Freshness Conversations: David Obadia, Co-Founder/Creative Director of BWGH

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“Effortless Cool” is one of the few phrases you think of when you see the designs from BWGH. Still, its full name, Brooklyn We Go Hard, conveys something otherwise. From the minds of David Obadia and Nelson Hassan, BWGH is, first and foremost, a fashion label of incorporation. Though it spells out its love for American streetwear and New York’s hip-hop scene (forever linked to Jay Z’s 2008 song “Brooklyn Go Hard”), the Paris-based brand infuses design elements and forms that are unmistakably European. So is BWGH a high fashion entity with a penchant for streetwear style like Givenchy or Alexander Wang? Its Co-Founder/Creative Director, David Obadia, will tell you flat out: “No.” Obadia will also tell you BWGH isn’t a streetwear brand with aspirations of high fashion like Hood By Air; what BWGH stands for, however, is something more in tune with creativity and beyond the common notions of fashion and its trends. Before the launch of its first collaboration with PUMA, we sat down with the designer to find out the ethos of BWGH…

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Pretty sure you get this question a lot, but where did the name, “Brooklyn We Go Hard,” come from?

BWGH’s name is actually our tribute to the cosmopolitan and multicultural atmosphere of Brooklyn. Since we originally got our start as a collective for young, talented photographers and duplicated their works on graphic tees, we thought the term, “We Go Hard,” was an appropriate description to the special energy we found in youth and creativity.

When one hears the name, “Brooklyn We Go Hard,” the general perception is a brand with a hard-ass attitude. Are there more things you want to convey to your customers?

It is a very expressive name, indeed. It gives the impression that our brand is full of energy and attitude. But I also want people to understand we are more than a catchphrase–that’s why now we use the acronym BWGH more. It refers to a complete brand with a clothing label, a photographer collective, and a magazine.

While there is a certain “rawness” to BWGH’s name, it is quite a different story with your apparel and accessory designs. How do you approach them, design-wise?

First and foremost, we are not a streetwear brand. While the original goal was to mix the inspiration we gained from the streetwear culture with the technical savoir-faire of high fashion, I am now designing each piece–as part of a complete collection with everything from outerwear to accessories–from scratch. This detail-oriented approach on design is very close to my original inspirations since I want [the pieces] to reflect my artistic influences and my point of view on fashion.

Just like in New York, Tokyo, and London, Parisians have their own take on streetwear. How would you describe it?

I think that the Parisians have a more timeless and elegant way of dressing. It means also that they are maybe more shy on their personal interpretation of the trends. Our design reflects this heritage, but we also want to borrow foreign influences. People in New York are closer to the origins of streetwear, with a rougher style, more based on brands and logos, more immediately identifiable. And in Tokyo, people have a very specific energy, a free and innovative vision of style. I get inspired by all these elements when designing my own collections.

We all know of the recent spat between two Parisian icons, Colette and Saint Laurent, over the sale of parody streetwear. Do you think both high-end fashion and streetwear will ever reach a common ground?

I don’t think so. Streetwear and high fashion are based on a completely different level. On one side, the original aura of streetwear brands came from the special energy they shared with the community that came up with them. And from the other side, high fashion’s most valuable aspect is the highly technical savoir-faire of great designers. The only way to reconcile these two worlds is to combine a high level of technical sophistication with the specific energy from the streetwear scene. It does not mean that both will reach a common ground, but that one can learn from the other to achieve a richer balance.

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Speaking of reaching a common ground, there is this BWGH collaboration with PUMA. How did this project come about?

Greg Hervieux, from Black Rainbow, had first recommended me to the director of the “select” department within Puma, one that was in charge of collaborations and relationships with the influencers all over the world. I met the Puma team and we hit it off immediately. Not only did all of us share a common point of view, expectation, and goals, we became good friends as well. And for me, it was such an honor, because Puma was the first sportswear brand to collaborate with prestigious fashion designers like Jil Sander.

Was there a reason behind the blue color scheme?

The blue color palette is a tribute to the work of the American painter Mark Rothko. I admire his use of pure and intense colors and his intellectual approach to painting he developed through the Color Field painting movement. He believed that colors were a true language, and I think it is very true.

Similar to all other BWGH designs, you’ve added numerous elements on this collaborative project with PUMA, from materials to layering. What are some of the details?

On the first shoe we are going to release, I wanted to mix the codes of BWGH with the DNA of Puma. The bouclé knit, on both sides, is our signature. The mottled laces reflect the style and mix of materials I love, and the suede and mesh are more representative of what I’m currently inspired by. It is a little concentrate of BWGH.

Are there other collaborations or exciting projects in the works?

The collaboration with Puma is a long-term partnership. The sneakers, the skateboard and the backpack are just the first drop of a complete wardrobe that will be launched along the 2014 year. Also, we are now working on an outerwear collaboration with a Scandinavian brand. Another project with a very well-known maison de couture is at its very beginning.

And finally, what are BWGH’s plans for 2014? Will there be a flagship store in the near future?

Developing our retail network is one of our most important plans. It is an easier way to deliver our message, by canceling the intermediation with our own consumers. We are currently thinking about the perfect spot, and the way to finance it!

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