it was just my thing. So that's why I put everything on the back and it's kind of took off from there. People started asking questions: "Hey where'd you get that shirt?" yada yada yada. I would always lie in the beginning and say my friend or my cousin or whatever makes it in another state. And I eventually was brave enough to say "Hey I make this." And I guess I was just discovered in Dixon by a football player who was just very persistent in wanting the shirt that I had on. So I made him a shirt put a put a name to it. I made a logo and from there I guess the brand was born.
Lauren: I always love to hear about the artistic side of fashion because that is such a big part of the fashion realm, and so I wanted to ask how did you come up with your logo for People of Colour?
Darius: The name People of Colour was an idea of my cousins. And we were just kind of throwing names off the wall. We kind of saw that it was kind of taking shape and People of Colour just kind of seemed apropos. I was going from the angle of like the black experience, but I was coming off a ethnic studies class where it was a holistic view of just everybody, the experience that everybody walks with as a Person of Colour. So I just felt People of Colour was it, was that, was just apropos. The design of the original logo, the P O C with the people of color underneath, was just something that I kind of made up on the fly.
That football player that I kind of talked to you about, once I sold him that product I had a lot of people in my DM's trying to get that exact same hoodie, so I had to come up with a logo. So it was kind of like a makeshift temporary type of logo. Fast forward, the brand was really starting to take shape. I legalized everything, I got the whole business license and all of that trademark. And that's when I in that process it was like "OK, I got to have a logo that's appropriate." So I reached out to a graphic artist in Sacramento and he ended up designing it for me, and the rest is history in the making.
Lauren: Sounds good. And so looking back, it seemed like you had a different logo than the one that you have right now. How did that come to play?
Darius: I think aesthetically I did not like the P O C, although it was like a profound visual logo. When you saw it like walking down the street the big P O C was cool but aesthetically it just wasn't... I feel like that logo wasn't going to help me sustain and branch out and grow how I wanted it to. So I knew that I needed some professional help. That's when I knew someone who knew someone who knew this graphic designer. And then I reached out to him, kind of gave him a synopsis of the brand and the direction I wanted to go, gave him full creative control of the logo, and he sent back like 10 creations. I had a favorite one, but I just put it in my group chats that I have on my cell phone. Everybody voted on the same one. That's how the POC logo that we see today was chosen.
Lauren: All right. Very cool. You sell a variety of different shirts and such. How do you choose the colors for these?
Darius: Honestly, walking around campus. I'm not an apparel design major. I literally came here to study horticulture, and had an urban gardening idea that I wanted to kind of bring it to fruition coming to Oregon State, but I've never really been a big fashion guy. So like once I kind of immersed myself in this project, I just started paying attention more. I saw what colors people were wearing, and I just studied the process so the colors that I choose within my pallet in my collection are very basic colors, and I feel like people like simplicity. People like the basic stuff, and then I kind of learn about the seasons. So I learn like in fall, people like earth tones. In the summer, people like brighter colors. So it's learning that and just keeping it simple. I try not to get over complicated because I know my brand isn't about, you know, flashy colors or like whatever. It is about the contents, about the message.
Lauren: We sort of touched on this last question, but how do you choose or design the graphics and the quotes that are on your clothing?
Darius: That kind of comes from just experience. So I'm a big documentary watcher. I love docs, movies, even like through my podcast that I have, it's learning people's experiences, and educating myself organically on those experiences. And just navigating through them. One of my favorite one of my top sellers is "Immigration is Beautiful". So that one specifically was inspired by a documentary that I watched in my ethnic studies class and the stories that were documented in that piece of work just really sat with me. And you know it's a very simplistic term but immigration IS beautiful, and I can tell you why. So everything that I create has context, everything that I create on the back of these garments comes from a sincere, organic place, and I try to make stuff that people can empathize with.
Lauren: What is the most important design aspect of your brand?
Darius: Simplicity. I think the way I view fashion, I view it as a means of expression. So even how you ared dressed right now, you're expressing yourself, who you are, what you represent. And when we walk outside, everybody has on their own unique fashion, and they are representing themselves in a certain way. So I try to be really simplistic in how I deliver my message because I don't want a lot of hoopla. I don't want a lot of distractions when I'm delivering my content on the back of garments. So I try to be very simplistic in nature. So it's more about the content. It's more about the simplistic delivery. Because I know that we live in a digital age, and our attention spans isn't as deep as it used to be. So I know when somebody has my garment on, and they're standing in line, or they're sitting in class, I want to be able to capture the person viewing my shirt for at least 15 to 20 seconds and have them internalizing like "OK. Wow, that shirt is really speaking to me right now." So simplicity is woven throughout what I output within my collection.
Lauren: So how has this evolved since you first started? I know that you started just making it for yourself, and now that so many people want this brand how has your design and your brand evolved over time?
Darius: Oh it's grown tremendously. I was just thinking this morning I was as I was brushing my teeth, like "I'm really a business owner." And I think it's really crazy but it's grown a lot. I've grown a lot, more importantly, just through this process. Seeing that I'm shipping shirts and hoodies to North Dakota and Vermont and Philadelphia and Miami, you know it's crazy to me. This started here at Oregon State. Like this started on this campus, it started just with an idea of just trying to express myself, and now I'm shipping all over the country. I've shipped to Canada, I've shipped to Germany, I've seen my hoodie in Japan. It's crazy how it's grown, and now it's only the beginning and I feel like I really haven't started yet. And it's remarkable. It is truly remarkable and I'm just humbled to have the support of fellow OSU students and just people all over the country.
Lauren: All right. Awesome. And that sort of leads into my final question, which is where do you see your brand and its designs in the next few years?
Darius: I want to keep the simplicity kind of woven through the brand. But I want the messaging to be deeper. I want the messaging to be expanded. I want to be able for people to come on my website and see someone who looks like them. I want people to venture through my collections, venture through my content and see something that they can identify with.
Whether it's being a legacy of immigration or being a black woman or being an ethically ambiguous individual, being Native American, being Asian, being Black, being an ally, I want you to come to my website and I want you to feel. I want you to feel connected to the POC experience. And I want you to be excited about creating awareness, generating conversations, and ultimately opportunities for people to examine their conscious behavior as it relates to race and racism. So that I want that aspect to definitely grow. And just the brand holistically. I want to have a brick and mortar. I want to have a store front. I want to do national tours. I'm gonna have an art center, a creative arts center for people in different communities. I just want POC to be big, I want children's books and podcasts and mini documentaries, I want pretty much everything you guys do up here on the fourth floor of the SEC building. I want that holistically woven into the POC.
Lauren: All righty. Awesome. Is there anything else that you would like to say before we wrap this up?
Darius: I just appreciate the support. And just know, like, another aspect of growth in my brand is I want to develop like a bigger team. I'm very passionate about people's passion. So the team that I have is a multimedia team primarily, but I definitely want to bring on somebody who can help me like package, ship, make, and stuff like that because right now it's a lot of work. So that is definitely a part of my growth package. I digress though, I just want to say thank you to everybody for the support. It's been tremendous.