When you first hear the words ‘The Big Mix’ it stirs instant curiosity! What’s in the mix? How big is it? Maybe I shouldn’t miss this? Well you shouldn’t, and everything about this event is defining the future of fashion in Charleston. We all know and love high fashion and it’s become our forte as a city, but the streetwear movement completes the circle and raises our validity as a progressive destination of style! Of course, where there is progressive style, there is StylePublic!
Yep! We have our stamp all all over this and are happy to be on the roster of supporters! But what is The Big Mix you are still wondering? Let’s let the founder and mastermind (and occasional StylePublic guest Official) behind this brilliance tell you in his words!
Meet KJ Kearney:
« Define the words ‘Big Mix’
The BIG MIX is a play on Charleston Geechie colloquial verbiage. “MIXX” is sort of a catch-all phrase that can mean anything! From another person (“That’s my lil’ MIXX right there”!) to an activity (“Y’all MIXXING tonight?”). My goal was to create an event that had roots in my heritage, but could also play on a bigger stage. The BIG MIX makes sense to all sides: those from the city that are familiar with Geechie culture and dialect and those unfamiliar with the culture but that understand the concept of the event.
« Who gave birth to this event and why?
My writing was getting me invited to parties and releases in NYC and LA, but once they found out I was in South Carolina, the communications always got cut short. Not in a rude way but just in a “Oh, I thought you lived around here/see ya when we see ya!” kinda way. I was venting with my homie and former business manager, Khalil, telling him that I wish we had something Agenda Tradeshow-ish in the South. I said (half jokingly) that I should come up with my own thing. He said I should go for it. I told my parents and they said the same. The rest, as they say, is history.
« Who are the ride or die-hards behind this?
As far as the idea for the BIG MIX is concerned, I would say the people that were supportive from the beginning up to this current point would be my parents, my brother Marcus, my homies Ericka Parker, Black Dave, and Matt Monday. Larry Luk from We Are The Process, Taji Alston of Tiger Paw Clothing, Courtney Jefferson of Avant Garde, Elizabeth Bowers who wrote a lovely piece on the BIG MIX in the Charleston Scene, and of course you. There have been many people that have shown various levels of support—and I thank God for all of them—but those names I gave have been down over the last three years of me trying to build this. Ask me this question three years from now and maybe I’ll have a different answer…
« What were the highlights from the last Big Mix? What’s new for the next one?
I ran the H1GHER LEARNING blog for over five years. In that time I made a lot of contacts, gained a lot of support, trust, and goodwill from my readers and brands—but having 16 independent companies come down to Charleston and over 200 attendees show up because of their belief in what I was trying to accomplish was and still is the highlight for me. I finally was able to realize that I wasn’t alone in my beliefs that the South, and the Carolinas in specific, could be the next viable hotbed for streetwear and youth culture. The main difference in this BIG MIX and the last is the brand matrix. The first one was 80% brands from OUTSIDE of South Carolina and North Carolina. This time it’s the reverse. What this tells me, again, is that we’re on to something and there are many independent brands and entrepreneurs in the Carolinas looking for THIS specific kind of outlet.
« What is streetwear? How does it fit into the world of fashion?
Streetwear is a horrible term to me. Only because 99% of the people in streetwear, whether producers or consumers, aren’t REALLY in these streets! (haha) But unlike other fashion genres, you don’t have to have a lot of money to make it—I mean, that would help—but it’s not a prerequisite. Basically I think of streetwear as the playground basketball of fashion. Its low barrier of entry means that anyone can play, but just like in streetball, there are players with REAL game and just hacks out there thinking they got the glow—just taking up space ya know? A couple “players” (aka brands) do take the next step and become professionals, but for the majority it’s a creative outlet. But I love that “equal opportunity” approach.
« What’s your personal streetwear flavor (as in your wardrobe)?
