At 25, Antoine Hester, an Atlanta native, travels the world, consulting clients that range from investment banks to non-governmental organizations that provide AIDS relief, but the owner and designer of I Hate My Day Job did not always enjoy his day job. â€œOne of my worst experiences was working for a company that sold home alarm systems, door-to-door, one summer,â€ says Hester, adding that door-to-door sales are like â€œspam or junk mail.â€
Today, Hesterâ€™s passion for golden era hip-hop (â€œI would take an old cassette tape like MC Hammer, break the little tabs on top and stuff tissue in there to record over it, and record songs off the radio,â€ he says, adding that his ghetto blaster had a broken cassette door that tape held together) and street culture are what fuels his designs at IHMDJ.
IHMDJâ€™s witticisms through its designs are a portion of Hesterâ€™s commitment to quality that extends beyond the ostensible goal of retail sales for the streetwear brand. â€œA lot of people that are in the creative industry do not have the experience of managing a business, strategically solving problems or interacting with people in a professional manner,â€ he says, adding that his consulting experience aids his relations between exclusive retailers.
The Morehouse graduate loves his day job, however, as he says, â€œMy day job is my bread winner, because it is paying my bills, but itâ€™s not my passion.â€
“With the Ill Na Na T-shirt, my influence is sex and golden era hip-hop.”
Format: In a recent Format feature, Married To The MOBâ€™s Leah, says that men in the streetwear community are â€œvery feminine,â€ because they troll blogs, take photos of their clothing and lineup outside stores waiting for clothing to be released. What is your opinion on the feminine characteristics that males in the streetwear community have adopted?
Antoine: I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™ll necessarily call it feminine, but itâ€™s really gotten to a stage where people take it a lot more serious than it should be. That is an aspect of the streetwear community â€“ it is very blog driven and hype driven. People do sit on blogs and monitor whatâ€™s coming out on the blogs, and the blogs build big hype, leading to people camping out for sneakers. I think it is good and bad, because that passion is driving streetwear culture and thatâ€™s why a new brand like IHMDJ can breakout on the scene. I donâ€™t know if I would call it feminine. You do see it among men, which is a bit odd, and you donâ€™t see it among women in streetwear, but in general, men are more engaged in streetwear culture than women.
Format: How do you characterize the streetwear community?
Antoine: In one word I would say hype, but I think it is coming full-circle, now. Somebody on the Hypebeast forum said weâ€™re in the â€œdot comâ€ era of streetwear, because itâ€™s reaching mainstream and getting a lot more exposure than it has in the past. A lot of retailers are catching on and putting more resources behind streetwear. Iâ€™m a consultant and I travel a lot â€“ thatâ€™s my day job â€“ and for most of the past year I was in London. The fashion scene is different there. Theyâ€™re not as up on the streetwear as people are in America. Sneaker culture is there, but itâ€™s not as saturated at is it in America. People are into really subdued, clean lines like Fred Perry. I picked up on a bit of that style when I was there. When I got back to the States from London, in April, I was hanging out with a friend in Fulton Street in Brooklyn. Fulton Street has a million of those little mom and pop sneaker shops that have sneakers with Saran wrap on the shelves. You question if all the sneakers are authentic or legit, but I went in a store on Fulton Street and it had Kid Robot and Undefeated AF1s, and other exclusive stuff that you, normally, donâ€™t find on Fulton Street. The fact that these stores are carrying that stuff is a testament to how large streetwear culture is getting.
Format: IHMDJ is an acronym for I Hate My Day Job. In your youth, what day jobs did you have?
Antoine: Youâ€™re taking it back! My very first job was bagging groceries at a grocery store. I was in high school and it was something I could do to earn a little change. I worked for the Census, going door-to-door and that wasnâ€™t a pleasant experience. One of my worst experiences was working for a company that sold home alarm systems, door-to-door, one summer. It was all commission ,only; I may have made a fat check one week and absolutely nothing the next week! Iâ€™m walking door-to-door and literally knocking on peopleâ€™s doors, giving them a 30 second sales pitch to pull them in. Door-to-door is a challenge, people donâ€™t like being disturbed at homeâ€“ itâ€™s like spam or junk mail. Looking back, it was good times.
“Our core philosophy is I hate my day job, because most people do, have, or will at some point.”
Format: Recently, you traveled through Eastern Europe and Africa for your work with a non-governmental organization. What experiences from your day job travels have you put to use at IHMDJ?
