- Words Josh Clubbe
Daily Paper's co-founder and design director, Abderrahmane Trabsini, on the brand's community, ties to music and new collection.
It’s no secret that there’s a seamless link between fashion and music. Fashion weaves into music and music threads into the inspiration of fashion – it’s a beautiful cycle. From an early age, I’ve been interested in fashion brands and the level of detail that goes into the conceptualisation of collections. Both my love of hip-hop and fashion comes to life in Amsterdam streetwear brand Daily Paper’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection – a true ode to the lifestyle of the genre, showcasing notions of nostalgia and contemporary feels. There’s something for everybody, and of course, the popular brand are always representing the African diaspora across its line. Founded in 2012, initially as a blog, Daily Paper has seen a meteoric rise internationally, and those to thank for its presence are founders Abderrahmane Trabsini, Hussein Suleiman and Jefferson Osei.
I’ve had an invested interest in Daily Paper ever since I saw it on the famous YouTube show ‘Gasworks’, a few years ago. The curiosity of seeing a brand logo I wasn’t yet acquainted with was starting to eat away at me, and bit by bit I started to see it more often. The creative, the visual output and the integrity of the brand always shines through.
Can you talk about how you’ve been able to take the popularity of the brand from 2012 in your stride, to develop to the powerhouse that it is today?
We started in 2012, like just five t-shirts. Now we have three stores in Amsterdam, New York and London and around 90 people working for us across menswear and womenswear. I think the key is being consistent and showing people progression. It’s very important for us to build a community, to represent people that represent like minded people like us. It’s not our brand, it’s a brand for the community, it’s for the people.
As a trio, what’s the breakdown of roles, do you individually oversee different elements and then come back to the table to feed back?
At the beginning of the brand, we set rules for ourselves. I was the creative guy, the designer, Hussein, was more on the marketing side and Jeff started with sales and is very invested in the community and our activities around the world. I started as a designer, on Illustrator all the time trying to figure out how this clothing thing works. I’m design director, as well as co-founder, so I barely touch my laptop, I just coordinate. I see myself as a conductor, I got a band that makes the music.
Nice! So you’re absorbing everything as your influence…
My brain doesn’t stop. It’s ‘cause it’s constantly thinking, even before I go to sleep I’m thinking about my ideas. When I really like working on a collection, I wake up quite early, like 6am, because the motor is still turning, but I love what I’m doing, I love my job and I love getting inspired. It just sucks that you can never live by the moment because when it drops, you’re already two seasons ahead.
It must be difficult balancing your preference sometimes, with the strategies you have in-place?
So often. I find this when convincing my business partners. It starts with the product “Do you guys feel it?” Their approval is very important. Most of the time they like it. I love getting feedback, that helps me see things differently. When you’re in the process, sometimes you don’t see certain things. That’s what I have with my design team when they present me ideas. At the end of the day, we all have the same goal and that’s making nice products that have a beautiful story to tell.
I was watching a BBC interview a while ago and it would be great to hear the story of the logo again, as it’s highly distinctive but also represents the brand origins incredibly well.
The logo is a Maasai Shield, it’s from the nomadic tribe in East Africa, Kenya, and the shield represents nomads. We feel like we’re modern nomads. We’re immigrants from Morocco, Somalia and Ghana and we grew up in Amsterdam and we also travel a lot. I’m in New York now, last week I was in London, the week before I was in the Dominican Republic, two weeks before I was in Ghana, Dubai – that’s why we call ourselves modern nomads, because we feel the shield is a representation of us as the brand.
With a pan-African heritage, and by you always paying homage to the roots of the brand narrative, do you feel this allows you to cut through in the fashion world from a more authentic and ownable angle?
We’re showing the world that we created a brand on our own, it reflects our household of three founders having a similar background. This means we can celebrate the beauty of our heritage in a positive and wearable way. We’re fusing traditional African references with contemporary designs. We’re kind of translating our heritage into clothing; modern day pieces that you can wear every day, that you can be proud of. It’s the substance that makes the brand beautiful.
As Daily Paper becomes a bigger conglomerate, there may be less of those personal relationships. What are the important elements to ensure that you’re continuing to keep that close-knit relationship you have with your fans?
It’s not very easy now with the pandemic still going on, but by doing events, doing offline events, inviting your community to them and having a relationship with new and established talent, we want to give a stage to a new generation. We want to scout new talent and give a platform to those people. For example, we do pop-ups in places where our brand is not accessible. Every December, we do a pop-up in Ghana, because we see, okay, it’s popping in West Africa. However, shipping there is expensive and challenging. We try to bring our brand to those people. I feel our community in Europe, US and UK is kind of growing, but we also want to give back to our continent. It’s very important for us to do more stuff in Africa, like we recently built a skate park with Surf Ghana and Off-White – RIP Virgil. Our mission now is to give back to the continent that represents the brand and inspires us the most.
The SS22 collection is fire, and it adds another dimension to your brand portfolio. Can you talk to me about what those initial conversations were like when you came to the drawing board for the new collection?
Daily Paper has co-existed with Hip Hop since the brand’s birth in a way. We grew up listening to it and when we started Daily Paper as a blog, we were documenting street culture and artists in our surroundings as a source of inspiration. For our people, we wanted to dedicate this collection. Music inspires us a lot and we do a lot of collaborations with musicians. Now it was time for us to dedicate our main collection to music. It came out great, it’s a nostalgic and recognisable story. It’s like everybody will get it and I feel when you see the story in the clothing, it makes sense.
As soon as I saw it, it gave me that crossover from the 90s to early noughties. With it being heavily inspired by hip-hop, what is the era specifically when you came to Ideate?
I think 90’s hip-hop – the Jay Zs, the Tribe Called Quests, the NAS, Missy Elliott, all that stuff. LL Cool J. These are types of people, and to this day, we still listen to them.
Because the brand is evolving, I feel with the latest collection, you have delved deep into historic touch points. How important do you feel it is to incorporate street history – often found in music – to develop a newer look?
One of my favourite Nigo quotes is “the future is in the past”. I feel like we always look at the past, even with the heritage of the brand – we try to make it Afrofuturism. We always look at what’s happening now and what’s happening in the future. In terms of clothing, it always reverts to vintage. It’s a trend now, then it’s not a trend and all of a sudden it’s a trend again – like now for example, with those Avirex type jackets, we made one for our Fall Winter 22 collection, with the patch, it’s a full leather jacket. Yeah, it’s just looking at the past and seeing how you can make a new version. It’s a combination of trying new, crazier silhouettes, but also looking at your own wardrobe, like what have you been wearing? What can I do differently?
We spoke at length; we were in full flow, letting our brains fly. We both triggered each other into different conversational avenues throughout the interview, to a point where we both had to be objective and bring it back. The enthusiasm, the work ethic and charisma of Abderr are the elements of our chat that shine through the most, as well the fact the brand are now playlist curators on Apple Music. I wish the best for Daily Paper. Keep doing your thing Hussein, Jeff, Abderr and the wider Daily Paper team.
“I enjoyed working on this collection a lot as hip-hop has always been, and still is, a big inspiration to me. The influence of hip-hop and its messaging had a significant impact on how Daily Paper came to life. First through telling stories around street culture in Amsterdam on our blog, and later translated into the fashion brand we are today”.
– Abderrahmane Trabsini (Co-Founder, Daily Paper)