Written by Aarika Lauryn
Art Meets Chaos is the latest labor of love from streetwear/sportswear pioneer, Donwan Harrell. Donwan is the creative behind brands like Nike, Mecca, Akademiks and PRPS. Prior to Art Meets Chaos, Donwan had been a behind-the-scenes voice of the brands he headed. He expresses how much joy it brings to have full freedom to express his vision and passions.
The brand has a focus on denim and tees. Denim in particular, has become a labor of love for Harrell over the years. He has spent much of his early career in factories developing prototypes and understanding the processes, and so it developed.
It has become my forte and what I focus on today more than anything else. I like to pride myself on being a “know it all” when it comes to denim in regard to dry process, wet process, understanding what I see and how to achieve the looks and character.
Harrell so poetically describes his inspiration for denim design as real-world vintage. Early 40s and 50s archetypes are a large part of each collection he creates.
In this vintage era of denim, your lifestyle and/or what job you had, all had a different impression on the jean’s look and character, which develops over time. It is a personal experience. Denim is very organic in that sense.
Harrell’s wife and business partner Jahayra Harrell (self-proclaimed ‘Chaos’ to the Art meets Chaos duo) gives Donwan his flowers by stating:
He can go back in the past and appreciate what denim has been in the late 1800s and interject innovation so kids today, are still interested in his 3rd brand. His passion for denim is still about what happened in the late 1800s. Being particular about where the whiskering goes and those characters are studies from how an average person wears denim. Analyzing those characteristics and placing them on new/modern styles that are more relevant today. That quality is evident because he consumes denim in a different way.
Being that Harrell has been the creative behind many successful brands, we ask what distinguishes this one from the others? It's clear that this brand is an artistic labor of love. Family-owned and operated and finally relieved of previous artistic constraints, Harrell is relinquishing his passion in design.
With regard to being his artistic labor of love, the brand spends a lot of time in exterior treatments. And not based on accessories - but on the actual jeans. His dedication to the craft reads to the customer in the quality.
Jahayra adds: Our vision stays in line and stays together with what brought us here. It’s a breath of fresh air to balance our interest in the creative aspect of the brand and the sales. We want this to have a culture different from other places.
Harrell admits he is highly competitive and it is important to distinguish himself from the market in the age of social media. Relieving himself of any pressure to “fit in”
Art Meets Chaos certainty brings that artistic element to streetstyle. As much as design sets a brand apart, as does being a black owned label. We discussed what that is like today.
There is a cult following of people who appreciate black designers and their contributions to the market. Although we [black designers] have had huge influences on couture all the way down to streetwear, that were not acknowledged. I feel like the appreciation is at a very high level and it's not so much at the streetwear level yet. Items have to be $1000+ to have that consumer’s interest vs the more accessible fashion (like some streetwear) they still defer. There is still a deferment that someone would rather wear something from Australia or Canada.
Jahayra adds how important it is that Harrell is now at the forefront of this brand and the face of the brand.
Him being at the forefront is such an example to young designers, No one had any idea that he was designing the denim that celebrities were wearing.
And he didn't necessarily want to be out there, because he is not that kind of person but black designers [in any industry] need their recognition. Oftentimes they are overlooked and sometimes, the product is not even respected. Because society does not expect much of people of color so they don't appreciate what comes from them. Even though your designs may be the best, the problem is, some people may say “well it's a black designer and it may not be of quality." One thing doesn't have anything to do with the other.
With this company, he has the ability to get his story out there, his influence and the footprint he has left in fashion.
Art Meets Chaos is opening their first studio to create a hub for black students who want to work by showing them the industry is not just about the designs/designer. We want to expose the community of color that there are so many roles they can have in this industry.
In addition to their initiatives to bring black creatives into the industry, Donwan and Jahayra are very interested in working with Puffer Reds to make an impact in our community, here in Ypsilanti.
Jahayra states: We want to give back because that is how we do our part to make improvements in our community.