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Mikel

12 Jul 2020

Text by Mikel

ØLÅF Citizens: Olaf Hussein

12 Jul 2020

People around him would probably describe him as “quite the character.” Olaf Hussein is always on, always distracted, but somehow manages to get things done that others don’t. In this episode of Citizens, we talk with the Founder and Creative Director of his namesake label, owner of this platform: Olaf Hussein.


Olaf, I know you as someone who’s always doing everything at once, where do you find time to relax?

“I do, and I don’t. As the owner of the company, I am actually never not working but I always make sure that I make the most of my downtime."

 

Is it possible for you to relax?

“Not right now, I am always on my toes waiting to take the next leap. Doing nothing makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel as if I’m doing something wrong as I am convinced that being stagnant means no progress. I’m always hard on myself to do better or to do more. I blame it on my ego. I have yet to find an answer to that.”

 

 

Is there a goal you’re working towards?

“I would love to be the new G-Star. Not aesthetically, but the size and international name they’ve built is unprecedented in the Netherlands. I aspire to reach similar status."

 

Where does this drive come from, you think?

“Growing up I was told that only hard work gets you far in life. Nothing else. My family and I moved from Somalia to a small village in the Netherlands and I had to adapt rather quickly. With how the education system is set up here, I knew that I didn’t want anyone else to determine my future for me like the majority of the kids that I grew up with. I needed to prove to myself and my family that the move was worth it.”

What sparked your interest in owning your own fashion business?

“Growing up I have worked part-time in various fashion retail stores. I vividly remember the day I realized that I had all the tools to create my own brand. Keep in mind, this is pre-internet and the only resources you had were the ones you heard via friends or saw with your own eyes. I was obsessed with everything and anything to do with fashion.”

 

 

I think you know more than just fashion.

“Yes, my actual studies had nothing to do with fashion. In fact, I graduated from the University of Amsterdam with a master degree in Communication Science. During my studies I was working part-time at a shop called 1store in Amsterdam, where I came in contact with the VP of Menswear at Tommy Hilfiger. I had a good connection with him so upon graduating I applied for a job at the Marketing department. He advised that design would be a better fit than marketing knowing a bit of my background. I ended up working there for almost 3 years. ”

 

You started Olaf Hussein in 2014 as a denim brand. Right now, the brand seems to be have evolved to something more than just a local denim brand. What changed?

“When I started the company the market was already saturated with commercial denim brands with heavy vintage influence. I wanted to bring to the market something more modern and different. Within the last decade the market had shifted from being denim focused to a mix and match of different fabrics. We also realized that to gain a bigger audience you need recognizable graphics. It so happens to be that graphics work better in non-denim products.”

 

Is that also why you don’t like to be categorized as streetwear?

“Streetwear is such a generalized term now. I am under the influence that it means something else than what I stand for as it is so vague.”

 

ØLÅF QuickSnap Disposable Camera.

 

But you do make caps and hoodies.

“Yeah, but nowadays that doesn’t necessarily make it streetwear, does it?. It all depends on how you execute it.”

 

Besides the shift from denim to “non-streetwear”, the last year has brought some other changes for you and the company with a new store, website, co-owner, and platform. What was that like for you?

“Hard! I’m very difficult to work with. When I have an idea ( even in the middle of the night), I often want it executed immediately. I often forget that not everyone’s brain is on work mode, even in their sleep. I am fortunate to have a dedicated team and business partner who still enjoys working with me (hahah let's hope this is still true).”

 

Sunflower sketches.

 

Fashion is an industry that is known to be extremely fast paced, how do you keep up?

“I make sure my internal battery is charged (mind and body) at all times making sure that I don’t lose sight of the end goal and whatever it takes to get there.”

 

You just released a collaboration with Ace & Tate that sold out immediately. When is a collaboration successful in your eyes?

“It is a good collaboration if both parties are able to utilize their strengths to create a cohesive product. It is fun to see unexpected combinations come together.”

First ØLÅF face.
Why did you start with that monthly newsletter?

“I was in talks with someone from Het Parool, a local Dutch newspaper, about having a monthly column discussing relevant topics. That didn’t happen, so we decided to do it on our own platform instead.”

 

What were the reactions so far?

“Surprisingly awesome! It sparked interesting conversations between the consumer and myself and it even allowed us to built a personal relationship with our audience.”

Part of the team.
What has inspired you lately?

“PEOPLE aka CITIZENS. With everything that is going on in the world, people from all different ages and backgrounds are coming together for equality and fighting for a better future.”

Tiffany Chung

23 May 2022

Text by Tiffany Chung

ØLÅF CITIZENS : Virgil nicholas

23 May 2022

With honesty, well-being, and respect for oneself and each other as the foundation of Danish shoe brand, Vinny’s shoes, Virgil Nicholas has founded a shoe company with real soul. In this edition of Citizens, we step into the creative director’s classic leather loafers and discover more about his work, style, and way of life.

 

Hi Virgil, why loafers?

“Good question. I've always worn loafers and compared to all the other types of footwear in my wardrobe, they‘re the one pair of shoes that I wear to death. A couple of years ago, just before starting Vinny’s, I was looking at my rotation of the same four to five shoes I wore over and over and noticed I was missing that perfect loafer. I realized that's where I have a genuine heritage and story to tell, so it made sense that I bring that to the table myself."

 

How should one feel when wearing a pair of Vinny’s?

