Prior to ever releasing a piece of apparel, UKNOW and Co. was buzzing in the Indianapolis streetwear community. When this article was published, the brand didn’t have a website and had only shared a few glimpses of their inaugural clothing release. There seems to be a genuine trust that the final product will be worth the early support.
This confidence originates from co-founders and siblings Jada and Justin. Well known for their individual senses of style, the two coined the moniker “uknow” years before planning to design clothing. Jada reflects, “Big Sean had this old ass project called UKNOWBIGSEAN. When Justin changed his Twitter name to @uknowjustin, I changed mine to @uknowjaeduh. It just became a thing – if you knew Justin, you knew Jada. You didn’t know one without the other.”
UKNOW became a point of recognition for the duo, but soon transformed into a sense of belonging and community for younger family members. If they created a term that was well-recognized by those in their inner circle, why not expand and offer a sense of inclusion to like-minded thinkers around the city? In comes the “and co.”
The creativity of Jada and Justin, coupled with the business savvy of Reo, makes for a pretty solid UKNOW and Co. team. But, it’s not just about the fashion drops. As Reo puts it, “UKNOW is an ideology, a belief, something way more than just t-shirts.”
In preparation for the brand’s very first release, The Legend of UKNOW, I sat down with the team to chat fashion inspirations, brand development and aspirations.
Tune into Soul Culture’s conversation with UKNOW and Co. to learn why you should support the soon-to-be talk of the Midwest.Tweet
Jada, where do you get your style from?
Jada: My mom loves fashion. She introduced me to editorial and luxury. Everything streetwear was because of my siblings. I’d watch my brothers buy Starter, Mitchell & Ness, Crooks & Castles, LRG… I’d always look up to them, but eventually I wanted to be flyer than them. Justin is about five years older than me, so he could afford to buy clothes and J’s every weekend. I had to get a job so I could buy J’s every weekend, too!
Are there certain designers that you draw inspiration from today?
I love Joe Freshgoods, he’s always on point. That Burberry spoof was my favorite.
When I think about how I want to dress everyday, I draw inspiration from a few different women. I try to add my own style, though. My biggest inspiration is Vashtie. As far as women in streetwear, she’s a god to me.
I love Vashtie, too! How do you make her outfit ideas your own?
Jada: Some trends, I have to admit, I just don’t like. Tall tees are back, but that shit’s dead. [Laughs.] Aleali May can pull that off! Kudos to her.
How do you plan to inspire people to find their own style when wearing UKNOW? Rather than buying it because Reo and Jada sold it?
Reo: That’s kinda the point. You can’t say that you’re 100% original in anything you do, but when you put something on, it becomes part of how you represent yourself to people. It’s the first thing they see and it’s how they judge you. When you put on a UKNOW piece of apparel, you’re already making that a part of you. Whether you like Jada, or whether you like the look of the fonts or The Legend of Zelda inspiration, or even just because you want to see good entrepreneurship thrive, it takes on a life of its own.
Whether you like Jada, or whether you like the look of the fonts or The Legend of Zelda inspiration, or even just because you want to see good entrepreneurship thrive, it takes on a life of its own.Tweet
I love that! You both draw inspiration from moments in popular culture that are important to you personally, like The Legend of Zelda. How do you strike a balance between what the group really loves and what the consumer wants to see?
Jada: [Laughs.] I’m looking at Reo because I always throw out ideas that I personally like, but I don’t think the general public would mess with it.
Reo: I just trust Jada’s intuition.
Jada: My usual process is to look through Instagram to see what women are wearing. I can differentiate between things that only Jada likes and things that the masses will like too. It’s hard, though. There’s so many things that I would love to wear but just because I’d wear it doesn’t mean everyone else will too. It’s all about understanding your target audience.
I feel like people who follow you on Instagram love your style already. You could set the tone for what looks good here in the city – so at what point do you make the masses enjoy a design or an idea solely because you enjoyed it first?
Jada: That’s just a matter of us becoming more adventurous! I was just telling Reo the other day – I really want to get into cut and sew and start making my own dresses and slacks. From there, I’d really like to see if anything that I create originally will spark some inspiration for the masses.
UKNOW and Co. Brand Development
When did you decide to pursue your passion for style as a business?
Jada: People who are doing this as a business would ask for my input on things. If people are asking me what I’d wear and how, then I could do this myself. Justin had all these creative ideas but didn’t really have an outlet. We both decided to make our own clothes. With Justin living out of town, and me not really knowing the logistics, it took awhile before we actually realized the dream. That’s when I called Reo.
Reo: I went to school for Fashion Design and Business Marketing at Indiana University. Around the same time that I got back to Indianapolis, Jada started talking about this retail business. She thought I was being pessimistic and shooting her ideas down… some of them were just impractical.
Jada: I didn’t have a roadmap showing what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it and who I wanted to do it with… so he’s asking me all these questions and I’m just like, “are you not messing with me?” [Laughs.] But, he’s just trying to get insight so he can figure out what the hell we’re trying to do.
But to you, it seemed like he didn’t want any part in it?
Jada: Yeah! I think that was me being pessimistic, too. I follow J.Cole’s saying, “if they don’t know your dreams, they can’t shoot ‘em down.” I usually don’t say anything because I don’t want people to think the shit is weak.
