This year’s pandemic has tested us all, especially NYC based Black-owned boutique and streetwear brand, The New Blue Collar.
The New Blue Collar’s fifth Collection represents resilience, grit, and survival. And, surely, the fashion style and design have evolved from what the streetwear brand created just over a year ago.
TNBC is a testament to hard work and sportsmanship. The founders Felix Llanos from Queens, NY, and Alex Ewings, who was born in Texas and raised in Tulsa, OK continue to prove that in their fifth drop.
Both are familiar with the work done on hardwood floors, glass backboards, and the iron rims of basketball gyms, but the pandemic has shifted the energy toward preservation and reclamation of certain wisdom…
Wisdom acquired on the courts of NYC playgrounds.
“We’ll always make it a point to incorporate NYC into anything we do. We want to make sure it speaks to the city in some shape or fashion – no pun intended.”
The Black-owned boutique brand has previously draped its models in leisurewear like crewnecks and athletic shorts and given way to the idea of an athlete’s casual attire.
As well as placing items of grit, grind and everyday work, like mechanic jackets, and hoodies on them.
The core of the brand remains the same as the pandemic looms. The outlook on the future of their aesthetic continues to evolve. The COVID lockdown allowed creatives to galvanize and strengthen their focus on what needed the most attention to survive this time.
“We’re fortunate to be able to say that the pandemic didn’t negatively affect our business. If anything, it allowed us to slow down a bit and [really] take a step back and reflect on the work we’ve done up to this point. Figure out what we need to do to continue to evolve as a brand.”
The streetwear brand has stuck to a low volume of production while keeping the items in each collection to a minimum of staple pieces that complete a man’s closet. The fifth collection wants to elevate that same closet with more staples of a “Big Apple” feel.
The Black-owned boutique brand is evolving their minimalist aesthetic view of the athlete to one that has now matured into gentleman status.
Button shirts for casual occasions, a bucket hat that innately screams ‘functionality,’ and in addition to other cut and sewn staples, The New Blue Collar has also featured customized pairs of Air Force 1s that the founders created through Nike By You.
“We started incorporating our personalized sneakers in shoots with our third delivery. It’s something we want to continue doing for each delivery moving forward,” said Llanos and Ewings.
The New Blue Collar is still fresh in its journey to being solidified in NYC closets, as well as everywhere else. Going into their second year of selling clothing can predictably be better than this year was.
“As we mature, so will our taste levels. The objective will always remain the same – to provide you guys timeless staples – but the storytelling surrounding a certain collection may look a bit different than it did a year ago.”
Its symptoms include oversleeping, social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and feelings of hopelessness. Given this, it’s unsurprising that artists often find colder months to influence their work and creativity.
Kulture Hub reached out to creatives to see how they deal with the winter blues and mental health recovery during this cold season.
Cold weather’s strong grasp on our mental health
Orla Bordeaux, a writer and director, in her Junior year at New York University, has noticed the changing seasons affecting her mental wellbeing. “I’m indoors more and not able to go outside [to] enjoy the sunshine, so mentally I definitely get pretty down,” Bordeaux said.
“It’s not that I got big spikes of depression, but I feel I’m just wallowing in this kind of low, sad place.”
– Orla Bordeaux, Junior at NYU
Ana Monfared, an actor and writer, sometimes essayist and painter, recognizes similar feelings:
“I definitely see [how] winter always takes a huge toll on my mental health…”
– Ana Monfared, Actor and Writer
“There are times when I think that it hasn’t, I’m like, ‘no, I’m fine’ and then winter will end and summer will start, spring will start and I’m like, holy shit, I was so sad,” Monfared, who is based in Vancouver, Canada, said.
Aditi Damle, an illustrator currently quarantining in Texas, “Not seeing the sun definitely affects my general well-being.”
Damle first experienced the effect of daylight savings when she moved from India to the US for grad school. “I’m a night person so I tend to work at night which means I wake up late which means I really miss out on the sun hours and that bums me out,” she said.
“There’s this general brain fog luring me into bed that’s hard to beat some days.”
– Aditi Damle, Illustrator
Weinye, a cartoonist is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, first experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder when she moved to San Francisco for six years in 2010.
While SF’s winter wasn’t as cold as other places, she was still affected. “I rarely got to hang out with my friends due to the cold, so I was mostly bored and isolated,” she said.
