Coup d’etat Brooklyn is more that just another line of hoodies and tees. Look a little deeper and you’ll find a message that goes way beyond the ‘get rich or die tryin’ mentality of many fledgling clothing labels.
Clutch: How did the name Coup d’etat Brooklyn come about?
Rasu: Coup d’etat means “a sudden blow or change of state” in French and is more commonly known as a “sudden military overthrow of a government.”
Daoud: I initially came up with the name because we were tired of the state of fashion choices out there. We decided to create an alternative, while staging a takeover that better represents our social standards and ideals. The term Coup d’etat seemed to fit perfectly.
Rasu: Brooklyn was added because it is where the concept was born and as a brand we are inspired by life.
Daoud: We also share the idea that when you want to see change you have to change yourself first and then your community and so on, hence the name coup d’etat BROOKLYN.
Clutch: What’s the message/vision behind your label?
Rasu: The concept of our brand is consistent with the term coup d’etat and what it stands for. Our mission is to overthrow and takeover the bullshit that’s being portrayed in the fashion industry. We feel we can provide consumers with the substance that the industry is lacking. As we keep the line aesthetically appealing, we’ve taken an oath to stick to our original concept while designing and never compromising our company’s integrity just to make sales. Our tagline says it all: “Live to Change Something.” We aspire to provoke thought or an emotion through our designs. This is consistent with lifestyle behind the brand and our products are an artistic expression of how we see the world.
Clutch: Socially conscious doesn’t always equal profitable. Why do you think your line is so popular?
Daoud: Because, people get it, they want it and there’s a hunger for something new. There are a lot of brands out there, but how many are about anything that consumers can take pride in supporting? If you are a stylish person and want to wear a shirt that says anything positive or responsible your options are limited. The beauty of what we do is merge style and awareness into all of our designs. It’s like the best of both worlds for fashion forward individuals…you get to be fly and make a statement at the same time.
Rasu: There are folks out there who are looking to wear what represents them socio-politically and aesthetically. There is a market for the cookie-cutter but on the contrast, we are geared towards a niche market of the “conscious” consumer.
Clutch: One of your most recognizable items is your ‘teach the babies’ t-shirt. Can you tell us the concept behind the tee and why you think the message resonates with so many people?
Daoud: That shirt is the one that surprised us most, because it spanned across all demographics. On any given day you can find a 60-year-old white man on the Upper West Side (New York City) wearing that shirt or a skater kid down in SoHo wearing it, the guy in the club with his bling jewelry wearing this shirt. Everybody has truly embraced those shirts so it’s been crazy for us. We realize that the message is strong one that a lot of people can connect with.
Rasu: It’s a universal message that is not geared to one particular race or social standing. The state of society is in disarray and people are calling for a change. This shirt was our contribution to change by providing an explicit message stating the solution for a universal problem.
Daoud: We all see the affects of the lack of social responsibility, the need for leaders and example-setters. The negative messages constantly being put out by the media and fashion are driving everything the wrong way. If you look at what young people are doing, there is a decline in willingness to excel and the amount of effort they need to put into their grades. Rasu and I see it all around us, so we teach the children. In our neighborhood, we’re like big brothers to the kids on our block. We take them on trips, give them books to read, we spend hours talking about school and take them with us when doing business, if we can. We come from a school of thought that a neighborhood raises a child and people have forgotten that. “Teach the Babies” is just a reminder to people of what one of your first and only jobs is in the world; to share what you have with the people that are younger than you so they can learn from your experiences. The goal is for young people to avoid making the same mistakes that you made or that you’ve been witnessed other people making.
Clutch: How did you get started in the business?
Daoud: I have a history with a lot of the people that started the trends in the SoHo, L.A. and Tokyo scenes. I was around New York City when Union first opened and I know the guys from Fiberops, 360 Toy Group, aNYthing, Supreme and SSUR. I was hanging out with all of them before any of those stores opened, except for Union. I have relationships with that scene and watched it flourish. I worked at Triple Five in the early stages when it went from Ludlow to Lafayette and it’s like I’ve always been around that scene of artists in social settings.
Coup d’etat was launched because I got to a point where I wasn’t happy with the t-shirt options available at the time. After going abroad and being exposed to a more global media that included a broader and more informative view on the current affairs of the world, I became dissatisfied with the propaganda being spewed through the media here and the shallowness that was being expressed domestically by artists and designers. I started creating some designs for t-shirts that coincided with what we stand for and at the same time held an aesthetic that reflected our style and fashion sense. That’s where the name coup d’etat Brooklyn came from and that’s how the brand started.
Rasu: I saw the designs he came up with and they were dope so we thought it could be profitable. We later decided to create the brand coup d’etat Brooklyn. Once the brand was launched we established our roles. Daoud is the brand’s creative director, covering everything from designing to brand identity. I serve as the brand manager, handling all of the business aspects of the company: sales, marketing, accounting, etc.
