Meet Accendi: Chicago’s rising apparel company and Artist collective

What’s going on guys, go ahead introduce yourselves

What’s up everyone, we are Accendi. I James Cannella am the owner of Accendi and Color Of The Day, while DJ Diabetes is a Graphic Designer/DJ/Music Producer/and Director of Operations at Accendi.

How was life growing up for you guys?

James: Life was pretty solid growing up. I come from a divorced family as an only child, so I definitely had more alone time than a lot of people. My parents pushed me to take risks and pursue what I wanted to do, which I think instilled a productive mindset in me from early on. 

DJ: My childhood growing up was pretty stable. I came from a divorced family as well. Just like James, my parents enabled me to try things with my creative career, however they never thought nor approved of Art as a career; it was more like just a hobby.

When did you guys begin finding your creative talents?

James: As a kid I would always mess around with various creative mediums, but never took it too seriously. I began to get more serious around 2014. Graphic Design was my medium of choice.

DJ: I got into my creative niche around the 7th-8th grade. It all first started with my friends skateboarding, I would learn film alongside them and make videos of my own. Around the same time I got into Photoshop and Graphic Designing, competing in online competitions for fun, never taking it seriously. Then in High School, I got interested in music production and djing as well, turning one of my rooms into a recording studio for my friends. And now have shifted my focus primarily on graphic design, but taking it a little more serious this time around.

James talk to us about Color of the day

James: Color Of The Day started off as a side project, and while I thought it was definitely a unique idea at first, I didn’t really expect it to get as big as it has. It started off with some brainstorming one day. I thought the way Twitter lays out photos side by side would look good aesthetic-wise, and would work well for the idea of posting a color from a new artist’s work everyday. Some of the main ideas I had going into making it was to make something with practical use for designers by posting the specific hex code of a color, showcasing exceptional use of color by artists and brands, and creating a network for followers to find new artists and see their favorite artists showcased.

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How important is color in design?

I think everything is personal preference really. I like earth tones, and some people like strictly black and white, so I don’t know if it’s the most important component of designing, but I will say that color influences the overall direction of a design. The most important thing about color is to remember that it evokes emotion and can create a certain feeling, and using that with intention releases the potential of how you can use it to communicate the message you intend.

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When did you begin to start taking your design work more seriously?

In 2013-2014 I would say. This was the time when I was getting into graphic design heavily, because I wanted to start my own brand and needed to make a logo, marketing materials, apparel designs, etc. In terms of album artwork, I had done some design work for close friends in the past, but the day Katie Got Bandz tweeted that she needed cover art for Drillary Clinton 2, I instantly made something up and we sent it to her. Then after she told us she was using it, we kept in close contact with Katie and started doing all of her album art and flyers for the years to come. Doing that first cover for Katie really helped us gain a ton of exposure, having it featured/premiered on huge blogs, which also boosted our confidence and credibility allowing us to work with even bigger artists.

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Last spring, James, you tweeted that you were creating one new design composition per day to sharpen your skills. Are you still?

Yeah, but more behind the scenes I would say. I design every single day, and will continue to do that. I really take the “10,000 hours” mindset to heart, and that shapes a lot of what I do. Between running a business, working towards a double major at an honors college, working with clients on freelance projects, etc., I can’t always get the time I want to work on personal projects, but I think that mindset of designing everyday I also just believe you have to respect creativity. If you want to make a living off your creative passions, you have to really approach it as a profession and not just a hobby.

Who are some people you have been able to design for?

We have been able to design for a ton of people. Between album artwork and concert flyers, we’ve done work for everyone from Supa Bwe, Warhol.ss, Lil Durk, and Famous Dex, to Ugly God, Rich The Kid, and Rae Sremmurd just to name a few. More of our showcased design work is up at Accendihighergoods.com/album-art-flyers/, in addition to the projects on the picture below here.

