Interview with Kemar Brown: founder, creative director of Aritsu

How did you get the idea to start Aritsu?
In 2009 there was a graphic tee boom, but many had negative messages. My brothers and I saw a need for a clothing line with artistic images and creative designs with more positive messages. We go to church, enjoy BMX bike riding, and love to get dressed up. We wanted to be able to incorporate these passions in Aritsu, and appeal to a larger audience.

Where did you get the name Aritsu from?
We wanted a name that had a deeper meaning, to raise conversations and provoke thought. The line was actually first named ‘almost righteous.’ However, this name caused some conflict as some people misinterpreted it to mean something other than it was. So we changed it to Aritsu. [A-Rit-Su] – {n} A people with a mindset of betterment, {v} The act of seeking to always be better than ones current state. This is a word we created ourselves, leaving no room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation from others.

Where do you find your inspiration?
I find inspiration from everywhere – museums, art events, the city, traveling, poetry. My little brother Jevaughn is a poet, and I find inspiration in his poetry. We host poetry events and open mic nights in Jamaica, Queens. I find inspiration in music – I listen to everything from Jazz and American R&B to Japanese pop. I am also inspired by my role models: Jeff Staple (owner of Staple Designs, a clothing company) and my Pastor Devon D. Dawson. I didn’t go to school for design, instead I was always being challenged by my older brother Donald Brown and my friend Dwayne Briscoe to draw and interpret different things.

What is the meaning of your wing/main logo?
‘Running man’ (gyen yame) and ‘Kid Righteous’ are two white wings which symbolize pure individuality, and a gold wing to represent God and what he means to us. We do have Christian branding, although we are not a Christian brand. We are not exclusive of any religion.

Where do you currently sell your product?
We used to sell to a small boutique in Harlem, but currently we sell everything online at www.aritsu.com – everything from skateboards and t-shirts to hats, hoodies, and patches. We also sell at some trade shows.

What is your price point?
We always try to make sure our clothing is affordable, but not cheap. We take a lot of pride in our clothes. Our shirts retail for $40-$65, t-shirts $25, skullys $15, wool caps $40, and bracelets $15.

Where do you shop for yourself?
I hate shopping at major retail stores, so I normally shop in boutiques, thrift stores, and small stores like Urban Outfitters and Zara – but I also like to get dressed up and wear suits. I like to switch it up a lot. I like to dress well for every circumstance.

What advice do you have for upcoming artists?
Do something you really love. Most new businesses don’t pass the year mark. I feel like this happens a lot of the time because people just want to make money, rather than having a real reason for doing something. Find that reason behind why you’re starting your company. Because when the money isn’t there you have to find something else to fall back on, another reason to keep at it, your passion. I would say I am an artist first, business man second.

 

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