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Retro-Futuristic Chillwear

STAYCOOLNYC is a clothing brand based out of New York City that's broken out of the "streetwear" mold with a futuristic take on retro garments. We spoke with the founder Amin about his experience starting the brand in 2015 to now designing his own Staycool-themed popup lounges and having his clothing worn by Lil Dicky, Meek Mill, and many others. In addition, we also spoke with Amin about his upcoming winter collection, his advice for people looking to build their own brand online today, and his plans to continue mastering his craft while expanding the Staycool brand to other sectors outside of clothing.

Where are you from?

Amin: I’m from New York.

When did you start Staycool?

Amin: I got started during the summer of 2015. I initially started by making a T-shirt for myself that I created on a custom design website. That was before I really knew what I was doing since I was only 18 at the time. I sold that shirt that I made for myself to my friends and other people around me, so it all started very organically. I built a following within my own community early on which was cool because I had the support of people around me. When I started I didn’t know that it was going to become what it is today, it really just began when I made that first T-shirt for myself.

How did you come up with the name?

Amin: When I was on this custom design website I was trying to think of two words that could come together to create a specific vibe since I didn’t want to just use some random word. My first shirt said something like “Stay Cool People” on it. After that I figured I’d put “Staycool” on everything and just went with it. But the name really expanded into so much more of a vibe for me and an identity for the brand. It was kind of random to start, but I’m very proud of the name and I think it’s amazing. It fits with what I’m doing as far as the vibe, colors, and identity go. It just works. It’s good because some people have brand names that you might not understand and you have to figure it out. But if you see the world “Staycool” on a hoodie, tee, or piece of clothing it might give you a certain type of feeling right away. It really fits into the colors I put on garments and the overall aesthetic as well. It all fits into one feeling.

What made you want to start a clothing brand?

Amin: Originally I wasn’t thinking about starting a clothing brand. It was four or five years ago when not many people had clothing brands and it wasn’t the cool thing to do. Obviously there were other brands but now it’s a much different market. I started very organically since I liked clothing all my life. Before Staycool, I would walk into stores and try to find something that I specifically liked. But after a while I wanted to make my own thing and express my creativity in my own way. I wanted the feeling of making my own stuff, so when someone complements me on a shirt I can say that I made it myself. I wanted to take responsibility for what I like and that extended to wanting to make something for my own creative expression. Once I started, other people ended up liking it too which was cool. That’s why I originally started. It wasn’t like I was 21 or 22 with a whole business plan set up. I learned as I went and it developed to be what it is today and I’m still growing. It was very organic and a very natural process of how it all started.

Were you always into art and fashion growing up?

Amin: It wasn't really fashion but more something that would make me stand out. This all stemmed from me not wanting to be like everyone else in the way that I dressed. I’m from New York so everyone was a Jets or Giants fan, but I would be the one to get a random Randy Moss Vikings jersey. If everyone was doing something I wanted to be doing something different. It was a way to seperate myself from the pack. Not to be fashionable so to say, but more to be an individual.

What does “retro-futuristic chillwear” mean to you?

Amin: Good question. First, what chillwear is: it’s just clothing that you can throw on at any moment, anytime, and wear every single day. You can wear it whether you’re going for a walk, going to sleep, or just hanging out. It’s stuff that’s effortless. You can throw it on every day and be okay. So I did that and named my type of clothing chillwear. It was all about streetwear when I started in 2015 so I wanted to create my own term. People say “chillwear” left and right about stuff now. Not that I want to take credit, but I think I started a wave by separating myself from the pack. Funny enough, Highsnobiety said we pioneered the word chillwear. But with most things, once other people get on it they forget who created it. I don’t need to take credit for anything but that’s why I called it chillwear. As for retro-futuristic, obviously my brand has a retro 80’s and 90’s aesthetic with our colors and identity. My inspiration references are very nostalgic, but the retro vibe is what the future is going to be in a way. It’s retro but also futuristic in a sense. Think "Back To The Future" vibes, cities with tons of highways, flying cars, something of the past that has a futuristic element to it. So I’m creating my own wave. I like to be considered futuristic and not just an 80’s inspired brand. I never want to be boxed in with my terms so I’d rather segment myself like that. When you market something as a certain thing people will catch onto it. If I say I make the best striped tees in the world or that I started the modern airbrush wave, when they think of striped tees they think of me. That’s marketing in a sense by saying it’s retro-futuristic because it creates that thought in everyones head.

