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Chicago streetwear gets “treated”
Following the path paved by Leaders 1354 and other nationally-recognized Chicago-based streetwear establishments, Jugrnaut, 427 S. Dearborn St., is gaining local and national notoriety. Justin Bieber was spotted sporting the brand’s Treated Crown hat Jan. 22. The snapback hat, designed in collaboration with Chicago-based creative organization Treated Crew, sparked a national curiosity into the origin of Jugrnaut and Treated Crew.
Headed by Chicago-based emcees Emmanuel “Million $ Mano” Nickerson and Nigel ‘Hollywood’ Holt, Treated Crew is one of the city’s fastest growing collectives. Calling themselves a brotherhood, the Treated Crew’s members are involved in all aspects of their career, from deejaying to rapping to the creative design of their products.
According to crew member Sulaiman Shabazz, Nickerson—who is also Kanye West’s concert deejay—was the mastermind behind the hat’s design. There are three versions of the hat, but the initial design, a black model with green satin underneath the brim, is only available to Treated Crew members. The second design, also sold by Jugrnaut, features a gray and black colorway, baring the word “Treated” above the brim. The third is similar to the initial design, but is now a black satin model.
Hip-hop artists Jay-Z and Kanye West, as well as The Weeknd, a Canadian R&B artist, are among the only outsiders to wear the exclusive black and green model. Bieber sported the newest satin design in a video for his acoustic cover of his song “Take You.” Shabbaz said he’s been offered more than $2,500 on the street for his black and green hat because of its exclusivity.
“It’s a blessing, but it’s also a platform for us to do other things,” he said. “Everybody sees the celebrities that are endorsing it and may see it as a strictly a fashion thing or a music thing, but to us, it’s a respect thing.”
After working in the music industry for over 16 years as concert promoters, rappers and deejays, brothers Roger and Manny Rodriguez, along with long time friend Brian Nevado, grew tired of watching corporate record labels cash in on artists’ concert swag. As a response, the Rodriguez brothers and Nevado jumped head-first into the fashion world, creating Jugrnaut.
Adopting a take on FUBU’s, “for us, by us” motto, Roger Rodriguez said it is beneficial for the seller to be embedded in the streetwear culture in order to develop a concrete consumer base.
“We are the ones investing in and going to those shows, so it’s best if someone benefits from that scene to help maintain its integrity,” Rodriguez said.
Vic Lloyd, owner of Hyde Park-based streetwear retailer, Leaders 1354, an apparel company developed in 2002, agreed with Rodriguez. Though he currently wholesales his merchandise to other stores outside of Illinois and understands it’s natural for businesses to grow with the consumer, he said the authenticity of the streetwear movement depends on who’s selling the merchandise.
“As this consumer grows, the businesses are going to grow and more and more people are going to try to be a part of this business,” he said. “But, in the same breadth, if people are truly, truly into this culture, and are looking to the authenticity of the culture, then they want to buy those brands that are from authentic people.”
Rene’ Valdiviezo III, owner of Chicago Fresh, a local streetwear start-up company, said he admires Roger and Manny’s work within the local streetwear industry and is a supporter of the branding they’ve done thus far. While Chicago Fresh is relatively new to the industry, as it launched in July 2012, Valdiviezo said he believes it is important to create clothes that are accessible to the rest of the world, as well to of these popular musical acts, similar to what Jugrnaut did with the Treated Crown.
“Chicago is doing their own thing,” Valdiviezo said. “Jugrnaut does a great job of doing that. They push out their own beanies, partnerships with other brands, and their stuff is just super original.”
According to Lloyd, as important as it is to remain original, it’s just as important for the current and future developers of the Chicago streetwear culture to allow their brands breathing room to grow and expand beyond the local scene. If not, he said the culture creates a competitive field, with brands fighting for consumer attention.
“[When] everyone tries to get on a worldly stage and out of the Chicago stage is when you’ll really see the culture grow,” he said.
In the near future, Rodriguez hopes Jugrnaut can maintain its originality as well as break out of the local scene. With only five years in the game, Rodriguez said he looks forward to expanding outside of the Midwest to become a large and prominent force in the urbanwear market.
“If things keep going how they’re going, we hope to be an influence across the board,” Rodriguez said.