Antoine: Iâ€™m a consultant and, typically, I travel a lot and go to client sites â€“ most of last year I spent in London working at an investment bank, and prior to that I did domestic travel. Most recently, Iâ€™m working with an NGO that provides relief to regions of the world that are affected by natural disasters or need AIDS relief, education programs and food programs. The consulting firm I work for has a special program that pairs people with NGOs. Thatâ€™s what lead me to Africa and Europe. In terms of my day job helping me with IHMDJ and streetwear, I think it has been a tremendous value. Iâ€™ve always had an interest in design, fashion and retail, but I didnâ€™t have academic training. Taking that route as a career, I would have to make major tradeoffs, in terms of standard of living, salary and I would have to earn my chops â€“ probably start as an intern.
I chose to go the corporate route, as a lot of people do that are fresh out of college, and it has been an interesting experience. Usually, Iâ€™m in an office wearing business casual and interacting with executives. A lot of people that are in the creative industry do not have the experience of managing a business, strategically solving problems or interacting with people in a professional manner. The structure that Iâ€™ve learned from consulting translates into what I do with I Hate My Day Job. Ultimately, IHMDJ is a business. It is my passion, I do it because I love it, but you have to run it like a business. If youâ€™re approaching exclusive boutiques around the world, you have to have your business together, because they have to know youâ€™re a professional before they deal with you.
Format: IHMDJâ€™s tagline is â€œWhite collars and dollars.â€ What does that mean?
Antoine: We kind of have two taglines. Our core philosophy is I hate my day job, because most people do, have, or will at some point. I work a corporate job and a lot of times Iâ€™m in a suit, a cubical or going to meetings with executives and Iâ€™m a different person at work. After work, I live to be in the streetwear scene. I might be walking around the Lower East Side checking out my favorite shops to see what they have. The thing that I notice is that a lot of people have corporate gigs and live a different life during the day than they do at night. I feel like weâ€™re all chameleons and I wanted to create a brand that spoke to that regular person that goes to their grind, making money to pay their bills. Whatever you do, you can relate to our brand and philosophy on some level. The whole white collars and dollars thing is me working in business casual or a suit all day, but at the end of the day my passion is design and fashion, sneakers and street culture. My day job is my bread winner, because it is paying my bills, but itâ€™s not my passion.
Format: IHMDJâ€™s release of the Wally Champ, Knuckle Up, Alaska Nugget and Quick Strike gold plated lace locks are unique accessories for sneakers. How did IHMDJ conceptualize these sneaker accessories?
Antoine: Iâ€™ve always been interested in founding a streetwear brand and designing one. A little over a year ago, I felt that I was in a place where I would put the energy and passion into it. At the time, streetwear was really saturated and itâ€™s hard to break in. There are a million T-shirt companies and there are new ones being launched everyday. I felt that I had to do something unique to become a staple brand in streetwear and I saw lace locks as a way to do that. Lace locks are a perfect way to jazz up sneakers and keep the momentum that streetwear culture has. I saw an opening, because no one took the initiative to create a line of lace locks. One of my big influences is golden era hip-hip and the culture that surrounds that. If you look at the brass knuckles that is an easily recognizable icon of hip-hop culture and urban culture. The same goes for the Alaska Nugget. There is a revival of the styles from the `80s. Big fat rope chains, four finger rings and the entire gold jewelry revival is what I wanted to tap into with the Alaska Nugget. The Quick Strike is a comment on sneaker culture, today. A quick strike is a term to refer to really exclusive sneakers and I was thinking how I could manifest that. I donâ€™t really do any focus groups to see what people like â€“ I put out stuff I like and I would rock. The Wally Champ I had to do. Ghostface is one of my favorite MCs and I just really like the statement it makes. A lot of people asked me, â€˜How can I rock these if Iâ€™m not wearing Wallabee Clarkâ€™s?â€™ My whole reason behind it is that if youâ€™re the Wally Champ, youâ€™re rocking some ill footwear.
Format: IHMDJâ€™s Live From Bed-Stuy T-shirt and crewneck sweater is a tribute to the Brooklyn neighborhood. What roots does IHMDJ have in Brooklyn?
Antoine: I grew up in Georgia and went to college at Morehouse, in Atlanta, and when I took my job at the consulting firm I moved to New York. Iâ€™m from Atlanta and itâ€™s a big influence on me. You can kind of see it in my line. The Live From Bed-Stuy T-shirt takes from Spike Lee and he went to Morehouse. The whole imagery that T-shirt conjures is from Do The Right Thing and Public Enemy. I rep Brooklyn, but Atlanta is dear to my heart.
Format: The Ill Na Na T-shirt is witty, sexual and visually pleasing. How did IHMDJ balance its creativity with what consumers deem socially acceptable for the Ill Na Na T-shirt?