What was the inspiration behind your summer collection that dropped last month?

Amin: I’m always looking to create brand identity though my graphics. I like to keep it fresh, so every piece has a similar vibe but it’s also different at the same time. It’s hard to answer your question because there’s not just one inspiration behind the whole collection, each piece has its own inspiration. Some people release collections inspired by one thing, but I don’t usually do collections that are only one theme. I don’t like to box things in. But I did do that with the mascot capsule collection, that was inspired by mascots and NCAA basketball. I wanted to shine some light on mascots in general, so it was inspired by one thing.

Are you planning on dropping Staycool rugs soon?

Amin: I want to get into home decor stuff for sure. I want to set a vibe. I did a popup in the summer of 2018 where I created a “Staycool Lounge” aesthetic. I’m very inspired by interior design, architecture, and putting my Staycool aesthetic in a physical space. I really could do that because I think I have an eye for it, and because my brand identity has a vibe that would make sense. Since the Staycool identity is strong, it would make sense to put a Staycool spin on a physical space. I want to expand into different things, whether it’s making a couch, pillows, blankets, or anything that expands the horizon of the brand. I’m inspired by many things other than just clothing.

How were you able to make the Staycool Lounge happen?

Amin: There was a competition with this company who rents out popup spaces for brands. They held this competition where you submit a popup concept within one of their spaces, and if you win you get a credit towards using their space. So I sent this huge concept to them and won the competition. I got the space and then was seeking inspiration and trying to figure out what the vibe would be in the store. The store was a white box when you walked in, so I had to figure out what I wanted to do there. I took some time and worked with a friend of mine who does production for popups and basically created a folder of ideas for what I wanted to do. Eventually, I narrowed it down and came up with what we were doing which ended up being a fully rugged space with cool wallpaper. The idea was to create a Staycool lounge feel where people could come in and hangout. It felt really homey and cozy there. When people walked in, their whole vibe was transformed and that’s something I’m really confident about. I have a skill where I can transform a space and make someone feel totally different when they walk in.

Where do you draw inspiration from in general?

Amin: I can draw inspiration from anywhere. It could be something I see in the street, something I see on Pinterest, a logo at some flea market, a color combination, anything really. If something catches my eye it catches my eye, there’s not one place I look. Google and clipart images are really good too, it’s always random. Whatever is visually pleasing to me and looks good to the eye is what I like. I think I have an eye for what I think people will like to see too.

Where do you get the futuristic Staycool concepts that you post?

Amin: A lot of those concepts come from Pinterest. I want to post another one of those soon. Pinterest is very cool, I love it. I also love sifting through Google. I get myself lost in retro-futuristic pictures all the time, so it’s all very tailored to what I like and what appeals to me. Everything I post makes sense since it all has a Staycool feel to it. Even if I don’t put Staycool logo on it, people could still tell that it’s still a Staycool type of photo. I’m very proud to have that and it's something that you can’t take away from me. You could look at a pink and blue sky and say it has a Staycool feel to it, so I’m glad I have the brand identity on lock. People can always copy your designs, but they can never copy your identity.

What appeals to you about airbrush?

Amin: People have been doing it for a long time, but I’ve been trying to bring it back for the new wave. I love that it’s nostalgic and I think it’s really cool. I really like that the colors pop very hard because it’s all done by hand. It’s sprayed on garments and I love that aspect of it. I also love that every single inch is done by hand, it’s not just printed. Someone is literally spraying it on and that gives it an element of specialty. I’m planning on doing a lot more airbrush this year.

Do you have a guy that does it for you?

Amin: Yeah, I work with a company that helps me do it.

Do you think your design style has changed since you started?