As I’ve gotten older it has definitely changed. I was a REAL tee shirt-and-sneakers guy when I first got in. Over time, much like the rest of the streetwear industry, I’ve expanded my wardrobe. So instead of consuming sneakers, I’m buying wing tips (Johnston & Murphy FTW). I still love accessories but I’m buying things like pocket squares and bow ties instead of sneaker laces or fitted caps. But if I had to label my style, I’d call it “Sophisticated Ignorance.” Streetwear staples (snapbacks/camo shorts) combined with menswear aesthetics like bow ties, pocket squares, loafers!
« What do you love and hate about the current state of streetwear?
Not to beat a dead horse but I love the democratic, all-takers approach to the game. Anyone, regardless of income or location, can take part and make moves. But what I hate (and I’m only using that word because of how the question was phrased) is the LACK OF WOMEN IN STREETWEAR. Streetwear is definitely a male-dominated sport that’s become a bunch of dudes trying to out-dress other dudes. Like before, guys got fresh to impress the ladies, now they go out thinking “Imma kill dudes with this outfit!” like, they get dressed with the purpose of making other men jealous. Word?
And going to streetwear events is certainly a recipe for a major sausage party. Why more guys don’t try to involve women is BEYOND me. Especially since WOMEN are much more apt to spending their discretionary income on things like clothing and accessories. Plus they smell so good! (haha) That’s one thing I hope continues with the BIG MIX this year. We had a lot of young women show up (and BUY) to the first one and that’s always a good sign that you’re doing God’s work! lol
« What celeb has the best streetwear game going right now?
I wouldn’t know. I don’t keep up with stuff like that. Although I do believe that if you’re trying stay fresh in the streetwear game, do the EXACT OPPOSITE of what professional athletes are doing. Most of them either can’t dress or don’t dress themselves. They certainly aren’t usually on the cusp of what’s bubbling in the streets and they aren’t loyal to any brand in particular. They just find out what’s hot and have more money to spend on it. By the time they DO find out (i.e. – BAPE, Don Hardy, EVISU, True Religion) they try to compensate by overdoing it which ends up killing the desire of people that consider themselves trendsetters and MADE that stuff hot in the first place. So the movement dies.
« If you were to collab on a streetwear collection, what would you bring to table? Inspired by?
Sneakers first because the sneaker collab is still the HOLY GRAIL of streetwear enthusiasts around the world. Doing that would bring a level of credibility to my brand that I just couldn’t buy. But if I did a clothing collection it would focus on basics and accessories. Stuff people could wear all the time.
« Sneakers VS. Weejuns?
I guess this goes back to your question about my personal style. As I’m getting older, I find that I’m less enthralled with the sneaker itself and am looking for sartorial inspiration in other areas. The Weejun (specifically the BASS Weejun) is an American staple. It think it’s been around since the 1930s. I love the feel of sneakers, the design of them, and especially the efforts that go into marketing them but there is something about the timelessness of Weejuns or wing tips (or Vans or plain white Chucks for that matter) that speak more to the person I’m becoming than any sneaker these days. And to be honest, I just like wearing my Weejuns in situations that you wouldn’t expect. Black guys aren’t usually seen in a shoe like that so THAT appeals to me; add that to rocking them to somewhere like the club and you stand out even more! At the end of the day, we all want to shine a lil’ bit!
« Bonus: As an ode to the streets… give a shoutout!
MAN LOOK: Shout out to everyone that’s trying to live for a living! Shout out to the team of people I have helping me put on the BIG MIX (Andre, Ace, TC, Chris, Tawana, Justin, Jamaal, Shep, & Alvin). Thanks to the Sponsors we already have and the Sponsors that are going to get on once they read this excellent interview. Thanks to the brands that are participating and the people that plan on coming to the BIG MIX! We can’t propel the culture forward without your grassroots participation. Thanks to you, Ayoka for always believing in my pursuits and giving me this platform to spread the word on the BIG MIX. Last but not least, thanks to my parents for never giving up on me. They’ve every reason to do so but for some reason they hold me up with I start slipping. Would NOT be here today without their support–period. If I forgot anyone, my bad.
What: The Big Mix.
When: October 19th, 2013.
Where: YMCA of Greater Charleston. 61 Cannon Street
Want a visual? Check out The Big Mix promo video!
Photos by Courtney Jefferson. Video shot by Black Dave.