What’s going on man, go ahead and introduce yourself
Hey what’s up everyone I’m Chris. I’m eighteen and I’m living in Chicago right now. I’m originally from Boston but moved here a few weeks ago to work on stuff and learn in a new environment.
How was life growing up?
Life was pretty cool growing up. I mean I’ve always just done whatever I wanted. I grew up in Boston and I lived with just my mom. We have this really cool really small house and since my mom works a lot and travels for business and stuff I kind of just grew up being by myself and learning about life from the people I had looked up to on the internet. When I was younger I painted my room black chalkboard so I used to just spend hours drawing on my walls and putting my ideas around the house.
You recently just moved to Chicago. How has your experience been so far?
Chicago is hands down the coolest place I’ve been. Well, been for a long time. I’ve been all over the place in the last year or two but I’ve never actually lived anywhere besides Boston. Chicago is no New York. It’s no London. It’s certainly no LA. But that’s why I love living here. Because it’s something new. I moved here a little while ago. I go to college here. Within the 10 weeks I’ve been here, it has been a very eye opening experience for me. I go out every single day and shoot photos. Sometimes I’ll just go down by the river and walk around and listen to music. My mind is always running. I’m always thinking of stuff and I knew that I needed to be somewhere that the atmosphere matched my mentality. This place never slows down. Ever. And it’s so visually stimulating for me. I love that. I can go one minute to the beach and the next minute be in a bustling city. It’s right there. Everything. Right in front of me. You don’t get that in Boston. And you certainly don’t get the craziness of Chicago in LA. I mean the other day I got to stand amongst ten thousand people outside Wrigley stadium and watch as the Cubs won the world series for the first time in what? 108 years? Then I got to watch the city nearly go up in flames when Donald Trump became president. Craziness. There’s always stuff to do here. But if you weren’t from Chicago you wouldn’t know that. Like I got to be apart of a campaign for Uggs with Vic Mensa the other day. That was tight. I wouldn’t have been able to do that in Boston. I get to wake up, roll out of bed, grab my camera, jump on the red line and the entire city is at my fingertips. All my friends in New York are always so surprised because they just didn’t know what this place was like until I got here. I guess I didn’t either. But that’s half the fun.
(Wrigley- The Night The Cubs Won)
When did you first begin to find out you were creative?
I think I have always been creative, with an entrepreneurial mind. I taught myself Photoshop when I was way younger. I used to make videos with my friends skating and put them on YouTube. I guess that’s what made me so involved with my camera. Everything I was doing had been revolved around my creative sense. I’d say I truly found my creative talents in High School. One day I just like…. Started doing stuff. I realized I had all this talent and ability to create and no one else was doing it. That’s kind of how the world works though. Everyone has talent. I just found mine. I realized what I could do and I just had a vision. I ran with it. I started my brand and took my talents from every single field and put them all together to make one big life project. And bam. It worked. As far as Chicago goes. I’ve doubled my experience and creative mentality. I’m such a thinker here. There’s so much to think about. I just walk down the street in the middle of the day and think about a thousand things. I’ll look at someone and real quick figure out everything they’re wearing. Head to toe. Then I think about how it’s made, what brand it is, who else wears it. Stuff like that. I’m always trying to figure out everything in front of my eyes.
How did you get interested in photography?
I got into photography through my grandfather. Growing up, my grandfather had worked for Canon and I would always spend a lot of time with him. When I was 13 I got a Canon T3i. My mom got me it for when we would go to the skate park. My grandfather taught me the basics then I just figured the rest out by myself. I think the real moment I fell in love with it was when I was fourteen, my mom took me to Paris. When I had down time I would just walk around Paris with my camera. Oh we went to Amsterdam too. I just walked and walked and took photos of everything that interested me. My mom doesn’t do heights. But we were in Paris. I couldn’t not go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I took the elevator to the very top. I put my 8mm fisheye lens on my camera and held it off the side of the tower. The world in front of me, from horizon to horizon, I just took photos. Tons of them. And they were beautiful. I knew in that moment that this is what I wanted to do forever. See the world and capture every beauty that it holds. The thing in my hand could capture a moment in time, I used to tell myself. I love that. One press of a button and I can capture ten thousand emotions. Fifteen thousand words. And twenty thousand stories. All in one photograph. Photography is so tight.
How were you able to develop this huge social media following?
