Spotlight: Jovan Stroop –
This Respek Wear
A.R.T.S.Y Magazine caught up with the C.E.O of This Respek Wear to talk about how the brand came to be, the direction it is headed, and how the artist can thrive in “Trumps America,”
What is This Respek wear?
This Respek Wear is a lifestyle brand, I know the term seams a little cliché now a days, but it genuinely is a lifestyle, with the intentions of providing thought provoking designs that will change your mind, attitude and mood. We specialize in limited edition clothing from snapbacks, t-shirts, jackets to canvas art designs and even area rugs.
Who is the This Respek Wear customer?
Our customer tends to be the person who likes to stand out, look different from the rest and be fresh doing it. We pride ourselves on being different and standing out. Fashion, Art, Music etc…we are really about self-expression without limits.
Walk me through the beginning stages on how This Respek Wear was formed.
In 2006 I designed a t-shirt with a simple design and slogan that read, “Don’t feed the pigeons,” and on the back “No Bread & No Seeds,” the idea and premise behind the design was more than what meets the eye. I then began making similar designs that used a play on words and have dual meanings and interpretation, from there, This Respek Wear was born. My designs are like Respek (Respect), Respek is something earned not given.” I carved out a niche for myself with a grass roots approach and sold 100 shirts in the first week on the street alone and then launched my online store. I’ve collaborated with Wu-‐Tang artist Raekwon and have also been featured in numerous publications like the Source Magazine, Complex and XXL. Through the process I have always stayed true to my desire to be and think “outside the box.”
During this process, I decided that fashion wasn’t the only industry I wanted to tap into. My thought process was “why not take the same designs and artwork that people love to wear and convert it to physical art pieces?” So with my passion for creativity I began to create art work that not only expressed my emotions and feelings, but pieces that grab the attention of others, that would start dialogue and social conversation on politics, culture and life. This gave birth to the art brand known as This Respek Art. My work has been displayed at numerous art fairs like Art Basel and exhibitions at the Harlem State building, Casa Frela and the Bad Boy Reunion pop up shop in LA just to name a few. My work displays my purpose to blend both the world of fashion and art and create works of art that have a deeper meaning and understanding that people will value and appreciate.
What is the creative process like for you?
My creative process consists of the things around me. My inspiration comes from my experiences in life and the things that I feel and see. Each and every design I have ever come up with has a story connected to it. To me that is what being creative is. Being creative is taking a feeling and an emotion and displaying it in a way that others will feel or attempt to relate to.
What is This Respek Wear meant to become?
We are meant to be who we are, which is a brand that is true to itself, a brand that holds nothing back and speaks from the mind and the heart. Fashion/art can be a complicated industry when you try to fit in. We have never tried to fit in, instead we continue to be creative and stand out.
How has Instagram help your brand grow?
Social media and specifically Instagram have helped the brand grow tremendously. The fact that you can reach so many people from so many different parts of the world with a single post, comment etc. is amazing. Social media has only helped the brand grow. I think it is an important tool to use because it allows us to reach people who might not have known about us.
Who is your hero?
My heroes are my parents. Both my mother and father have had a tremendous effect on the way I view life and how I live. My mother has always been the catalyst to make me think outside the box, take chances and risk and experience things that some might be afraid of experiencing. She raised me to believe that when everyone is going left that it’s okay to go right. My father demonstrated to me at a young age how important working hard was and how important being responsible and a man of your word was.
What has been your biggest obstacle to date?
Nothing I have done has been easy and I don’t look at any of my troubles as being obstacles, I look at them as being stepping-stones. When I made my first shirt I never imagined it becoming a lifestyle brand, I had no experience with fashion, no experience designing but it just felt like something I wanted to do because I was passionate about it. I took many chances, took many losses but through it all I continue to learn and stay the course. I think in life that is our purpose, doing what we love to do, following our path and staying the course.
How has Harlem influenced your art?
I was born in Staten Island NY and have lived in Harlem now for around 13 years and I would like to consider myself a Harlemnite. There is so much culture and flavor in Harlem that you can’t help but feel it. From the people to the food to the sounds in the street, it has influenced my art in a major way. Much like the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920’s I feel like Harlem is now due for a new movement I like to call “Old Harlem,” I feel like with the increase of gentrification, it’s important for us to remind the new comers of all the culture and history that Harlem posses.
How can the artist survive during the Trump era?
Our survival during this time of “Making America Great Again” (sarcasm) hinges on not being afraid to speak our truth, by expressing our experiences and voicing our opinions and not holding back. We will not only survive, but also thrive during this time. Motivation comes in so many shapes and forms; many of the best works of art have come from angry feelings during bad times. As a creative person I feel like these times allow us to voice our opinion and feelings that much louder as a collective or as an individual, which will only allow us the artist to survive that much longer.
What is next for This Respek Wear?
That’s a great question and one that I can only answer this way. If you were to ask me that same question 10 years ago, I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to answer it. The reason is because I feel like there is so much more in store for This Respek Wear. I’m going to continue to follow what has brought me here, which is to create thought provoking; dope fashion and art work and remain true to myself.