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Over the past 2 years, I’ve called Oakland home. I’ve met lots of amazing people doing amazing things during my second tenure in the Bay. Jonel Seon is not exception to that rule. He personifies hustle and a deep commitment to community, which makes me fortunate that I’m able to call this dude my friend.

With his new venture UPLFTRS, he’s trying to achieve something that has eluded most streetwear brands. In addition to advancing a necessary feel of edginess and defiance, Jonel is hoping to build a company that’s filled with purpose and focused on enriching culture; in Oakland and beyond. I recently sat down with him over a cup of Red Bay Coffee (eat local, drink local!) to talk about the genesis of the brand, where he hopes to take things in the future and how the amazing readers of UNCVR can get involved!
UPLFTRS
What’s the story behind UPLFTRS?
UPLFTRS. is a streetwear community + cultural brand founded in Oakland, CA. In short, we design, produce and distribute high-quality apparel for individuals + souls who strive for collective empowerment and growth.I had been contemplating the idea for quite some time and went through several iterations of names and concepts. The major turning point was I was let go from from my job with at media start-up I helped build. I realized that I could never find closure with the idea of making clothing if I didn’t bet on myself and my experience. In August of 2015, UPLFTRS. was created.

 

Did you ever see yourself starting a street wear brand?
My interest in creating a streetwear line started when I was in high school, but It still took me about nearly 15 years to finally act on the idea and begin working on UPLFTRS. The curiosity to build a clothing brand just never went away.

Why is community so important for you?
I have also believed in the importance of context as it pertains to communities whose traditions+ ideas help shape cultural + social movements. UPLFTRS. represents the history + contributions of these communities by creating streetwear that promotes these narratives.

What makes UPLFTRS different?
We are a legacy of people celebrating the tradition of elevated quality through signature threads. Our philosophy is that clothing makes life not only better for ourselves, but for all. This can only be achieved by those who examine, build, and inspire culture together. Integrity is the fabric that defines who we are and what we will become. We are UPLFTRS.

With that said, we focus on working with clothing suppliers and artists in our community. We also look to create a social benefit with each release we drop. For instance, we successfully completed a month-long crowdfunding campaign for our limited edition ‘COMM[UNITY] TEE dedicated to celebrating the brilliance of people of color everydayDuring Black History Month. As part of our campaign, 10% of all individual sales were donated to a non-profit program supporting arts of the African diaspora.

How can people support the movement?

The best way to support us is to:

What’s the connection you see between Street wear and music?
I consider streetwear and music to have a very strong relationship, especially as a youth who learned about most streetwear brands through my love for hip-hop culture. Companies like Nike and Roc-A-Wear understood early on that music artists have tremendous influence. So sponsored them with clothing to help promote + market their brands. Now, it’s seen as the best way for an up-and-coming brand to get visibility.

What are your plans for the rest of 2016? And beyond?
By the end of 2016, UPLFTRS will release 1-2 more streetwear projects made through collaboration with local art programs and artists in the SF Bay Area. Looking more long-term, my focus is to 1) bring our framework for collaborative streetwear projects to scale and 2) design experiences for community building + engagement.

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Dontae is a tech professional living in Oakland. He's originally from LA, is sad about Kobe's retirement and gets emotional when listening to music.

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