When did you get into fashion?
OD: I got into fashion my senior year of high school. I was going into college and I also started working and making my own money then. At that time, I was into Obey, Supreme, and Nike Dunks. My boys were really into sneakers, and I’ve always liked sneakers as well, particularly the retro Jordans. So it’s really from sneakers that I started to get into clothing, because I was looking for clothes to match my Jordans.
PM: My interest in fashion started back in high school as well. I was very attentive to all the different styles around school. Growing up, the guys I chilled with were very attentive to their sneakers. Trying to understand my friends I was exposed to the different sides of the sneaker culture. Shortly after I moved into the city I became fascinated with the lifestyle.
How did you guys come up with the name “Zeph’s Wrath”?
OD: Oh that’s going to be pretty lengthy! When I was getting into fashion and learning about it, two things happened: the first thing that really impacted me was getting into all these brands. I was buying Obey; I was buying supreme and all these other brands, as well. There was this brand in particular that was kind of hot at the time called Black Label. One of my friends gave me a shirt that was Black Label one Christmas, and one day when I was wearing it, I looked in the mirror and realized on the shirt it said, “Satan’s Followers.” I was like, “Oh snap, I’m wearing a shirt with this kind of message on it?!” That kind of made me think about what I’m wearing from then on. I started looking into other brands and noticed a similar pattern, messages I wouldn’t agree with. I asked God if I can do the same thing for Him through clothing with His messages on it, a brand for Him. I prayed about it and asked Him to show me, through the Bible and reading. I opened to this book Zephaniah, chapter 1 verse 8. The part of the verse that stuck out to me was the phrase, “strange apparel.” The people of Israel had to be so different from the rest that they couldn’t even wear the same clothes. The book in general talks about God’s wrath against evil. So I just took the name Zephaniah and shortened it to “Zeph” and added “Wrath” after it; that’s kind of the gist of it.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
OD: I don’t really know how to answer that question [laughs]. It’s not that I don’t get inspired by anything, its just that I may see something that I like, and it sparks an idea for something else. I see one thing that I like, and then I change it to something else. I pray a lot before I create. I may sit down and draw, listen to music, or don’t listen to anything at all. I guess my inspiration comes from not being like everyone else, meaning I’m not doing what everyone else [in fashion] is doing.
PM: In terms of photography, I like to look at old photos from Vogue magazine, like the 70s and 90s. I also really enjoy looking at athletic wear ads, especially early Nike and Champion.
What do you like most about the fashion/business end?
OD: What I like most about is that I can basically do whatever I want. There’re really no restrictions. I can create something to wear and wear it. If you don’t like it, I don’t really care what you think. No one can tell you, “you can’t design this shirt this way.” I can design it however I want to. As for the business side of it, it’s a love-hate thing. I like how competitive it is. You can’t be regular in this business. You can’t start and be the best; you have to fight for where you want to be.
PM: Fashion gives everyone a voice. You don’t have to talk to someone to necessarily know what they’re about. I appreciate the passion people of New York have for fashion. I think also, in today’s world, I like to see the youth investing in something that isn’t harmful.
What do you dislike most about fashion/the business end?
OD: Back to the competitive nature of the business. Although I do like it, at the same time I don’t. You can be really good, you can be the best, but if you don’t have the right people and the tools to get there, it’s next to impossible to get recognized.
PM: I dislike how shallow it can become. I also dislike the prices. I feel like more than half my check goes to what I wear. [laughs]
How would you label your brand? High fashion or streetwear?
OD: I would label it as a high-end sportswear brand. It’s still casual, but you’ll still look nice it. You’ll be comfortable. We’re using breathable materials, fabrics with stretch that fall on the body nicely. You’ll feel good and look good. I wouldn’t necessarily label it as streetwear, but if I put it out there and people begin to wear it as such and classify it as such, what am I going to do about it? I liken it to Nike Lab, which is essentially the high-end part of Nike. They have nice sportswear. Adidas has Y-3, which is another extension of themselves, but high-end. That’s I want my brand to be: not an extension of itself, but high-end sportswear.
Where do you see Zeph’s Wrath in five years?
OD: That’s a deep question [laughs]. I want it to be recognized. I hope that it will be recognized for good design. I wouldn’t care if every person in this cafe didn’t wear my clothing. All that I would care about is they understood that my brand is good, and they understand the message. If they never buy, that’s fine with me. In five years if my name is next to those [designers] who are known for good design, I’ll be good with that.
PM: With a store, a few stores actually. Hopefully a part of Fashion Week as well. And like Oliver said, being recognized for good quality and design. Having our message understood. Being heard.
What is Zeph’s Wrath currently working on?
OD: Right now we haven’t been pushing as hard as we should. We are in the process of rebranding. Well, we’ve basically finished but we’re going to adjust to the type of brand we want to be: exclusive. We’re going to start moving into doing more “one-of-one” pieces, which will be very distinct. Doing whole collections at a time is hard, especially if you’re doing cut and sew pieces. On the marketing end, we’re going to start sending out some clothing to influencers and let the youth movement take the brand.
Any closing remarks? What advice would you give to any emerging designers or labels that are trying to do what you guys are doing?
PM: Be patient, ask questions. Don’t be afraid to not know it all. Everyone knows a little something that can be impactful on your goals.
OD: You have to make a lot of mistakes. Don’t be afriad to make them, because you will anyway. Take risks and be patient. Trust the closest people to you that have been there since the beginning. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should do work or how you should be designing. Just do you. Don’t stop.
How can people connect with Zeph’s Wrath?
All photos provided by Zeph’s Wrath