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Talk to us about your brand, Accendi

Accendi was created almost three years ago now (February 2014). The name Accendi is a Latin word that translates to “illuminate”. Our message as a company was to always reach the next level and make a conscious effort to advance past previous limits. We are focused on raising the bar higher and higher for the brand, the culture, and ourselves. At the beginning, we had different ideas of what we wanted to do with Accendi, but we knew we wanted to create a clothing company with meaning. As the owner, I know I (James) was getting tired of the same overpriced and overproduced shirts at Pac Sun and Zumiez, and knew I had ideas to raise the standard. As time went on, we’ve broadened our scope from being just a clothing company, to now being more of an artist collective. In parallel, our work has translated into other mediums, such as design work, creative direction, and videography.

In the two years how have you seen Accendi grow as a brand?

We have grown in a few different ways. On the sales side, we have made sales in every state in the US, and across 10 different countries as of the end of 2016: U.K, France, Israel, Denmark, Austria, Australia, Canada, Germany, Norway, and Ireland. In terms of networking, we’ve grown and connected with tons of new artists of different mediums across the globe. Internally, we’ve pushed our own limits in terms of the quality of our products and design work, and continue to do so.

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What has been your guy’s favorite collection over the years?

DJ: My favorite was the Summer 2016 Collection, the process of creating the lookbook was very different from anything we’ve done before, and I’m a huge fan of the way it turned out in the end. A close second would be our fall/winter collection.

James: The Fall/Winter collection was definitely my favorite so far. I loved the natural color tones and product materials we selected for the collection. Also, my girlfriend, Marisa Valentine, shot the lookbook for the collection and I really loved the way it turned out aesthetic wise.

My favorite pieces from you have been your Synergy tie-dye hoodies. Talk to us the concept behind these.

As a brand, a central goal of ours is to create product with meaning and substance, so we chose three colorways for our first hand-dyed hoodies, each one having a different message behind it. The first color we chose was Indigo. The Indigo pieces of the Synergy © Tie Dye collection are made to symbolize the intuitive and revolutionary power of the indigo children of our generation. The indigo color reflects the energy and movement of every indigo child that is part of the new age we are entering, and we created it as a symbol for the level of higher up consciousness, psychic abilities, and intuitive nature that defines us and puts us on a never-before-seen path of growth and creation on this earth. The second color was Aqua. Our Aqua color was chosen to reflect the metaphysical properties of the aquamarine crystal which evokes the purity of crystalline waters, and the exhilaration and relaxation of the sea. It is calming, soothing, and cleansing, and inspires truth, trust and letting go. The last color was Amethyst. Amethyst was chosen for the third color of our Synergy © Tie Dye collection, and as the name states, these pieces are made to reflect the metaphysical properties of the amethyst crystal. Amethyst is naturally a stone for the higher conscious individual, as it relaxes the wearer into a meditative state that brings out the high frequency energy and helps the elevate to states of being to allow for wisdom and growth. Amethyst is the stone for the third eye and crown chakras, and wearing this color of tie-dye enhances one’s psychic and intuitive abilities, allowing for greater understanding of life.

This past summer you had an Accendi release party. Talk to us about that experience

That was a great time! The show was to solidify our name here in Chicago, not just as a clothing brand, but as a collective as well. We had photographers display their prints, Chicago musicians perform, artists live paint paint skateboard decks, and of course, our clothing on display, all to create an experience across different creative mediums. At times we feel like there’s a lack of connection of what we actually do. Accendi is more than just a t-shirt clothing brand. We are a collective. The show was very fun, especially getting a little too wild towards the end and breaking the stage. We’re definitely looking to do more events like that in 2017.

 With 2017 just beginning, where do you guys see yourself by the end of the year?

We are focused on expanding a lot this year. A lot of the work that we are looking to do revolves around internal improvements. We’re looking to bring in some more designers to our team, as well as get some help with the production aspect of our apparel, since about 90% of all our products are hand made. It’s definitely gotten to the point where we can’t do everything we need to by ourselves, so we’re looking to expand our team. When it comes to the merchandise, we are going to drop a couple more collections, but not as many or as frequently as before. We want to focus on improving our quality, such as getting into cut and sew and experimenting with even higher quality fabrics, before releasing more products.

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Written By: Nicholas Rud

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