“The loneliness eventually crept up on me and as the saying goes, ‘an idle mind is the Devil’s workshop’ is indeed true. I started overthinking and being emotional for no apparent reason which led to physical fatigue.”
– Weinye, Cartoonist
The connection between mood and creativity
While all creatives we spoke to recognize a potential connection between mood and creativity, their understanding of this connection is different.
“I always used to think that my most creative places were my most painful and vulnerable and honest and raw [places] and I don’t know if that’s true at all,” said Bordeaux.
“I think when I’m in really dark places mentally, my creativity kind of halts to a stop.” Bordeaux finds herself the most creative and productive in the moments in-between when she’s “kind of bouncing back from dark places.”
Damle also struggles to create sometimes. “When you live with depression and anxiety there are days where you just cannot do it. I completely shut down and I cannot be creative, I feel like if I have to create anything when my mental health is down its just going to come out bad,” she explained.
“I personally feel like if I’m in a positive state of mind, that energy translates into the work I make and reflects positive vibes versus when it’s not so good.”
– Aditi Damle, Illustrator
It’s different for Monfared who doesn’t feel like her level of creativity changes. “You know, I think I have made some of my favorite work when I’m really fucking sad,” she said.
“I think in some ways I make a specific pocket of work when I’m particularly affected by seasonal affective disorder.”
– Ana Monfared, Actor and Writer
She explained that while she’s not more (or less) creative, the time of year changes the type of art she makes. “[when I’m really affected by S.A.D.], I think, is when I’m doing more of my like really depressing, sad work that would make my parents worried,” Monfared shared.
Weinye sees some positive effects of S.A.D. on her art. “I have found myself producing some of my best work during my not-so-good times,” she said.
“I think in my case, I was using my art to lay off the pressure I was feeling. It was a way for me to distract myself from the problems I was facing at the time.”
She gives an example of an impromptu painting night she recently had with her sister.
“I’m surrounded by really wonderful friends and people in my life and I’m inspired by [them].”
– Orla Bordeaux, Junior at NYU
For Damle, staying creative is all about channeling what you’re experiencing into your art. “Use the struggle to inspire you to try something new.”
She also recommended trying a new medium and talking to friends, a professional, or just a diary. “Find a place to put it somewhere other than in your head.”
Monfared suggests not setting any expectations and trying a new medium. “That’s why painting is one of my favorite things to do because I don’t have any plans of becoming a painter in the future or selling my paintings.”
She continued: “Therefore when I sit down and paint (…) it’s such a beautiful space of free-flowing art, which then often actually leads to something else.”
Weinye also shared some advice: “Do not compare your productivity level with others because everyone is moving at their own pace and so should you.”
When it comes to combatting the winter blues, seasonal affective disorder, or dealing with mental health recovery, it’s important for creatives, to just do what works best.
“It is okay to not be okay sometimes,” Weinye said. “We are human beings. Not machines. Shit happens!”
“Sound body, sound mind,” says Greg Travers when asked about exercise and his visual creativity. It happens that the line between creativity and discipline is thinner than what you might think.
Gregory Travers is a cinematographer, director, and digital consultant. The mastermind behind When the City Sleeps; an extraordinary film he directed in collaboration with Ten Thousand that elevates the beauty of New York while in social confinement.
Besides this passion project of his, Greg has worked with dozen of clients including Under Armour, Snapchat, Andie Swim, and more. All of which allows him to connect both his passions of film and fitness.
“Being on set is exhausting; mentally and physically. Mentally, you have to think of everything: the shot lists, talent, hair and make-up, stylist. You are coordinating so many different heads and people. And physically you are dealing with cameras and lights. It is important to be fit because the art of shooting is physically and mentally taxing.”
– Greg Travers
And in fact, countless research has proven how much physical and mental exercise improve creative output.
Just like any other muscle in the body, creativity is one that needs everyday work and discipline to stay fit. Here are three that have worked for Greg.
Furthermore, is a highly effective way to not only organize thoughts and meditate but also to distract creatives from the burden of their jobs.
Films and videos, Greg explained, are heavy on editing, which means countless hours sitting at the desk. And often, creatives use this as an excuse; long focused hours cannot be threatened for an hour of exercise.
Contrary to popular belief, creativity is not always a free flow. And, more often than not, creatives find themselves experiencing creative blocks; sitting for hours, waiting for the idea to come.
Sometimes, execution is better than ideating. Thus, like running, getting that foot out the door, is good enough.
Nike says it better, “Just do it.”