“I think the loafer, for me, is like when you put on a blazer jacket. It shapes you as a person, your back gets a little bit more upright and you carry yourself a bit more elegantly. Loafers do the same thing. I want both men and women to feel comfortable, relaxed, well-dressed, and feeling confident. I think when we feel our very best, we're better humans to ourselves and to our neighbors and next of kin. So, it's really about building self-respect."

Still from podcast.

From interview with Illum.

 

Is that what makes you feel confident?

“A good pair of loafers, yeah. I think one of my confidence boosters is definitely always a good outfit."

 

Do you think good taste is something you’re born with, or can it be developed?

“I think style and taste is definitely something that you can learn. It’s about what you're interested in, what you’re exposed to and influenced by. It's definitely something that you can adapt and grow into and out of. Personally, the influences from my mom and my dad and their post-colonial heritage, my African heritage, but also the urban references from when I was a kid, shaped my wardrobe. I always go to the same things. I have pieces in my wardrobe that go ten years back and it's the stuff that I love to wear the most. Then, occasionally you add new things."

 

With Silas Oda Adler.

 

What are your tips for someone who is developing their own style?

“It starts with knowing who you are. A fashionable look or outfit can sometimes become a way to dress yourself up or to hide who you are, whereas style is about what we actually like and what you can see yourself wearing over and over again that resembles you. Also, read about pieces, find out how the penny loafer came about, the history of the slip dress, or research style icons. What makes hairstyles iconic today? Why do we like 90s fashion so much right now? Why's airport style interesting? I know a lot of men that research trends and decades and fashion and it's really been a way of shaping who they are. I've done the same, more from a research and creative perspective but it definitely helps me to also keep my own style universe sharp."

 

Who's your style icon?

“My dad. He always inspired me a lot."

With kiddo.

Vinny's.

 

Do you hope to be a style icon for your son?

“He already dresses way better than me. I think he already passed me. I just want to be a good role model, that's the most important thing for me."

 

Has becoming a father changed the way you work?

Only that I have to leave work a little bit early. I love to work, so that's why I hate having to leave work early. When he sleeps, I really love to work. Especially when I get to live out my dream. I'm so blessed and lucky that he loves coming into work with me. He's an open-minded kid and really at ease around my colleagues. I can bring him anywhere and that really makes my workflow a whole lot better.

 

At parelstudios.

On the road.

 

What’s your favorite place to work?

“We got our office four months ago and we have a red couch that I love sitting on. The most amazing thing is that our office is an old apartment, so we wanted to create a homey feeling. It's always hard to leave the office which is a good sign of a good workplace, at least for myself."

 

Where do you like to relax?

“Benches in my city. I love just sitting there and people watching. Not having any plans or any distractions, just a good pair of sunglasses to watch people. If you see me on a bench, you know what I'm doing. It’s the most relaxing thing ever."

 

As a successful creative, you’ve had a lot of great ideas. Tell us about your worst idea.

“My worst idea? Ha, that’s a good one. I don’t know, I’ve had a few. There was this one project, it was right after I started my first label, I wanted to create something that was more urban. So, we started making baseball t-shirts and the execution was good, but the name was horrible – it was a combination of three French words. I speak French with my parents, so it’s a big part of me and almost everything I do creatively starts with French. We actually got a lot of traction in France, but no one understood what we were trying to say. It was just the most horrible thing I've done. We had to shut it down quite quickly for numerous reasons but mostly the name was just a killer."

 

Name one thing you hope to get better at.

“I'm always on the go, always thinking about the next step, the next collection, the next campaign, am I picking up my son? I think what I need to be better at is enjoying the present. Enjoying the moment with people that are really dear to me. The thing I really value the most in my life are my relationships. It’s easy to make up an excuse not to meet up or make time for family and friends, but if it matters, then you need to remember to prioritize them. Time flies so fast."

 

Counting blessings.

 

Tell us something you hate to do but have to.

Every month, I have to go through all my expenses and find all my receipts. It’s a work thing that I hate to do. I try to be really good at it, but I hate it.

 

And something you love to do but rarely get to.

I love to read and listen to audiobooks. I hate that I don't have or take the time to do it enough.

 

Do you have a favorite book?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Love it. It was really a kickstarter for how I started to believe in myself and knowing that anything you set your mind to is possible.

 

What's one song you listen to on repeat?

Gold by Prince. I saw him perform it live at a festival here in Denmark. It was a crazy experience.

 

Young Virgil.

 

Lastly, name a person, place, and thing that inspires you.

One of the places that inspires me a lot is Marrakech. I like it because it's a place where I always calm down, but I also see so much culture and so much honesty and genuineness in the population. I think, in general, Africa is fun because it's very true to its roots.

 

For people, I've always been a huge fan of, it’s so cliché, but Denzel Washington. I love that guy mainly because he's really talented and he can wear a lot of hats, so to speak. His body of work combined with who he is as a person, from what he says, how he thinks, how he operates, and his composure is inspirational.

 

I'm really inspired by tech and how it creates communities. For example, who would have thought even just ten years ago that there would be a car service where you can drive awesome cars without taking anything but your mobile device, logging in, driving it, then leaving it to share with another human being? It’s stuff like that, the whole shared economy in tech, I think is fantastic. It's about being helpful to each other. If the shared economy in tech could be integrated with fashion in a mainstream way, not just in the niches where it is right now, it would definitely be game-changing for the whole world.