Conversations with Clowe.

                                               OriginalFani.

Who are you?

What’s up! My name is Khalfani Dennis, head designer and creative director of OriginalFani Design. OriginalFani is a streetwear/lifestyle brand that started in Atlanta. I started the name on Twitter around 10 years ago. From Twitter, it became a blog and I transitioned from there to what you see today which is a brand based around accessories and collaborations that tells a story for Atlanta.

Where are you from?

I’m from Chicago originally. I was born in Chicago and spent my younger days there. I came to Atlanta for high school, I went to Tri-Cities on the Southside. I went to Clark for a year and hung out there for around 5 years. I never graduated but I met a lot of good people that helped shape my understanding of Atlanta.

What's your standpoint on college?

My standpoint is, school is so important for one. To each his own is the phrase, everyone is different. You’re going to have some people that pick up a pencil and can just draw. Some people need to be taught how to draw. Neither one hurts, but knowledge is just so powerful. School conditions you for stuff but don’t waste your time going for the wrong reasons. I feel people shouldn’t rush into school. If you don’t know why you want to go, don’t waste your money. At the same time, don’t say school is a bad thing because you’re lazy or it’s a trend. School doesn’t make or break anybody but you should know and appreciate the importance.

Photographed by Isaiah C.

When you began making merchandise was there an end goal?

I think a lot of greatness comes from imitation. You have to see something you like and think, “I want to do that.” The name OriginalFani comes from the brand OriginalFake, which is Kaws’ brand. I was already a fan of Kaws with the way he was flipping pop culture. His work spoke to me at a young age. When I learned Kaws was OriginalFake I thought that was tight.

The Fan-dana is a staple piece to your brand, where did that concept come from?

I had recently started wearing bandanas and just wrapped my bandana around my head one day. I don’t know what I saw but I honestly think it was character related. I tell people this all the time, I look at myself as an anime character or something. I’m not into it as much as some but I love the art of it. I had a bunch of bandanas from different brands like SSUR and Neighborhood. If I love the brand, I’ll get anything that they make--especially weird stuff.

On to the blog, when I started the blog I started making t-shirts. I made t-shirts because I had the idea to sell them but it was someone else’s logo and I didn’t know if I could get a cease-and-desist. I also didn’t want there to be a day where Kaws thought it was wack. I felt that could happen so I didn’t sell them. My tagline was ‘for promotional use only’ but I was selling my graphics.

I wasn’t selling the shirts until Two-9 and I went on tour or there would be a couple of homies that would want to buy one. At the time, I was trying to figure out how Bape could sell a shirt for $80+. Not only Bape…Neighborhood, Undercover, Mastermind, a bunch of brands that I was discovering. It was about exclusivity and that was something that I wanted to incorporate in my brand. 

I was supposed to be making bandanas for Two-9. The Two-9 logo kind of looks like a paisley [boteh], it has the same shape. The printer I was working with straight up said, “I can’t print that.” I had my bandana design on the computer, so I go to my guy and ask him to print my bandana instead before SXSW. That’s another cool thing about this story, SXSW just got canceled [due to the coronavirus epidemic]. I go to SXSW with Two-9 and I always shout them out because I didn’t pay to get in the car, I just rode down there with them. I had all the bandanas on me so I was giving them out. I had people that were willing to pay for them, so when I got back to Atlanta I thought to sell them. 

Photographed by Isaiah C.

Photographed by Isaiah C.

I used to keep 10 bandanas on me, you could catch me on Edgewood. That’s another thing I really liked about bandanas versus shirts; not only would people just wear a shirt once but you’ve got different sizes. It cost more to make, and how many shirts can you put on at a time? If you’re just running up on someone trying to give them product-- Gunna can just hold the bandana up, and so can everybody else for the photo. 

My thing at the time was to travel and seed. Before I would want to drop something, I would go places and see how many rappers I can get the merchandise to and how many cool pictures I could take.

Did you have a dream job as a kid? 

I told Jeff from DTP [Disturbing tha Peace] this when I first got the job over there. When I was in high school, around 16, we all had Tony Hawk ProSkater. Around 16 or 17, Lupe Fiasco came out and I was already watching Jackass heavy. I was an MTV kid for the most part, MTV and Cartoon Network. I liked rap but I gravitated to a lot of different music because my mom didn’t really let me listen to stuff like Master P. I tried skateboarding and I was really into it. I skated for a couple of years but I wasn’t really good at it. I feel like to really be good at skateboarding you need to start when you’re around 4 or 5. On top of that, you have to take risks.I wasn’t really trying to fall but I loved the culture. After that, my dream really was to just work in rap somehow. I wrote raps but I knew I wasn’t that good. I met Jace the first year of college, and I thought he was one of the best rappers I had ever met. There are videos on YouTube of him freestyling at my mom’s house. I just wanted to work in rap somehow and it happened. We infiltrated it, I worked in rap. I did the Trap God cover, I did all types of stuff! I’ve styled Rae Sremmurd on tour, that was amazing. 