The advantages of a 20-minute jog or run can significantly improve both the discipline and performance of the mind. You can also keep yourself healthy by taking supplements, and you can review on Phen375 fat burner on how it works, but with the right diet and exercise.
Running is perhaps the most liberating, out-of-comfort activity, and it gives the mind space for new ideas to incubate.
It establishes a higher level of exercise and visual creativity that one might not have known was attainable.
Similar to the Tibetian Tummo meditation and pranayama, the method employs breathing techniques that seek to naturally optimize the state of mind and body.
With multiple years of research, working with scientists and data experts, Wim Hof has proven that cold therapy promotes fat burning, boosts the immune system, improves sleep, reduces inflammation, and more.
It teaches breathing techniques that improve energy levels, detoxes the body, reducing stress levels and rebalance the nervous system, and strengthen your immune system. And finally, commitment push yourself out of the natural comfort zone.
Take your exercise and visual creativity capabilities to the max, fam
The method itself is a variation of three phases that include: controlled breathing, breath retention, and recovery breathing. The first phase involves 30-40 cycles of breathing, this is a form of controlled hyperventilation.
The second phase lets it all out, holding the breath for 1 – 3 min until needing to breathe again. Finally, the thrid phase is recovery, where a strong urge to breathe occurs.
For more information, here is a brief article describing the benefits and its preparation.
Use your time wisely
Finally, Greg has found a productive way to use the time it takes to export large video files and be productive. “Working in the film industry, most of my time involves exporting files which normally take a long time…”
“I like to use these occasions to my advantage and stay active by doing some pushups or literally hanging upside down.”
– Greg Travers
Hanging upside down, in fact, has far more benefits than what one would imagine. It happens that it is a perfect way to get the blood running up to the brain considering that when one sits in front of a computer for hours that doesn’t happen very often.
Let’s get weird
Once past the uncomfortable, usually after 60-seconds, the body is able to feel the benefits of the inversion. Oxygen runs to the brain which immediately gets the brain notoriously activated.
“The brain is the largest consumer of oxygen in the body, thus more blood means more oxygen and that means more function.”
It improves concentration, reduces stress, improves posture, and even works some of the muscles in the body. Not to mention, it is a perfect way to meditate and practice mindfulness. Thus not only boosting your overall fitness through exercise but also enhancing your visual creativity.
Even if hanging upside down does not feel great. Export time can also be used to brief workouts like 20-minutes of pushups. It is a time-effective way to stay active and clear your mind from any preoccupation allowing space in your mind for creativity.
Sound body sound mind
It comes as no surprise that the great creative minds have been very vocal about their relation with physical exercise.
In his book, Shoe Dog, Phil Knight literally mirrors his race in the sports industry as a running race. Notoriously talking about the discipline and values that running has taught him personally.
Louisa May Alcott was reportedly devoted to running. Haruki Murakami, the great Japanese writer, even wrote an entire book about it. And there is a misconception in thinking that the only way out of a creative block is time. Or even worse, force.
Sometimes it is about liberating and making space in the mind and body. Designing your work around a sort of creative fitness. And, more importantly, having the discipline to put yourself out there, to warm up or even allow mistakes to happen, but letting the mind flow.
When it comes to thinking visually or about anything creative, the best minds in the world have successfully created exercises or routines that free their minds. But that only happens when one is committed and willing to learn about themselves and take some time to breathe.
The most creative minds in the world have successfully created exercises or routines that free their minds. But that only happens when one is committed and willing to learn about themselves and take some time to breathe.
There must be a sense of fitness and creativity at play when the world’s most innovative minds are at work.
What gives an artist the right to chase their dreams? Maybe it’s pressure from the environment they live in, an unwavering dedication to the craft, or maybe a deep down desire to prove everyone wrong.
Either way, if you believe in yourself and spread positive vibes all things will come to fruition. Don’t doubt yourself, fool. You can make it to the top of the pyramid too as long as you heed to the advice of those who have come before you and are already in the limelight.
This is why Kulture Hub pulled up to the Made in America festival this year and asked artists at the TIDAL stage advice for YOU, the next generation of creatives. We want you to keep flexing and doing whatever it is you love to do.
Do you like to rap? Then keep going. What about taking pictures? You know the answer… believe in yourself and keep pushing. Whatever you want is obtainable and only you can unlock your true potential, homie.