Clutch: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Daoud: Balance. We are looking to add some balance to the options that are widely available to our market. Most brands out there lack substance and thrive off of exploiting the plight, tragedy, and flavor of the urban community.
Rasu: We’ve both have been known as stylish cats, as well as brothers who are in tune with our community. In many ways we are inspired by everyday life. We basically take things we come into contact with that stimulate us and express them artistically through our designs.
Clutch: Can we look forward to seeing any women’s wear being designed under your label any time soon? *crossing fingers*
Rasu: Yes! We are one of the few menswear brands that design pieces for women. Our entrance into the female market started with our Malcolm and Ali shirts. Later we produced the “Teach The Babies” and “LoveMeOrLeaveMeAlone” designs for the ladies. Our best sellers for women have been the “Teach The Babies” tees and our “LoveMeOrLeaveMeAlone” hoody. What we’ve seen is that there aren’t many brands outside of the chain stores making tees or hoodies for women.
This Fall, you can expect to see “Stop Getting Arrested, “Peace Unity Love & Having Fun” and the reintroduction of our ever popular “Teach The Babies” tees for women. In the future we plan on expanding our options for women but for now, we are primarily a menswear line.
Clutch: How do you feel about the labels that are placed upon the type of fashion you produce ( i.e. street wear, urban, etc.) ?
Daoud: I think the whole idea of urban fashion relates back to hip-hop culture and the things that started taking place in New York, where people were taking things and appropriating them to their lifestyle. Ralph Lauren is one of the best examples of that, so is Gucci. This is what made brands like Nike and Adidas big. “Street wear” and “Urban” are labels placed upon a lifestyle by corporate entities. It’s like the people in the corporate world needed to name it something, because they had to claim it so they can market and sell it. It wasn’t theirs for a while and I feel that’s where the term street wear came from. Styles are being commoditized. People are being sold style and looks, and being force-fed a standard of “cool.”
Rasu: Honestly, a lot of brands are “urban wear” labels, but now the term “urban” is a curse word in fashion. To combat this, the industry has simply remixed the term urban and labeled it “street wear.” It’s a new and “improved” version of what was considered “urban” at one time. With urban being somewhat of a negative term for some in the fashion industry, people call it street wear to feel better about their brand.
Is Coup d’etat street wear? The reality is people are going to put us in the category, but we don’t consider ourselves street wear. We consider ourselves a fashion forward brand that with aspirations that extend beyond street wear. We are an independent brand that started off with t-shirts and have gradually added different pieces to our arsenal. Any grassroots brand will start off with t-shirts because it’s the easiest way to get your foot in the door. I think when you say the term street wear it puts my mind in a category of a whole bunch of people doing the same thing and biting off each other. That’s what street wear is to me. There are some hot lines, but I think the hot lines are watered down by people that bite them.
Clutch: Does the state of hip-hop today influence your designs or motivate/discourage you in any way?
Daoud: We’re hip-hop heads. Hip-hop was the first music that I fell in love with. I remember when I had to stay up until 4:00 a.m. to hear hip-hop music on the radio, because it was the only time it got played, for the most part. In 2007 the culture is being commoditized so all the violence that is being irresponsibly portrayed and glamorized, is having a devastating affect on our youth and sadly many older people. Popular culture has a lot to do with our designs. It motivates me to “live to change something” and many of the ideas are sparked in reaction to the present state of things. What you see on our designs are born out of our dissatisfaction with the social climate and the intent to fill the spaces and gaps that are created by the imbalanced subject matter of the hip-hop industry. Examples of this are our “Poison Hip-hop” shirt from Summer ’06 and the “Peace, Unity Love and Having Fun” shirt that will be released for Fall of ’07.
Rasu: As I stated before, we are individuals who are very in tune with our surroundings. We live in Bedstuy Brooklyn so of course, Hip-Hop has a strong presence in our community (whether it be negative or positive). In order for us to effectively communicate with the youth, we must speak their language, and use analogies that resonate with them. Designs like “Poison Hip Hop” and “LoveMeOrLeaveMeAlone” are some early examples of incorporating Hip-Hop in our collection. On the flip side, we also use influences of Hip-Hip during its golden age to celebrate the culture.
Clutch: Can you share any future plans for Coup d’etat Brooklyn?
Daoud: The future of Coup d’etat definitely includes more groundbreaking designs and more teaching the babies. We plan to expand the line to include more cut and sew garments. CDTBK is not only a brand, it’s our lifestyle. We plan to turn it into a brand that everyone can build a lifestyle around.
Rasu: This Fall you will see jackets, hoodies, crew-necks, sweatshirts, and our staple piece, t-shirts. We can only get better with time and we continue to create from our hearts. Just as the world continues to change, CDTBK will continue to create. Our motto is “live to change something,” and we will continue to produce clothing for those who believe this to be true.
Photo Credits: Alexandra Cepedes, Berman Fenelus