Amin: Yes for sure. I’d say it’s gotten a lot more refined. When you’re first starting and playing around with stuff you’re seeing what works and everything feels new. But as you move on you can refine your taste and master what you think looks good, and it gets better as you go on. So I think my style has changed for the better. My vision is more clear with a cleaner aesthetic and everything is fine tuned. It’s growing and changing every day.

How did the collab with @grapejuiceboys happen?

Amin: He’s a good friend of mine. He has that account and a bunch of other accounts. The whole collab happened very organically, we just decided we should make a shirt and see what happens. The latest one we released was the second tee we’ve made and it was only available for three days. It was a very organic process, nothing was forced.

What makes you want to work with another designer or brand?

Amin: It depends because I do have a lot of goals and different companies I’d like to work with. I’ll do it if it’s something I personally like, if it could fit with the identity of the brand, and if it doesn’t feel forced. I also have to vibe with the actual person I’m working with and the company itself. Everything has to be done for the right reasons. I don’t want to do anything forced for the wrong reasons because people can see that.

Are there any other brands, designers, or artists you want to work with in the future?

Amin: I have some companies that I’d like to work with. I want to work with Snapple, and I’d love to collaborate with Gushers. I don’t necessarily need to collab with a clothing brand. I’d like to put my own spin on something rare that I like, that would be so fire. It has to be something in my life that I feel I could put the Staycool spin on. Those are just two companies, but there are more that I like. There are shoe companies I’d like to work with and I have other brands that I’d like to work with as well. Not necessarily a clothing brand, but more something that has nothing to do with clothing that I could put my own spin on. That’s a real collab since you can see my identity more working with something that has nothing to do with clothes.

You’ve teased a number of different Staycool shoes, should we expect to see some in production in the near future?

Amin: I hope man. I’m trying to work on collaborating with sneaker companies. I’m probably gonna wait to make my first shoe since I want it to be a collaboration. Working with a shoe company that has tons of experience with production and the assets to make the shoe would be great. That’s a goal that I have to get my first shoe collab, so I’m trying to put myself in the right position to do that. I feel like you have to be refined and have to put yourself in the same ballpark as them. But it takes time and being there at the right place at the right time. These days anyone could really collab with anyone, you just have to really put yourself in the right position.

What was the inspiration behind the Staycool AF1’s?

Amin: This kid @wackavelli has his own page and does his own stuff as well. I went to him and said that we should do a cool one-off shoe. We were trying to come up with ideas on what we wanted to do, and I had some leftover striped tees and wanted to incorporate my product on the shoe in some way. So he cut out logos from the embroidered striped tee and placed it on the swoosh area with velcro which was really dope. At the same time he put some colorful designs on the shoe as well that fit with the brand identity. It really just happened like that, we said we wanted to make a 1/1 shoe and we did.

What would be the dream shoe collab for Staycool?

Amin: In a way I don't want to answer that since I don’t want to box myself in. I feel like if I say one company and another company comes up they might not like it. I know what it is, but I’m also talking to some other companies so I don’t want to say anything specific yet.

What was the inspiration behind the “Mango” striped tee colorway?

Amin: For that one I really thought the colors worked well together. That one was more visually inspired as opposed to the cotton candy one. That was inspired by blue and pink cotton candy and a summer-type feel. That one had a more specific inspiration behind it. I think the names of the tees are very important as well since it sets the tone for the inspiration. The cotton candy striped tee with blue and pink colors all works well together. I think the names are very important, so I try to make them have a meaning that fits with the vibe of the brand. That’s a little thing that some people might not see, but I really like to market in that way. It really helps the customer feel it, and I like everything to be consistent. It’s just another layer. If I just called it “yellow striped tee” imagine how different you’d feel about the piece. That’s why I pay close attention to that aspect of the brand.

What appeals to you about striped tees?

Amin: It makes the T-shirt feel more alive rather than just having a graphic. It has more elements to it and a nostalgic inspiration because you saw a lot of brands in the past doing striped tees. I want to be known for my stripes, I’ve always loved them. It has a retro feel but it could also be classy in a way. That’s what I’m probably getting into moving forward, colorful stripes with a more refined feel.

