[INTERVIEW] ALPHA DBN
The streetwear clothing brand ‘Alpha’ has been around for 2 years and has steadily grown since it first started. Formed by four friends Sheldon, Nathan, Ayoola and Dapo, all of which have already made an impression on well-known artists such as Jacquees, who recently wore their pieces and represented the company’s creations. On interviewing the director of the brand, Sheldon, I was pleasantly surprised to hear just how passionate he was about the company he and his friends have created, and how they plan to develop their brand further.
How did the name Alpha come about?
So Dapo was like if we’re gonna pick a name we need to pick something that highlights us as people – so we can relate to it. Then we said, “okay we have to pick something like a catch phrase (Dominant By Nature) where it allows both genders to connect to the brand.” Certain brand names don’t stand out in the over saturated market, there’s a lot of brands that are about ‘mula’ this,‘money’ that, ‘trap’ this which is fine but we didn’t want to promote that lifestyle.
Were there any moments in the beginning where you doubted it?
Yeah, this is what we said to each other – make sure we make something that we will wear so that if it doesn’t sell then we’re gonna wear it, that’s always been the mentality.
Would you say building a brand with your boy’s was the best way forward? (do you all have creative input?)
It was the best decision. I’ve seen other individuals like myself who are very head strong, very tunnel vision and it doesn’t necessarily get the sales they deserve and doesn’t work for whatever reason. When it’s all with friends you can discuss and they actually care- it’s not like an external person just saying, “yeah that’s nice”- that doesn’t work.
What would you say is your main inspiration? Where do you get your ideas?
Social media is out there still, for instance, all the pages I follow, and all the things I see online. I can get the inspiration from them, flip it and make something good.
When you are designing a certain piece, what does it take to bring it from the paper to actually producing it?
A lot of people ask that, you have to design the product so you can use something like Inkscape or Photoshop. So you get a photo of a blank hoodie, and then just get the fonts, once you get your ideas you make your prototype and then find a manufacturer and send off the visual, then the separate text and pictures from that design.
Did you have to pay anyone to do the designs for you or are all of you artistic?
Dapo and Ayoola actually forced themselves to learn how to use the online programs, whereas I will just find a font off of a font website, send it to them and they’ll make the visual for me. They obviously have their own creative control and do what they want to but yeah we all come together and make it.
How did the linkup with Jacquees happen? What was the connection?
It’s a weird one, I’m gonna say some parts but not detail all of it. I’ll be as open as I can. I’ve built contacts through the years, so networking is the only reason we got this. It’s not paying someone or nothing like that, its someone I know, a friend who saw what we were doing with the pop up store at uni and was like okay I know an artist coming from America soon so I might be able to put you two into contact . Just about who you know. But when we’re working hard, things like that will come naturally, it’s just about patience.
Would you say Jacquees is a good person to represent Alpha?
He is because he’s very much about self-positivity, he’s very confident and he’s never really been involved in any negative things. His music is for women, more or less, so that audience respect him. I know some typical rap artists will be about degrading women.
If Alpha could do a collab with another brand who would it be?
Definitely Nike, cos that’s like the foundation of style. It starts off with Nike, so to collab with them I think that would be perfect, it represents who we are…When you say it’s a foundation of style do you mean because you’ve been wearing it from young? We’ve come up on Nike, I’m wearing AirForce ones now!
What would you say your favourite thing is about designing clothes?
It lets you express yourself, it’s kinda the stress away from coursework and uni; we’ve got a lot going on, assignments and exams that I don’t really care about. I just do it because I have to do it. Putting your passion into something, start to finish is really fun actually, seeing the end product and hearing people’s opinions, good and bad, it’s nice to see it’s like a whole story.
If you could go back and tell yourself any advice when you began creating the brand what would it be?
I’d say keep going, don’t listen to anyone, family or friends cos you’re gonna have friends that will say you shouldn’t try this… Were there any doubters? [Laughing] Ah I don’t want to get into that, I don’t want to indirect anyone but yeah there was. It’s nothing deep, it’s like anything in life, a close friend will say they might not have that belief, that’s why we said we’ve got a vision, we’re gonna go with it, and if it take two years for people to catch on then that’s catching on two years later.
Stripping things back to the bare minimum, what would you say is the one thing that’s needed to build a brand?
You need to have a bit of confidence, and you have to block out everything and everyone. When I told my parents I was starting it people laughed, they were a bit confused because it’s different. Anything you do that’s different, people will doubt it a bit… it’s a big risk in a way isn’t it? Exactly and it could fail, it wasn’t until my dad saw someone in the local area wearing it, from that day he knew we got something and we can actually move forward with it.
A lot of young people in today’s society have this mind-set that is very focused on money, how much you have, what brands you’re wearing etc. What is success to you?
I used to be like that, I was like I need to make p, I need drip all of this and every boy has that because it’s what you see online. The second that you start something and you get sucked into it you have new goals. Before, it was like get in Harvey Nic’s, get in Selfridges but now it’s like we actually don’t need their recognition, as long as the people are happy with it and respect it that’s fine with me.
Success to me is having the means to go wherever you want and do whatever you want, down to the passion. Like the job role that is your passion is now allowing you to have creative freedom, financial freedom and just being able to take you where you want at any given time cos you’re your own boss.
You can check out the rest of Alpha DBN’s collection here.
Words by Olivia Jane