Midwest Kids x Xhibition: Interview
X: You've always been somewhat of an industry cross-pollinator, blurring the lines between fashion, music & design. BoF (Business of Fashion) just duped LA as the place to be for successful convergence of creative fields---what made you stay in LA over NYC?
DB of MWK: Growing up in Ohio it was always a dream for me for me to live in New York. The culture and the music drew me in. I lived in New York for 10 years. I’ve been in LA for 3 years now and transition here after here after tour to work as a stylist for Kanye West. Although I never intended to live in Los Angeles, I’ve had so much growth here personally and professionally.
X: Currently, you're working on two brands; your eponymous line as well as Midwest Kids, both of which have slightly contrasting sartorial aesthetics---how do you isolate those ideas? What does Darryl Brown do to keep a clear mind?
DB of MWK: I actually don’t keep a clear mind LOL. For me Midwest Kids and Darryl Brown are based on what I want in my own wardrobe MWK is fun, relaxed, athletic, and I hate to say cozy- but cozy. Darryl Brown represents the working man, but with an elevated feel. Being that they’re in two different lanes it's actually helpful to my creative process. With MWK I can have an idea and know that I can see it come to fruition quickly. With Darryl Brown being a fashion line it presents a different set of challenges and a longer production time so creating a strong and lasting impression with those pieces is important to me.
X: Lately, the industry has been emphasizing the importance and increasingly popular shift to Direct-to-Consumer brands--what made you skip the traditional wholesale model and focus solely on strategic pop-ups for MWK?
DB of MWK: We actually are opening up wholesale this summer but first wanted to build the brand and establish a solid customer base organically for the first 6 months. We plan to do a lot of pop up’s and activations in the midwest this year. By being closer to our communities we can begin to give back.
X: First off, Congratulations on taking over Paris in January during Darryl Browns' showroom debut---can you give us some insight into your upcoming launch with Barney's Japan? Both how it came to be and what the future holds for your namesake collection?
DB of MWK: Thank you! A friend of mine from my Rocksmith days is a distributor in Japan and connected us. They viewed the collection in Paris and placed an order so we launch at Barneys Japan in July 2019. As far as what the future holds for the brand, the journey makes the story better so time will tell.
X: Describe Midwest Kids in just a few sentences. What's essential for us to know and what can we expect to see in seasons to come?
DB of MWK: Midwest Kids is nostalgic for me. The brand represents home, pride, and tradition. You can expect to see a lot of growth with the collections to come and also the Midwest Kids brand outside of apparel.
X: You spent three years working side by side with Kanye as his day-to-day wardrobe stylist---has there been another pivotal moment in your career that pushed you to the level of success you’re at today?
DB of MWK: Every job I’ve had- from my days at the railroad to working for GM, different factory jobs, styling my first client MGK(Machine Gun Kelly), to Rocksmith, Kanye West and then finally releasing my own brand- all of these were pivotal and a sum of who I am today. Moving from Toledo, Ohio to New York opened up the whole world to me.
X: Assuming your career hasn't been all victories, was there a moment where you thought you wouldn't make it? We've all experienced external, how did you turn that into a positive propelling you to success?
DB of MWK: Honestly every day I think of that. I’ve had so many ups and downs and I know life is a journey so I use that as my fuel every day, it keeps me hungry. I still have so far to go but I’m very grateful and appreciative of where I’m at in life now.
X: You and your team have profoundly impacted the once seemingly negative portrayal of the fashion community in the Midwest--any final words for aspiring designers or fashion industry professionals coming out of the MW or similarly less fashion-centric regions? How does one immerse themselves without being in the center of it all?
DB of MWK: I always tried to live by the model of “If you build it, they will come”. If there’s something you’re really passionate about, build it. Stick with it and know there’s going to be a lot of sacrifices along the way. I don’t feel like there is a formula to this- we all have different stories. But the end goal is some form of success, doing what you love, and being in a better position than you were before.
X: What are two things you must eat/see/do when you’re back in Toledo? Do you have a favorite Ohioan meal?
DB of MWK: SEE: My mother. DO: I always hang out the barber shop. Both my brother and one of my closest friends are barbers so we always post up and catch up with everyone. FAVORITE OHIOAN MEAL: Netty’s and Ginos pizza in Toledo are my childhood classics so definitely them or my family’s home cooked food.