As of late, the nation’s eyes have been fixed on Chicago for both positive and negative reasons, most notably the Drill music scene (Chief Keef, King Louie) and the intense gang violence it was born from. The real question is, what will the city and its inhabitants do with all of this attention. A few months ago, we profiled Max Sheridan, who runs Melange Clothing. Through Melange, I was introduced to Nineteenth Letter and Sergio Scott, and quickly reached out. Nineteenth Letter has boomed onto the scene with their very popular “Tabloid” t’s, currently stocked at white hot retailer Vfiles. I sent Sergio some questions, and he was kind enough to clue me in on the current scene in “Chiraq,” how he linked up with Melange and why everyone needs to dress more like themselves, and less like Kanye and A$AP Rocky.
The Incorporated: What is your history? School? Experience? How did you get into fashion?
19th Letter: I was born in Chicago and I was raised out on the outskirts of Chicago. Ive always loved art, ive been drawing since the age of 2. I have BFA in Graphic Design from Columbia College Chicago (Class of 2007). I’ve worked for a direct marketing agency and two printing companies. I’ve always been into fashion. I started out designing Bulls championship shirts out of fabric paint when i was 8 years old with my mother. I custom painted jeans, shirts, and hats in college. I really wanted to start a line years ago but didn’t because i didn’t want it to come across as gimmicky. I wanted it to have a timeless appeal. So this year, I helped a friend out design pieces for her line and she kept asking me why i didn’t have a line already. I figured that now was the perfect time to launch it.
What is your role at 19th Letter?
I am the CEO and Creative Director for the line.
TI: Where does Nineteenth Letter get its inspiration from?
19: I get inspiration from everything that inspired me growing up…different art styles, 90s clothing brands, sports, news publications. I’m the type of person that draws inspiration from any and everything.
TI: Where are you from/located? How does that effect your clothing?
19: I’m from Chicago and it has had a huge impact on my clothing. Chicago doesn’t have it’s own style identity like New York or Los Angeles, which is a shame since we are one of the top 5 metropolitan cities in the United States. My main reasoning for starting the brand was to give Chicago it’s on style identity. People here will support and buy your clothes, it just has to look good. I want to make clothing that caters to anyone’s tastes.
TI: How do you feel about the young men’s fashion scene these days?
19: I feel like there are too many clones in the fashion industry these days. Too many people are afraid to be themselves and instead want to look like Ye or A$AP Rocky. I feel like the industry needs more innovation. People need to get away from gimmicks and start being themselves and wear clothes that displays their personality. Conformity is lame.
TI: Where do you hope to take the brand?
19: I hope for the brand to be thought in the same regard as Supreme or Bape. I would love to build a cult following here in Chicago, similar to what Leaders 1354 has become. I figure with a large fanbase i can use my clothing to educate people. To not take life for granted, that Chicago can be more than just a warzone, things of that nature.
TI: Anything big coming up? New releases?
19: We have a series of Americana themed tees coming out in the spring. That’s something i’m excited for to release. We’re also going to drop the Skybox Jersey in the SS14, along with matching shorts. We also have a batting practice jersey planning to release.
TI: How important is social media/ the internet to your success? What is your favorite?
Social Media has been EVERYTHING in the promotion for the line. I’ve gotten the word out about pieces via Facebook, I get advice from the Luxury and Fashion group on there. I’ve made solid friends through that group. I met Myke from Astro Urbanity, Max from Melange, Dominick Giachetti (who did the Godspeed jerseys), and Darien Bruze (Who designed that East vs West collection) through there.Theyre all cool people and have given me alot of advice. I’ve also met alot of people through IG, such as alot of my models and Ruth G from Been Trill.
TI: What is your “Mona Lisa”? Favorite thing you have created?
19: Mona Lisa piece? Hmm…That’s a hard one. Gotta say the Tabloid Tee because that was my breakthrough piece, what put me on. I also really love the Regal tee, because i loved that mural so much growing up. It’s always been a symbol of black pride, something that is slowly dying.
TI: How did you link up with Max and Melange clothing? What do you think about the Chicago fashion scene?
19: I met up with Max via Facebook and the Luxury and Fashion group. We had a similar vision so we started working together. He wanted his first piece to make a huge splash, so we worked on the Coogi Drip tee, which was a smashing success. I think the Chicago streetwear scene needs fresh life in it. The money kids spend on Bape, Diamond, and Supreme can help our local streetwear brands and we can work together to put Chicago on the fashion map.
TI: How did you get your clothing in Vfiles? How much exposure has that brought to your brand?
It’s a funny story how Igot my stuff into Vfiles. Ruth Grcua from Been Trill is also a model for Vfiles, so she saw my tee on IG and wanted it bad. So I sent her a tee and she naturally loved it. She rocked it and posted a pic on IG with her posted with Heron Preston. She then put me in touch with Zach from Vfiles, because I told her how much I wanted my stuff in their store. So I sent him a tee for him to check out the quality and then he too loved it. They then placed a order for the Tabloid and Weekly World News tees and matching shorts and the rest is history