Photo: Khristen Wilson

Hey, You’re Cool! JoeFreshGoods

Where you’re from impacts what you create. If MASS APPEAL wasn’t from New York, we probably wouldn’t cape so hard for graffiti and MCs who wear Timberlands in July. In that same way, Chicago has influenced the work of JoeFreshGoods and his brand, Don’t Be Mad. Whether it be his “Fuck Donald” shirts, or his iconic “dope.boy.magic” hoodie, his company has created the uniform for his city’s youth for the better part of the past decade.

Through his brand and other ventures like Fat Tiger Workshop—his store that houses brands like DBM and Vita—Joe has grown into a bit of a Chicago fixture. He’s got his own collab with Nike on the way and was even featured in one their recent ad campaigns. Even though it was made in the Chicago hood, Joe is bringing Don’t Be Mad to NYC with a three-day pop-up shop. We talked to Joe about his Nike project, his NYC venture and how you can take control and just do it yourself.

How does it feel to have a pop-up shop in NYC?

It’s been super dope. I didn’t realize New York had so many people. It’s just one of those things where I get to connect with so many industry friends and so many homies that I been cool with for a long time that I’ve been promising free shit or whatever. It’s good to have like a store and set up in New York so I can connect. I feel like a large part of the world is in New York so to have a space out here to connect with supporters is super dope.

Looking through the shop, you have a lot of stuff—from the sports towels to the Obama collection to the new New York collection—what’s your favorite collection so far?

I like the New York stuff because I didn’t realize DBM and NYC look so cool together on a tee. I’m super Chicago proud, but a large part of growth is being able to do stuff like this. At first, a lot of Chicago people felt some type of way like, “Why are you coming here?” But it’s kind of dope that I’m somewhat big enough to pull up to another city for three days and open up shop. So, I do like the New York tee shirts because it’s like a staple in my life where I can do this.

Overall though, it’s the Obama collection. It took me to new heights and kind of gave me more attention that I didn’t know I needed.

What’s your favorite from the New York collection?

The Apple with the logo and address on the back. New York just has cool addresses.

Have you done any shopping?

Not yet, I’m gonna go tomorrow. I’ve been posted up all day.

Photo by Khristen Wilson

What’s the inspiration behind the Converse?

Really, I just wanted to make some cool shoes. It’s not a real collab, it’s one of those things where it’s a marketing ploy for me, really. I made the shoe for myself and it ended up looking dope, so I said, “Let me just make 30 pairs.” That’s a DIY shit I did. Each shoe comes with a crate. I don’t know when I’m gonna drop them, just trying to get Converse to notice it.

How did it feel to get your own Nike collab? I mean, you were fired from Nike Town at one point.

Yeah, I was fired from Nike Town Chicago for giving out my discount too much. They reached out to me because I hold Chicago down when it comes to certain things. It was a good partnership, I was pretty much the face of Nike Football in Chicago. I did that and ended up dropping the jersey. And I kind of wanted to tell the story about the Chicago Bears and put that in jersey form. I did the Walter Payton “flu game” jersey. When you think of “flu game,” you think of Jordan, but Walter was one of the first athletes to have that flu game.

Photo by Khristen Wilson

DBM is a very grassroots, do it yourself, movement. Do you have any tips for people trying to start their own clothing brand or be their own boss?

Just believe in yourself. Make sure your city holds you down. I wouldn’t be able to move how I move if I wasn’t from Chicago and try to give back more than I take. I think Chicago rides for me and it kind of shows from around the world. I like to tell my story through clothes, language and the internet. I think a large part of brands is how you grow. People want to know the person behind the brand, so I just like to be personal. I tell the story even if I have a bad week. I like to tell the story of my journey and I think through the past ten years, I’ve been documenting my journey online. People relate to a lot of the things I say. I just want to kind of do the “you can do it too” story. I did a lot without having rich parents or an investor, I just kept working hard and releasing dope products and shit happened.

Some of your collections have been inspired by the likes of your daughter, Obama and Chicago. What’s your next inspiration?

Shit, I’m super happy right now, that’s why I’m using a lot of smiley faces. I’m in a good place in life and I know my place in culture, so I don’t think it’s helpful for me to be dropping bullshit T-shirts. Every now and then I might wake up, get high and put anything on a shirt, but for the most part, I know there’s a lot of kids who look up to me. Being a black man with a brand, independent and self-owned, I have people that look up to me so I’m kind of cautious of that. So really, I just put in my work and do what I gotta do.

Chance the Rapper modeling the Obama Collection

What do you think about some of the rip-offs of your work over the last couple of years?

It’s been kind of trash, but the older I get the more I just ignore that shit. The more you pay attention to it, the more it eats at you. I keep working hard and you always gotta stay two steps ahead of people when it comes to ideas. I don’t trip no more.

What albums are in your rotation right now?

Ah man, fuck. Daniel Ceasar. The Insecure soundtrack. That’s like my favorite shit right now.

What’d you think of the Insecure finale?

It was kind of trash. Issa can’t keep chasing around buddy man. I don’t wanna see no third season of them trying to fuck with each other.

But, what else am I listening to? A lot of old school shit. man. You see, we’re just vibing out to old shit. A lot of sample based music.

Photo by Khristen Wilson

You got the shoe, you got a lot of brand new stuff, what’s next?

Shit, probably got more collabs with Nike dropping. Open up pop-ups in different cities for a couple of days and really just pull up and meet people who’ve been fucking with me. I like to talk to people. I design based off what’s going on, so sometimes being able to communicate helps me create better. Even if I take the L on the profit side, I think just being able to pull up and talk to people and figure out what’s going on in their city helps me.

The Don’t Be Mad pop-up shop is at 160 Orchard Street until Sept. 14. If you miss it, you can cop some gear from their site.

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