In case anyone forgot, we are currently living through a pandemic and what feels like a second civil rights movement, simultaneously. What does it even mean to be “productive” anymore? How the heck do you stay motivated to make moves amidst the chaos? I know I’m not the only one feeling this way—like I want to hit pause, and take a year-long power nap—but to come out stronger on the other side of all of this, I’ve gotta “Keep Blooming,” as Sarai, multi-disciplinary artist and Lead Designer of Unapologetic Garments, so eloquently put it.
“So, basically, 2020 was a f**ked up year for everybody in some kind of way, and “Keep Blooming” is something that I often say to keep myself in check, and to keep from checking out,” Sarai said.
And she’s not the only one making a conscious effort to keep that mantra front of mind. The rest of the Unapologetic crew, made up of visual artists, musicians, clothing designers, event coordinators, and strategists, has had to find the inspiration to keep creating during a period of time that’s pressing us mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially.
The “Keep Blooming” collection was created as a message of reassurance that there’s still a space for progress and peace during the dark days.
But, let’s take a step back, shall we?…
At the end of 2019, we all had a vision of what 2020 would look like—and it absolutely DID NOT include a deadly virus that would bring about a global shutdown. Like most creatives, the folks of Unapologetic had their noses to the grindstone, plotting how they were going to reach new heights come 2020.
“I guess you could say it’s like I was moving my plant from one potting situation that was too small to another in order to, you know, make a strong effort to keep blooming—and it’s like the one I was moving into just got knocked off the table and broke. So now I’m holding the plant in my hand,” said A Weirdo From Memphis, one of the 14 artists who make up the arts-and-culture brand, who had left his job to pursue sponsored touring opportunities.
In the beginning, they flexed their “How Do We Make This Work” mentality, but as live shows and events across the nation were called off, the actuality of Covid-19’s severity set in. Not only did they have the pull the plug on many entertainment experiences they had on the books, but their day-to-day doings like linking up in the studio were removed from their realm of possibilities.
“My passion is making music WITH other people,” stressed C-Major, Unapologetic producer. “Like most creatives, our jobs are based around being with people—whether it’s meeting with them or performing for them. So, to be sitting in the exact same spot [in my bedroom] that I’m talking to you from [via zoom] months later… It’s just depressing…but we gotta figure out what are ways to make it new, what are ways to keep blooming, what can we do to make it through?”
All that alone time gave way to the discovery of a deeper sense of self for many of us. It helped paint a picture of what matters most, be that mapping out different career trajectories, redefining friendships, refocusing on what ideals you uphold, etc. Just like Sarai uses “Keep Blooming” as a self-help sentiment, IMAKEMADBEATS, Founder and Beat Producer within the brand, recalls “Character Over Everything,” as a testament he’s held close throughout his years in the biz.
“Keep Blooming” is something that I often say to keep myself in check, and to keep from checking out,” Sarai said.
“I find that nothing sustains without character,” said MAD. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing. As an artist, you know—and this is something I know every artist on planet Earth can identify with—we’re trained and we’re groomed [to think] that in order to succeed, you have to deal with assholes, and tyrants, and these people who will take advantage of you—and do it directly in your face…like you just got to find a way to emotionally deal with it so you can reach the next level. Man, f**k that. I stopped believing that years ago, and you’d be surprised who is impressed and inspired by your ability to say no. And how many people want to work with you because of how strongly you believe what you believe. And so when I say “Character Over Everything,” that’s what we’re talking about. You know, let’s be great people first. Let’s make that the priority.”
While these mantras were manifested out of their own personal predicaments, the Unapologetic crew wants them to be carried across Memphis and even further through Unapologetic Garments. These phrases are cast across hoodies and hats, but this is more than merch.
Sarai in “Keep Blooming” ($65) AWFM in Character Over Everything ($30) and C-Major in One Way or Another Hoodie ($90) (Photos by 35Miles)
“It’s great to have something to put on everyday that further extends the reach of our message,” C-Major said.
“I’m not a highlight reel kind of person,” Sarai said. “I’m not afraid to let people know that I go through some sh*t. But we are all going through it right now, and I hope we inspire others to think and say “I got this”… “I can keep pushing.”
Now this isn’t the first drop of Unapologetic Garments, but it’s definitely the most impactful. It’s not fashion for fashion’s sake, but for fuel to ignite the fire that guides us day in and day out.
“The fashion world is is so draped in ‘I’m too cool’…’I’m so cool that you should want to be cool, too’,” said AWFM. “You know, that’s very successful, and I like those clothes too, but I think we found this sincere direction that we’ve been hunting for since we started working on Garments. Everybody is in a million different silos right now, feeling very lonely. With this drop, it feels like we’re giving people something to relate to. The significance of these garments will live long beyond the time period of this collection. I think that’s a really special feeling. It’s a lot more special than successfully being so cool that other people want to be cool with you. You know? It’s a lot more realistic.”
Since we’re at a standstill with live entertainment, there’s no telling when we’ll get to take in the talents of the Unapologetic crew, up close and personal. When that day comes, we’ll be ready to see how much they’ve grown… or better yet, how big they’ve bloomed.