Antoine: As you can see at the IHMDJ website, Iâ€™m really trying to challenge what is socially acceptable. The first thing you see are some pretty abrasive images pop up and thatâ€™s the first thing you see when you go to the IHMDJ website. With the Ill Na Na T-shirt, my influence is sex and golden era hip-hop. There are a lot of people that see it and the colors are going to pop out and theyâ€™re going to like the way it looks. But for the people that understand hip-hop and for the females that want to make a bold statement, I think theyâ€™ll appreciate it a bit more. Itâ€™s a reference to Foxy Brownâ€™s album and itâ€™s a witty, cheeky statement for a woman to make.
Format: IHMDJâ€™s Bobbit T-shit brings people back to June 23, 1993 and the evening Lorena Bobbitt cut off her, then husband, John Bobbittâ€™s penis. How did IHMDJ conceptualize its Bobbit T-shirt?
Antoine: When I design for women, Iâ€™m still trying to capture the same essence and attitude that you see in menâ€™s streetwear, but the context, imagery and references are tailored for women. Right now, menâ€™s streetwear is piggybacking on hip-hop by being bad, abrasive and acting harder than you are. If you look at menâ€™s streetwear you see guns, bandanas, skulls and crossbones, but a lot of the people that wear these are not in gangs and donâ€™t have guns. And that whole attitude that you see in menâ€™s streetwear I was trying to translate into womenâ€™s streetwear. Iâ€™m thinking about the chick that reads Vice Magazine, that chick that goes to Oxy Cottontail parties and what she wants to wear to turn heads when sheâ€™s partying in the Lower East Side.
“I’m thinking about the chick that reads Vice Magazine, that chick that goes to Oxy Cottontail parties…”
Format: Foxy Brown rapped, â€œBrain game I got it/ plus I cut like I trained Lorena Bobbitt.â€ Does IHMDJ have affection for Foxy Brown?
Antoine: In terms of the Bobbit tee, I wasnâ€™t trying to make a Foxy Brown reference. I think I heard that song, but I never thought about it until you mentioned it. Itâ€™s cool that it worked out that way, though.
Format: How does IHMDJ know what women want in designs for female streetwear?
Antoine: I love our menâ€™s stuff, but I put more energy into the womenâ€™s stuff, because itâ€™s such and untapped market. There are a couple brands that are doing womenâ€™s streetwear really hard, but a lot of the menâ€™s brands that do womenâ€™s stuff take their menâ€™s designs and thrown them on baby tees. I wanted to come up with messages specifically for women and thatâ€™s why our womenâ€™s stuff has been so well embraced. I was reading your interview with Leah from Married to the MOB and she has some interesting perspectives on men designing womenâ€™s streetwear. She didnâ€™t think it could be done, but I think Iâ€™m at an advantage designing womenâ€™s streetwear. Not to generalize, but at the end of the day, when people get dressed theyâ€™re trying to impress the opposite sex. When I design and go to the drawing board, I think about what would make me turn around if a female were wearing it on the street. Being able to understand what I want to see a female in â€“ it may be something that a female would rock and it may not â€“ and when you combine that with well executed graphics, well executed placement and great screen print quality I think a man can do streetwear just as well as a women.
Format: Why has the streetwear industry not acknowledged the need for more womenâ€™s streetwear lines?
Antoine: Thatâ€™s a question that I have, too. If you look at fashion, in general, women are the consumers. Outside of sneakers, if you look at shoes and footwear, it is safe to say that market is dominated by women. Women are typically the shoppers. Historically, men are not into shopping. I donâ€™t understand why more people are not paying attention to the female streetwear consumer.
Format: Does IHMDJ have a social responsibility for the messages its products send?
Antoine: I think every brand, whether they acknowledge it or not, does have a responsibility for their statements. Iâ€™m not trying to make political messages, Iâ€™m really trying to be cheeky and conjure images of golden era hip-hop â€“ I take responsibility for that. Iâ€™m trying to bring back that era. I grew up during golden era hip-hop, it was a big part of my life, as a kid. I had a boom box with a cassette player and the cassette door was broken off so I had to tape it. I remember listening to mix shows on the weekend. I would take an old cassette tape like MC Hammer, break the little tabs on top and stuff tissue in there to record over it, and record songs off the radio. I would play them back at five or ten seconds at a time and scribe the lyrics down. Hip-hop was a big part of my youth. If I look back to its effect on kids, at that time, it is huge, it was instrumental, it was profound.
More info: http://www.ihmdj.com