Photographed by Isaiah C.

How did you get into graphic design?  

It’s really interesting. At the time they weren’t really teaching graphic design but a student who was doing graphics came back to the school to teach for an afterschool program. It was funny because at the time my girlfriend was in drama, so I never went to the afterschool program. I only went to hang out with her. At the end of the day, my love for music really is what drove a lot of the time I spent working on graphics because again with imitation I would be trying to replicate stuff. I made the Trap God cover because I wanted it to look like this Lupe Fiasco cover I saw. Coach K thought it was tight.

Gucci Mane's Trap God cover created by Khalfani Dennis
The Blanguage cover art created by Khalfani for Young Thug and MetroBoomin

Photographed by Isaiah C.

Are collaborations important for brands to do?

Yeah, it’s very important, it also depends on what you’re trying to get across to the world. I think with high fashion design, when they collaborate it’s about the totality of the brands and designs. While you’re trying to build up your name in high fashion you might not do a bunch of collaborations. You’re probably working under another high fashion label--a lot of people don’t know that that’s how it works. Marc Jacobs was working at Louis Vuitton and during the time he worked there he thought to collaborate with [Takashi] Murikami, [Stephen] Sprouse and Kanye. Those were his ideas but he still had his own label too. Marc just did something with Stray Rats, eventually you have to collaborate.

Do you have a favorite graphic you've created?  

It varies from time to time. Honestly, I did so many covers I really don’t know. One of the best feeling ones was probably ‘The Blanguage’ because it was a flip and I made it look like ‘So Far Gone’ but it was MetroBoomin and Young Thug. Metro called me saying “Yo, come to crib. I need some cover art.” I still hadn’t really met Thug, but I knew Metro so it was a bit personal and it went up. That was tight. I did like one cover for Uzi [Lil Uzi Vert] early on but I’ve done so much that you could probably show me something and I’d be like, “oh I had snapped.” I did some sickass art for Childish Majors’ first couple covers. I remember at the time I had competition in the city with whoever was creating the Migo’s and Johnny Cinco's cover art--- I heard he was charging $25.

I still do graphics it just depends on the workload. I used to tweet that I create cover art everyday but nowadays that’s not my bread and butter.

You've done a number of collaborations, how did some of those come about? 

With New Era, I was just talking to somebody in the entertainment department and they sent me the vector for a New Era hat. I was so excited I made it and sent it back immediately ready to get samples made.

I did a collaboration with 24Karats and that’s the first brand that I’ve collaborated with that was Japanese born. It’s important to look at moments like that, it’s official. We dropped at ComplexCon, that was a super dope experience. That experience also shows there is nothing to do now but go to Japan. I have to just go there and find brands to collaborate with.

After I did a collaboration with Anwar Carrots I did a collaboration with XLarge. It was tight, because it hit both nails I’m trying to hit. It’s streetwear and it’s OG streetwear. XLarge was one of the first OG streetwear brands, XLarge and Fuct. That’s the reason I have both of those books over there. The only one that I’m leaving out is Stüssy. Those were the early days of streetwear and I felt like it was important to collaborate because I’m speaking to the beginning.

What do you think allows your brand to have global reach?

That’s why I said it’s important to know yourself and know your lane. Know what you want to do and be clear about it. What I found out about Japanese people is they are very receptive to that type of stuff; from your Ian [Connor] to [A$AP] Bari to [A$AP] Rocky… Lupe Fiasco and Kanye west. One of my OGs told me yesterday, “art is the international language that connects everybody.” We’ve got Korean rappers saying ‘slatt’. I think it’s cool, some may say it's corny. So yeah, of course with me being a fan of what they’ve created they can see and accept it and then vice versa. I rock with them!

What's in store for the future?

My goals right now are really just business related. I just want to get it to the point where I can also take care of people and take care of my business. 

I have some things coming with Wish [Atlanta], more products, more accessories. I really like bags and jewelry, those are things I’m figuring out right now. Those are the next steps for the brand and then focus on Closette, eventually marrying the two in ways where they can back each other. Afterwards I could spend more time working in music if I want to.

I always say, “stay tuned” and I always feel like I’m just getting started.

What is this space that we are in? 

Closette, a concept store, we’ve been working on this for a second. I started it with City of Ink and we’re in the process of renovating. If you ask me it looks like Supreme in New York. There are some differences in it but size-wise it’s very similar. 

Tuki Carter, he’s a tattoo artist. He has his merchandise in here. That’s one of the guys in the back, behind the scenes of the store. Of course, me and then whoever else we can bring in here. Once I can get it exactly where I want it to be, we’re going to have all types of people here.

Photographed by Isaiah C.

Photographed by Isaiah C.

Photographed by Isaiah C.

Follow Fani on social media!

Closette

323 Walker St, Atlanta, GA 30313

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Edited by :Isaiah Clowe

Shannon Vaz

Isaiah Clowe's Portfolio

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