The potential is endless for the young, creative Jamaican. For such a small island, the production of art and music is a major component of how Jamaica is represented globally. We've seen this creative process shine time and time again from young Jamaicans across the diaspora. One musician that has expanded her creative expression is KingstonToLA contributor, KAT C.H.R. KAT, along with her partner Nneka Jackson, recently created a new brand of Jamaican streetwear under the label 53WTF53FTW, or 53 for short. 53 takes some of Jamaica's favorite sayings, and food for that matter, and prints it on T-shirts, making it the perfect garment for the creative Jamaican and anyone else that supports the culture. One release that we find adorable is the tee "Give Us This Day Our Daily Breadfruit." A spin on a Christian prayer, popular among old and young Jamaicans. The shirts are cute and comfortable, the sayings are clever and catchy.
53WTF53FTW recently launched their online store and we caught up with KAT and Nneka to learn more about their mission.
KNG2LA: Tell us about the inception of your brand? How did it all come together?
Kat: 53 was born on my balcony in Kingston, in 2012. My good friend, Motza, and I lived together at the time and we would wake up every morning, set up our laptops and weed on the table, and we would work all day on finding ways to express what we wanted to express; without being confined to the constructs of typical Jamaican culture. Motza posted a photo of me, shot by Kwesi Abbensetts, on his Tumblr and the reblogs, comments, and likes rolled in almost instantaneously. So he said "53 likes wtf?!" and I responded by saying "53 ftw!!" So, that's what the number represents. Our realization that if we build it, people will come. If we believed enough in our ideas and our creativity, then we can't lose. We spent the next 3 years cultivating a lifestyle brand, events, and a general following, through showcasing unconventional Jamaican culture. From extreme sports, to tattoos. Motza is an extremely talented and multi-faceted artist. He took all the photos, and we collaborated on all of the 53 merch designs. We recently mutually decided to part ways, on a business level, but the friendship is still going strong. The company is now operated by myself and Nneka Jackson.
Nneka: One of the reasons that 53 inspired me is because it feels like a different kind of cultural movement. As popular as Jamaican culture is, there are still a lot of things that are great about it that fall by the wayside. I think Jamaican culture has been pigeon-holed into this reggae, dreadlocked vibe which leaves a lot of interesting and cool things (particularly the people) out. 53 is an umbrella for all things alternative or strange but still undoubtedly Jamaican.
KNG2LA: What is your creative inspiration behind the designs?
Nneka: The creative inspiration behind 53wtf53ftw stemmed from Motza and Kat being bored with the same old experiences that were going on in Jamaica. All of our friends are artsy weirdos, but most of them rarely get the exposure they deserve. So we decided to make our Tumblr about showcasing Jamaican people, businesses, fashion, and general culture, that represent our mission statement; which is "for Jamaican, by Jamaicans, but not conventionally Jamaican."
KNG2LA: Who is your target audience?
Our company reps for the underdogs of Jamaica who thought they were the only ones doing what they do. If you've ever felt like you don't fit in, this brand is for you. If you've ever gotten a wide-eyed response to you telling someone you're Jamaican, then this brand is for you. If you or your family have left Jamaica and you are living abroad or in foreign lands, but Jamaica is always in your heart, this brand is for you. Even if you just like our merch designs, that's cool too! We just create with the hopes that people will get it and gravitate towards it. Our target audience is anyone breathing who wants to take part in our vision, really.
KNG2LA: Which influencer would you most love to see wearing your brand and why?
There are a lot of people that we would like to see in our shirts. If we could pick anyone on the planet, right now it would be, Grace Jones, Usain Bolt, Jesse Boykins III, Sade, and Lee Scratch Perry. Grace Jones because to us, Grace Jones is one of the original alternative Jamaicans. She kind of pioneered the whole sticking to your guns while being strange and Jamaican. Usain Bolt because his story is empowering and inspiring and we think he would be a true ambassador for what we want 53 to represent. Jesse Boykins III is an amazing artist. We saw him perform live at Afropunk and he was absolutely captivating. He also marches to the beat of his own drum and so it would be a great fit. Sade created her own musical genre and sound. She would get a tee in a heartbeat. And then Lee Scratch Perry, because....Lee Scratch Perry. We would also love to see Kaci Fennel in one of our shirts because we thought she did something special when she represented as Miss Jamaica. But, finally, and probably most importantly, we want people who wear our shirts or take part in our brand to know that the moment you put 53 on, you are an influencer.
KNG2LA: What can we look forward to in the next few months?
In the next few months, we'll be busy rebranding and designing. Our online store will start off with our Breadfruit design but quite soon after, we will be unleashing all of the other dope stuff we have in the arsenal. 100 PERCENT JAMAICAN DOPE SAUCE.
Get your breadfruit tee HERE and stay tuned for more merchandise coming soon.
53WTF53FTW is proudly endorsed by KingstonToLA.com