Do you think Lil’ B would be where he is today if he gave up on his dream because of someone’s, lame ass, opinion? Hell no. Look at how far the rapper Trouble has come, my guy has been rapping since the age of 14. At 30, that’s 16 years of believing in a dream that can change within a coin toss.
Let’s not even get started on how difficult it is to gain respect within the music industry as a female rapper (we need to fix this problem BTW). Still, Saweetie didn’t let anyone blur her creative vision. She took NO SHORTCUTS!
Shit, even when everyone told Jay Park to chill with rapping because he’s Asian, the young OG kept it movin’ and is now one of the most poppin’ Asian rappers to ever sign with Roc Nation.
Listen, there’s no reason to stop hustling within your craft. Continue to push forward and everything will fall into place. If you don’t believe me at least trust those who you idolize.
That’s the message SLUMS founder Big Slummy wanted to get across when he first launched his Bay Area brand back in 2014.
But that message has grown to be much more than an acronym.
It now stands for a mindset of kids everywhere who know they don’t want to conform to the lives waiting for them if they just settle for mediocrity. SLUMS represents the next generation of creators who understand one thing: there’s more to life.
But even more than that, it’s about doing what they love and leaving an impact.
This is a movement that’s looking to push street culture further by making events and shows for the people, by the people. Where gentrification continues to grow they are staying true to their roots and holding on to their culture.
They ain’t your average start up streetwear brand either. They got some character. SLUMS is not trying to be another clone. Just a quick glance at what they have on offer proves that. We spoke to Slummy and found out a bit more about them.
We know what the acronym SLUMS stands for but what does it mean to you?
The whole acronym gave me direction and helped me realize life is lived at one’s own accord so please yourself, not society. Growing up it could have been easy to live the whole peak at high school life and live the routine zombie life after it, but I wanted something more out of life and to leave my impact. I didn’t fuck with the whole trying to fit in and morph/mold into people’s expectations or what other people wanted because at the end of the day it’s you left with your decisions so I choose for myself not off anyone else’s standards.
Do you feel like kids in the Bay Area are represented well enough when it comes to music, style and overall culture?
The Bay area fasho supplies a lot to the culture and barely gets any credit for it, the youth out here be getting slept on. The Bay area is having its lil creative renaissance right now a lot of the shows being thrown be all independent no men in suits paying for it. It’s still developing and growing but it’s becoming a battle against gentrification making it so hard to find spot to throw these events for shows/artshows.
Your Grimey Hooligan design is clearly based on early cartoons so do you plan on making that a staple of you brand?
Yeah the Grimey Hooligan is damn near the mascot of the SLUMS. I want to have him drawn in so many different styles, the old vintage cartoon style is just one of his iterations. I have so many versions of him in the vault just waiting for the right time to drop them. Regardless of the style it can be anime version, Simpsons, etc. You can tell it’s the Grimey hooligan ’cause the essence of him from lil traits, for one you’ll always see the shit head. It’s a little timeless thing to do I kind of learned from Babymilo and KAWS there’s certain characteristics they did that can be remixed with all these different variation of characters.
Are there any brands that you look up to or would like to work with down the line?
I always told myself that my idols are either gonna work with me or work against me, be my friend or be my enemy type shit. I grew up watching that Team Ice Cream volume one skate video so that’s what sparked my interest to this whole streetwear shit so I’ll say BBC and Ice Cream got a special place in my heart. Other brands I really fucked with are shit like Old HUF when Benny Gold did graphics, Mishka NYC, BAPE shit but like early BAPE shit like 2011 and earlier. Collabs from brands would be cool but that’s something I haven’t really thought of. I’m more for getting them licensed from my favorite things (shows/games) or artists that I favor.
How do you feel about exclusivity in the streetwear world and how do you plan on working that idea into your brand?
Sometimes the concept sucks because shit be so overpriced cause of this whole “limited” stock shit but designs/production don’t even live up to the price. But it’s pretty vital to have in a clothing brand the whole exclusive shit makes people feel like they in a secret club, so far for exclusive shit I just don’t restock so you get that one chance while it’s out. I’m trying to throw more events hosted by the SLUMS brand soon so making exclusive merch for the events is something that’s on my mind.
What is the vision for SLUMS?
Shit all I know is 10 years from now I want a flagship store that I can throw shows at, a getaway for creatives to get shit done, and be settled with life chilling.
SLUMS is all about community and while they’re local now, Slummy has the vision to make this something that blows up and stands the test of time.
Check out some of the lookbook for their latest collection below.