I’ve always just been on the Internet. For me, it all started with Instagram during my freshman year in high school. Right away I just started posting photos of my life and the art I was creating. I never thought of it as a brand. But that’s what it is. Your social media is your brand. You are a brand. We all are. It’s the millennial generation. You’re either a player or a watcher. And if you’re playing the game of the internet, the goal is to brand yourself. Right? Everyone wants people to know who they are. I think I just realized that early on. Towards the end of high school things started to take off. I was traveling a lot and I was just doing stuff that most seniors in high school had only dreamt of. I guess people just admired that and wanted to live this life vicariously through me. That’s cool to me. My goal on the internet is just to prove to people that anything is possible. If I can inspire one person a day, then my job is done. Anything past that is just extra credit to life.
What are some things people could do to develop a following on social media?
Be unique. It sounds cliché, but it’s super important. Scratch that. It’s the most important. People follow you because they want to be apart of your journey. There’s so many different types of pages but if you want to be out there branding yourself, you need to be someone that people want to buy into. I only follow people that I like. I only follow brands I admire. I only follow accounts that I aspire to be more like. Just be someone unique. Make being you the new cool.
With Kanye West being one of your favorite artists, how big of a moment was it for you to shoot Kanye at MSG?
That was a life changing moment. I’ll never forget that day. I was able to be on the floor and shoot Kanye while he was performing The Life of Pablo. It was incredible for me to see. Those photos. That moment in time. Something that will stick with me forever. I stared Kanye right in the eyes while he performed Waves. Cudi behind him. Travis throwing himself around right next to me. Rocky smoking nearly a foot from me. It was just gratifying. I was finally apart of the scene. And those photos, they proved to people that I wasn’t just some high school kid. I proved I was someone. Doing something.
What brands played a major role on your streetwear/fashion influence growing?
Man I love brands. Brands are my favorite thing in the entire world. Brands are pretty much the only thing I care about. It’s so crazy to me. I could talk about brands for hours. Seriously. But I grew up on Supreme. I’ve been into Supreme since I was like 12. I’ve sat outside in SoHo in the freezing cold for hours just to get a hoodie. Just because I love the brand. It’s a cult. And I love being a part of it. Palace, too. I love Palace. I got to go to the Palace Winter release in February in London. Palace and their entire creative team are so inspirational to me. Golf, too. By Tyler. Tyler, The Creator is my idol. I grew up as one of those Odd Future loving kids. OFWG until I die. Tyler pretty much inspired me to get into streetwear. So to see him take a word like GOLF and turn it into such a beautiful brand taught me that anything is possible if you just try hard enough. And FTP too. Zac is such an inspiration to me. I literally work every day on my brand just so later down the road I can hire all my friends and get a crazy warehouse in LA like FTP and just make clothes and ship them out all day.
What made you decide to start a clothing company?
I started making clothes because I wanted to be more than some kid on the internet. Everyone’s cool on the internet. But all these kids with followings, they don’t do anything. I didn’t want to be one of them. I wanted to bring stuff to life. I wanted to make an image. But I wanted to make it something that people could represent. I guess I just started making designs and throwing “OHKAY” on everything and people loved it. I didn’t really know what I was doing at first. I was just making clothes and giving them to my friends. Once I had done it and people liked it, I was like hmmm I could do this for a living. And all of senior year of high school that’s what I did. I just made clothes. Every day. And it got to the point where anything I make will sell. Someone wants it. I don’t even know who. But there’s kids out there that do. And I love that.
Where does the name Ohkay come from?
My IG name was OHKAYCHRIS. When I had first started designing stuff a year ago when I was 17 I just put OHKAY on stuff and called it “OHKAY by Chris”. I couldn’t get the website OHKAY.com because some Casino has it. So I made OHKAYWORLDWIDE.Com and just got a business license for OHKAY Worldwide. I thought it looked cool as a logo and I kept going with it. I always told myself I would stick with OHKAY. I didn’t want to be one of those kids who had five different “companies” or “labels”. That’s lame. No one remembers that stuff.
Talk to us about your pop up shop coming up this week
So basically I’m going to open a store in this big space downtown Chicago. I’ve done two pop up shops in the past. Both were in Boston. They were awesome. I have a big following there so we had people waiting outside the door down the street just to come in and get clothes. A friend of mine who goes to Colombia had been following my brand for a long time. She organizes events and she reached out to me about having a pop up shop. I’ve been working on stuff to release for fall for a long time now. I thought hey why not just do an entire day event. There’s this awesome band called The Slaps and they’re here in Chicago. They’re going to perform. We’re going to have a DJ there during the night time. There’s so many pieces that are for sale. Shirts hoodies flannels coats hats. All that. The entire fall collection. Then it’ll go online the next day. It’s this Wednesday in The Conway Center at 1104 S Wabash Ave. It’s going to be so tight. It’s from 3pm – 9:30. The band is playing at 7. I’m just excited to tell everyone here about the brand and everything that it encompasses. I’m going to be shooting a look book and releasing it and releasing images of all the products the night before so people know what’s in store. But I don’t care about the products as much as I do the people. I want it to be an experience that people enjoy. I want people to be able to come and hangout and check out the clothes and meet each other. I want to bring Chicago creative together on Wednesday. If people leave the event and get to say “man, that was tight” then I’ll be content. And if they come in and get something from this new collection, I’ll be even happier.