What should we expect to see from the upcoming winter drop?

Amin: Definitely striped tees. I’m doing a lot more airbrush stuff, and I’m making more cut and sew products. I’ll have a polar fleece, a quarter zip sweatshirt, and hopefully some tie dye. Expect to see a lot of embroidery as well, and I also made a cool bracelet. That pretty much sums up the vibe. I think the standout piece will be the airbrush sweats and the tie dye stuff that I want to do.

When is it releasing?

Amin: I’d say late November or early December. I’m releasing the collection at ComplexCon since I have a booth there that I’m excited about. Then a month later it’ll be releasing online. That’s the schedule so far. I don’t have any specific dates locked down but that’s the ballpark.

You recently previewed the Staycool NBA Barbies collector items. Were those made specifically for Staycool or did you just slap a sticker on it?

Amin: I was looking at barbies and thought they were really cool so I threw a Staycool sticker on it. Even the fact that someone might think I made those is awesome. The vibe made sense for the brand so slapping a sticker on it felt natural. I see other brands on the barbie wave but I don’t know how to make barbie clothing. That’s a whole other project in itself.

Are there any other mediums, garments or accessories you want to experiment with?

Amin: Yeah, I really like these windbreaker pants that I’ve been wearing almost every day. I want to perfect an amazing windbreaker pant that could be worn anytime in the summer or spring. I might get into making jeans as well, but I love the windbreaker pants since you can pair them with almost anything. I’m going to continue to do shorts, and more jewelry perhaps with more random accessories. Eventually I’ll probably make those rugs, but as far as clothing goes that’s what I’m thinking.

What should we expect to see next from Staycool?

Amin: Just expect to see more fire. There’s not one specific thing that’s going to happen, I’ll just continue to do what I’m doing. I’m always trying to elevate and make my designs and content better. I’m planning on making my lookbooks and products better as well. I just want everything to continue to grow and I always want to get better at what I do.

You recently said that you want to expand the Staycool brand through many different sectors. After fashion, what do you think is next for Staycool?

Amin: I want to get into the hospitality sector. I actually studied hospitality and have a degree in it, so that’s something that inspires me. I’d love to be able to put a Staycool vibe into a physical space, and not just a regular brick and mortar space. I’d like to create a lounge or a space that people could really feel the vibe and identity of the brand through more than just clothing. It’d have to be something special, whether it’s a lounge or even a diner concept. I’d love to create a little bed and breakfast type of vibe. I have lots of ideas for the future, but I’m not too hung up on them because if you’re too focused on the future you’re not living in the present. But I always have them in the back of my head. I don’t want to be known for just clothing.

What advice would you give to other people looking to build a brand online today?

Amin: Try to separate yourself from others in regards to your identity and be unique in a sense where it’s about more than just the clothes. If you’re going down the clothing route, make something more than just clothing. Always think outside the box of what your brand means because that’s how you can separate yourself from the pack. It's important to think deeper than just designs and clothing. Also, don’t take what other people say too seriously. In the beginning when you start something new people might not take you seriously, but just let that fuel you. That’s what I did. Those same people that didn’t take you seriously will be the ones applauding you once you make it. So don’t listen to people too much and do it for the right reasons. If you’re truly passionate and doing it for your own happiness that’s good. Don’t do anything to be cool or to get praise, that’s not a natural reason. If you do it naturally that will make you more passionate about it and successful. If you don’t do it for a natural reason and there’s a guy like me doing it for a natural reason, I’m going to overtake you because I have more passion. Passion isn’t something you can teach.

What do you want Staycool to become?

Amin: I want it to become everything in a way. I want it to become a brand that can be in any type of sector. I want to make a Staycool carwash, a Staycool diner, a Staycool lounge, and so much more. I think it’d be cool if people eventually started hiring me to design interiors of airports. It could be anything that I can put my own twist on. I don’t want to say that it’ll be a lifestyle brand because that’s too basic. I don’t want Staycool to be just another clothing brand.

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