Reo: I was trying to help her, though! I just sat down one day and offered all kind of business logistics, insight on retail math and marketing, and just generally I’m a great communicator. I’m the left-side of the brain – the logic behind the business.
Jada: But he does whatever! [Laughs.]
How do you bridge the gap between being really strategic and thinking long-term, and also being fast-paced with today’s short attention span?
Reo: Jada keeps me on my toes. I’m kind of like a lightning rod in a thunderstorm.
Jada: [Laughs.] I put a caption up on Instagram that said, “something like yin and yang.” It’s really like fire and water.
And Justin does all the design work?
Jada: Mostly. We have a graphic designer, so Justin will draw and conceptualize something and show the designer what we’re looking for. Our graphic designer is Jonathon Williams – he’s an integral part in all of this because we’re not at a point where we can design things ourselves. He’s awesome.
The Legend of UKNOW
This first release has a feeling of nostalgia, centered around video games. What was the reasoning behind that?
Jada: Reo and Justin have an in-depth history with gaming. I only know a little bit about gaming and legacy games from my siblings. One of the designs came from a Legend of Zelda spoof that we saw and we thought it was really tight.
Do you think you’ll keep it as a series? Or will each release be a totally different idea and theme?
Reo: I think video games will always be something that we can draw reference from. Not to give anything away about the next drop, but we are expanding into other inspirations.
Reo: Streetwear always reflects popular culture. So, we just try to capture that as much as possible. But only the shit that we like.
Streetwear always reflects popular culture. So, we just try to capture that as much as possible. But only the shit that we like.Tweet
A lot of your answers are very female-driven. I don’t know if it’s purposeful, but the pronouns you’ve chosen when you talk about your customer is “she” and “her.”
Jada: Oh, yeah. I don’t think the culture around women in streetwear is strong enough in Indianapolis. There’s always times where I buy clothes and I find myself not comfortable wearing them because we don’t have that culture here.
A color concept we talked about was the UNDFTD concept with Jordan – the green and orange. I wanted to implement that because, whether male or female, you know that those are classic colors in sneaker culture. You probably have a shoe in your collection that would go perfectly with it. I want to do it for people like me, but also welcome the women to do it more.
I love it. Are there any environments where you think that the female streetwear scene is thriving?
Jada: All over New York! Chicago is coming up. You also have places like Los Angeles, San Francisco and even Houston.
Why not just go somewhere else?
Jada: Because we need it here! My nieces and nephews are teenagers and I want something here for them. I want the UKNOW name to grow big enough to pull off a brick-and-mortar and and actually make it. I just want to build.
It’s past just being a t-shirt brand.
Jada: We want to be a fashion house.
In the beginning, I saw you hinting about video content on Instagram. Is that still happening?
Jada: Yes! The photographer that we’ve been working with, Hunter, is going to help me with my YouTube content. There will be some day-to-day, weekend shopping trips, even content videos like top fives and unboxing.
Reo: I’m going to be starting a podcast called What Do UKNOW with recurring guests. We’ll offer insights and perspectives for a wider audience, just talking through topics and offering our opinions. It’ll also be a platform for my friends who are doing their own ventures – musicians, DJs, designers to gain more exposure. We’re looking forward to expanding more content to engage with the community.
Do you see the fashion side of UKNOW as a collaborative effort with other brands here in the city?
Jada: We definitely want that to be the case. We need to get to a point where we can sustain what we do easily, then we’ll look to drop a few collaborative t-shirts each season. I recently got acquainted with Justin from Streetly HRC. The skateboard in his latest collaborative release? Raw! I don’t even skateboard but I’d want that hanging in the crib.
There are also creatives of other formats that I’d love to work with. Isaac is a photographer that does creative headshots – I’d love to work with him for my personal Instagram content. I love JayGoldz photography and I’d love to have some of our brand shots done by him.
Reo: Besides just like a Driverseat X UKNOW piece of apparel, everybody who’s helped us get here from the manufacturer to the designer, even to brz our audio connect. We can help build each other up as much as possible.
Thinking outside of Indy, what brands would you like to collaborate with?
Jada: My number one is The Hundreds. Bobby is everything to me – from what he does within the Hundreds to what he does with his own brand as Bobby Hundreds.
Last year, when the Hundreds had their anniversary he made this post that I look at everyday. It has screenshots of a bunch of people talking negatively about the brand. I always look at that, because no matter what stage you’re in, someone will always find a reason to hate.
Reo: I’d want to work with Kanye.
Kanye himself or Yeezy the brand?
Reo: Kanye himself. I really respect him. If you looked at the projects that he’s trying to get into, he has a revolutionary mind. He’s even thinking about designing low-income housing based on Star Wars sand huts. You can talk about Kanye all you want, but he’s on a different level.
The Three Words
Describe UKNOW in three words, without using the brand name.
Jada: Fresh, Innovative and Adaptive. Adaptive because no matter where fashion goes, UKNOW will be in the know.
Reo: Quality, Consistency and Good. I don’t think consistency is an antonym to adaptive. We’ll stay consistent with our quality. Also, consistency in strategic planning. Which is my job.
Jada: He’s honestly a natural at everything.
Reo: Modeling, too. [Laughs.]
Now that you know, stay in the know! Check out UKNOW’s seasonal releases on their website.
Featured image is credited to Keenan Rhodes.