Photo C/O Foreign Waves International
By Anastasia Gaykalova
The Silhouette sat down with the creative mind behind Zander, Matthew Alexander, and Foreign Waves International’s designer duo, Michael St. Jean and Kadeem Jarrett, during Supercrawl weekend to talk about the Hamilton-based streetwear brands’ take on street fashion, their creative process and friendly competition.
The Sil: How would you describe your brand in three words?
Jarrett: Wavy. Free. Real.
Alexander: Efficient. Athletic. Useful.
The Sil: Why did you start designing?
St. Jean: We wanted to create a brand that everyone around the world can rock and be represented, hence the name Foreign Waves International.
Jarrett: We printed a whole bunch of t-shirts, because we came up with a name and people loved it, and we said ‘let’s go full throttle’ and it’s been three years rocking and we’ve done a lot within the three years and we’re proud.
Alexander: I was really into art and just being artistic, touching as many mediums as possible: painting, photography [and] graphic design. I was getting into graphic design and slowly realized that it is not the career path that I necessarily wanted to take, and clothing ended up being it…I love clothing and it just fell into my life with the combination of the different things I was into.
The Sil: What is your creative process when designing?
St. Jean: That’s a hard thing to think of still…Our creative process is usually we see something and we think ‘yo, what can we do differently, what can we do to change it, how can we make it better’…And then we talk about our design with each other and decide what will work better, what colour scheme we’re going to use. Sometimes we go to places like [Supercrawl], this would be an example [of] where we gain inspiration.
Alexander: It’s a lot of internal brainstorming, just thinking out concepts in my head whenever I get influenced by certain things. Drawing out influence from everything and anything I possibly can. It could be anything from other designers or something a person says to interactions with my friends.
The Sil: Do either of you draw inspiration from other brands? If so, which and why?
Jarrett: In the beginning, yeah, but now it is more what we feel, what comes from our hearts. That’s what designs are based off of. But in the beginning, it’s just [like how] musicians look up to one musician, want to sound like them. And then they establish their own sounds.
St. Jean: Nike’s a big one, New Regime.
Jarrett: Shout-out to New Regime.
Alexander: I guess, when I first started getting into clothing and streetwear, the list of brands I would’ve listed then is completely different from now. Now I’m more into high fashion designer brands. I just feel like the designs and the materials and the backstory of the different brands and concepts are a lot more thought out. Few brands I could list now that I’m really into would probably be…Ader Error, Undercover, Palace, which is more on a streetwear, skatewear level.
The Sil: What makes a good fashion show?
Jarrett: When everything is running smoothly, [when] music [and] designs are on point.
St. Jean: I think there’s got to be a wild factor.
Jarrett: Exactly, in our day and age everyone does a fashion show. When you’re on a runway, add a little bit of something, add a little bit of art, add performances, add anything like that, you know…Be as free as you can. That’s what the brand represents. Be you and embrace what you wear every single day.
Alexander: I think outfits, for sure. I know for myself, I really like to add something more. [W]ith our latest fashion show we had more theatrics going on. It’s more than just outfits and models walking down a runway. It was like an actual show.
The Sil: What’s more important, expressing yourself or catering to an audience?
St. Jean: I think you have to have a mix of both. We want to express ourselves, but we want to make sure we are catering to the audience as well. So, we want to be like ‘I really like this, but I want to make sure my people are going to like it too’.
Alexander: I think, especially in terms of creative level, expressing yourself matters most at the end of the day. Where it gets tricky is on the business level of things, where, yeah, you do have to make money and you have to invest a lot of time, effort and money into certain projects, so you do have to cater to the audience. So I like to find a little bit of both.
The Sil: What are some challenges of the fashion industry and how to best deal with them?
St. Jean: One big thing is manufacturers. We’re a very small brand, so when it comes to manufacturing clothing, they want big orders, like you know, a hundred pieces, two hundred pieces. We’re very small, very local, so we don’t order that much. That’s why our clothes are very limited…So, it kind of leaves a little bit of exclusivity to our brand as well.
Alexander: I guess a big one right now would be finances. I know for me and my team, we have a lot of ideas and projects that we like to do, but it’s a hurdle we have to cross where we can’t financially make it happen. And that’s just a process of continuing to work and grow as a brand and building those resources in order to make those projects happen.
The Sil: What does street style mean to you?
St. Jean: Expressing yourself.
Jarrett: Yeah, exactly, expressing yourself. Streetwear is growing now. It used to be small brands like Stussy, Primitive, but now, big time designers are making streetwear. Like, Gucci, and stuff, they’re all making hoodies with “Gucci” on it, and t-shirts and stuff. So, streetwear is literally taking over the world, and everyone loves streetwear.
Alexander: I love street style. Every single day I think of an outfit and I just love putting together clothes and showcasing how I’m feeling that day with the colour palettes and the theme of certain pieces I’m wearing… Street style is growing and it’s awesome to see other people getting more and more into it… especially in Hamilton.
The Sil: Since both brands share a similar style, do you consider each other competitors?
St. Jean: For us, personally, we don’t look at things as competition because we want to see everybody succeed, so we actually know Zander personally from showing support to each other. So, when we’ve done pop-ups, they’re there and when they’ve done pop-ups, we’re there. And we promote each other, so we don’t look at it as competition. We look at it more as a community and we should all work together.
Alexander: Yeah, I 100 per cent agree. I guess, back in the day when streetwear brands weren’t as many, maybe like 6 to 7 years ago, it would’ve been on a more competitive level, but as of right now, I think brands that are succeeding and growing together as a community. If everyone’s doing well, that only makes the community better at the end of the day.