Tell me about this lookbook
This was big for me. I got to use budget from the company to book a studio and find real models. In the past I was printing clothes out of my basement back home. Now I’m getting clothes printed by hand in a real facility here in Chicago. So I got to rent out a studio, cast both Jai and Casper, and shoot it with creative freedom. I can’t even explain how happy I am with how they came out. It’s like the project is FINALLY coming together. From designing it in my dorm room to working with the printer to find the exact shades, fabrics, etc. All the way to shooting it and editing it down to the exact color that I’m looking for. It’s not some high school brand anymore. And I couldn’t be any happier about that. As far as the collection goes I just wanted to print clothes that I want to see people wear. Like the Shoot Photos Not People tee; I’m a photographer. Always have been. But now I’m an eighteen year old designer. So I wanted to make something that I knew the photo community would like. As far as the box logos, original logo pieces and branded caps go, I’m trying hard to push the brand and the logo itself. Its so important to gain brand awareness. This is one of those If You Know, You Know brands. But every day that more people see OHKAY, the more people know about the culture. So I needed branded pieces. But I also wanted to expand and prove that I have a sense of creativity within my designs. That’s why I ran with the ADOLESCENT REVENGE piece. It describes us. The Millennial Generation. It speaks for us, through us. And to me that’s so damn important
You recently just got the opportunity to be apart of a campaign with Ugg x Vic Mensa. How was that experience?
That was awesome and a big moment for me as an individual in the industry and a young creative. I’m studying advertising in school and that day in itself was an advertising semester. I learned about the brief, decks, call sheets, and what it takes to put together an ad. I’ve always looked at ads and knew the ins/outs, but that experience really brought it to life. Vic is the man. Seriously. He’s one of the coolest guys in the industry. He pulled up to the shoot in his BMW. Reminded me of High School. Hahah I’ll never forget when he came in and introduced himself to me. He was wearing Balmain pants and the Ugg boots. Like the ones you see on white girls. But the thing was; he made them look iconic. I’ll remember that fit forever. I assisted the entire shoot. From start to finish. I got to see how the entire operation went. I wouldn’t have been able to do such a thing if it wasn’t for Jake Osmun. I’m forever thankful for Jake.
How important is it to be a positive voice for the Millennial?
That’s everything to me. One of the biggest things I care about for my brand is being an influence to the kids my age, younger than me, and even older than me. Like I want people to see that I took five letters, made a brand, and sold over a thousand pieces out of the basement of my house my senior year of high school. I went to London with my best friend and some sixteen year old kid I met on Instagram off of OHKAY money a few days after I turned 18. I got to see the world before I saw a High school diploma. I got to meet the people of my dreams and see more stuff in one day that most kids would kill to see in an entire year. And most importantly, I had a smile on my face the entire time. Anything is possible. I want to teach people that. Hate less and make more. Just do something. Anything. Please. I don’t care how old you are. Do something. Make something. Wake up and bring something to life! For me. For the culture. For yourself. Also, I’ll never be one of those kid who try to flex that they do drugs. That’s not cool. I don’t pop xan I don’t smoke weed I don’t do none of that. It’s not me. I just wake up and make stuff. And I hope people can see that through me and strive to do the same. No matter who they are or where they come from or what they want to do in life.
If you could pick three brands to collab with, what brands would those be?
Vans. I would love to make a shoe. Or two or three. I love shoes. They’re the make it or the break it to the outfit. As far as a streetwear/fashion brand goes, I would do anything to do a colorful cut and sew project with Palace. And lastly, I want to work with Adidas on lightweight streetwear track apparel. Like they wear in London. I’m so inspired by London fashion and culture.
When it’s all said and done how do you want to be remembered?
I just want to be remembered as someone who shifted culture. In some way. I hope that one day someone interviews the next Steve Jobs or Raf Simmons and asks them who inspired them, they say my name. I just want people to remember me as that person who proved to them that anything is possible. That’s all.