The three minds behind Paid Homage, a clothing line that represents the current state of pop culture and its icons, have trained their eyes on the winning possibilities of right now. My-Kel Monroe, McFresh and Fli Stylz have combined their creative capacities and individual skills to create a fashionable ode to the influential celebrities of sports, music and iconic artistries. VIBE Vixen found that, most recently, caramel crooner Chris Brown has signed on to debut a FAME t-shirt collection, inspired by his latest LP F.A.M.E. You know what? We’ll just let them tell you the rest… –Niki McGloster (@missjournalism)
VIBE VIXEN: How do you three come to know each other and start working together?
My-Kel: Me and McFresh met running my own online magazine [Persona Magazine], and we met through a mutual friend. We’ve been collaborating and doing stuff together since then. Fli Stylz came in toward the end ‘cause I met him through another friend. We all just clicked. The first day me and Fli met we were talking about doing some stuff together because he had a lot of celebrity access. He did creative direction and choreography for Usher and Chris Brown, worked with Michael Jackson, worked with Aaliyah, so it’s kind of like we’re a dream team. McFresh is dope as hell with designing so it all worked itself out.
It seems like your line is coming along well with the attention it’s getting. What made you come up that initial T-shirt line for Nicki Minaj?
My-Kel: Basically, I was really good friends with Amber Rose, and she had hooked me up with Nicki Minaj at the time. Nicki was just coming up; She wasn’t a megastar like she is now. About 2008, 2009. Right before her buzz got crazy.
Tell me about the designing part of the process.
McFresh: With Nicki, for a whole entire weekend, I just researched everything about her. I dug real deep into who she was as a person and built my whole proposal package for her. I did, probably, six to seven designs, but each one was represented something about her. We had the Harajuku panda, the tattoo that’s on her arm, we did a lot of things that she was representing in her music too.
Did you go to school for fashion and designing?
McFresh: Yeah, I actually have a degree in web design, and I was going back to get one in fashion merchandising. That’s where those two things tie in, but I pretty much do everything. That’s our strong point; I’m able to do everything in-house, so we don’t have to outsource the web or the fashion. We can keep it close-knit and everybody’s happy.
Where did the name for the line “Paid Homage” stem from? Obviously, it has a clear, literal meaning, but is there more to it?
My-Kel: The “Paid Homage” title came because me and McFresh were looking at the whole Nicki Minaj situation and how we missed out on it based on lawyers and a bunch of stickiness. Sometimes you can have a connection with an artist and the lawyers will mess the whole deal up, you know what I mean? As artistic people, we just want to go and work, and that’s how it naturally should be. So, I came up with “Paid Homage” because it speaks to youth culture about who we make celebrities. It’s like, at the end of the day, we have Internet celebrities. You have people like Amber Rose who became popular because her sense of fashion, the way she looks and her uniqueness. There are different people that you’re going to meet and see that you see everyday, like, on the blogs and all that. I just felt like it was fitting for the way society embraces people who have a unique way about themselves that speaks to everybody. Everybody likes or admires their sense of fashion or their attitude or how they carry themselves, so I wanted to have a brand that focuses just like that.
Why did you pay homage to Nicki Minaj?
My-Kel: Because she came up and transformed into this superstar. Same thing with a Amber Rose, a Lil Wayne, a Kanye West. We like them all for the value that they add to pop culture.
You’re talking about a lot of people that are huge in our culture currently, but do you have any plans to pay homage to older or past artists who paved the way for Nicki and Wayne and ‘Ye, etcetera?
McFresh: Yeah, we were actually talking about that, but that’s commonly done. Everybody does a Bob Marley shirt, everybody does a Tupac shirt, so we were trying to start with the people who are new and fresh now. Then, we can do Audrey Hepburn, Andy Warhol [and] those type of people. With Paid Homage, it’s an ongoing thing. Stars are created every day, so there’s always an opportunity to pay homage to someone.
My-Kel: We’re in an Internet world. Our core demographic, 15 to 35 [years old], are gawking after people they see every day right now, so we’re representing a new facet. We could do a Tupac and a Biggie shirt, but when you start paying homage and start noticing the people that are effective today and are getting booku hits on the Internet or whatever, it speaks directly to you. People are fanatics overnight because of the Internet, so we’re just speeding up the pace.