This week we were excited to interview Yao Amefia, the founder and CEO of Frikmero, a new brand that draws its inspiration from African and American art and invites creatives, and particularly #CreativeMinorities, to get to the next level and feel open to speak about social issues. If you would like to learn more about his work and Frikmero, feel free to check out their website and Instagram.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Yao Amefia, I’m an immigrant from Togo, West Africa. But I have lived in U.S.A for 7 years. I’m an artist and industrial designer. I design streetwear clothing inspired by all African and American cultures, meaning I design with Africans in mind, Hispanics, Americans (black or white).
Why do you do what you do?
I design because I love pushing boundaries of reality. And on a personal level, this business is helping me combat depression. I often find myself sitting in one place and thinking and drawing for hours. All my friends will confirm that things like Netflix or Hulu don’t entertain me. I’m oddly satisfied with the visuals I create in my head. But it’s depressing when you can’t bring any of those cool ideas out. That’s why Frikmero exists, we want to create a platform that gives every artist a place to go for their ideas to be heard. I already know Frikmero is going be an internationally recognizable brand but while we are getting there, I mostly want women to be the pioneers of it. That’s why we say we are a brand that primarily empowers women and minorities. It gives me a sense of pride to know that we are protecting our women and discussing gender issues with the content we put out. I also feel like this brand gives me and any other minority a stronger identity in the world.
What is an experience that has left a mark on you as an artist?
There was plenty of moments that shaped that shaped the artist I am today. But the most impactful was the Gatorade commercial with Usain Bolt, it’s called “History”. I recommend that everybody checks it out. It inspired me to believe that barriers are not invincible. And that I can get the vision behind Frikmero to its destination if we work hard and commit.
What is art to you?
Art, to me, is a way to kindle and ignite conversations. Millennials today are called the lazy pioneers, because we are afraid to take on ventures that are new to the world. I want to change that with my art, especially in Africa.
Who are your biggest influences?
There’s 4 people that have influenced me for a long time my mother, Nicholas Tesla, Daymond John, and Trevor Noah. My mom is the greatest hustler in the world. Even though her education level is low. She finds ways to create the reality she wants to see. Matter of fact, her energy inspired me to create “Nessi” (the bird skull with the headwrap) the legendary spirit of Frikmero.
What is Frikmero and where do you see it going?
Frikmero is a brand that represents artistic trends. It also creates a platform where people are comfortable speaking about social issues. And it gives minorities ownership of a brand that encourages them to be creative and inventive; because creativity is wealth. Recently Puma, Reebok signed ambassador deals with African and Latino artists meaning that they have acknowledged that there’s a need to represent this new energetic and young demographic.
Within the next 5 to 10 years, Frikmero is going to be a recognizable brand in your day to day life. So much so that you will be thinking through Frikmero. Think about Frikmero as the brand that makes people comfortable discussing social issues, simply put.
What impact do you hope to have with this brand?
We are creating an authentic brand to take all African and American creations to the next level. It’s creating more jobs in for the entertainment industry. There is going to be thousands of graphic designers, digital marketers graduating and looking for an opportunity to showcase their talent here in US and around the world. Nike or Gucci can only hired so many. And so, I believe Frikmero is going to be a great environment for these people.
What’s the story behind the Bird Skull with Headwrap?
I grew up working with my mom who’s a stylist designer. She’s been in the industry over 30 years. And when we moved here from Togo, my mom struggled with English. So, I used to come home from an exhausting day in high school and spend 2 at times 3 hours translating for her and her customers, and these were mostly women. And note that these women were all from different parts of the world; Togolese or Nigerians from church, our neighbor from El Salvador, my school teacher who’s white and from France… So I could see how fashion intertwines with cultures, creates social impact. For instance, people will come and say they want to order a dress or a shirt to impress this or that person; either at church, at work or school. And so that’s where my interest for fashion comes from. Plus, I have always loved drawing and designing since I was a kid. When I thought of going into business I wanted to own a long-lasting brand, that actively gives back to my community. Africans always say “Mama Africa” because we acknowledge that women are the forces that drive our continent. But Africa (Mama Africa) has been considered as a place of death and misery for so long, even though we have many beautiful minds on the continent and breathtaking touristic places to visit. Then, I thought about all the South American countries that have similar reputation. After some research, I discover that many states in Africa, in South American and U.S use birds, mostly an eagle as a symbol of power. So I decided an eagle skull shall be used, and then it’s cranium will be wrapped with colorful cloth pieces, since many women around the world dress up with that style.
What are some of the challenges of being a business owner and how do you get through them?
A young black business owner has to be stubborn like a rock to succeed. If necessary, die for the dream. A black business owner has to revive himself constantly because we are dying every time society tells us that our community is too far behind to get there. Nowadays, it’s hard to get an ecommerce of the ground without any solid funding. You initially need to spend a lot of your own money just to prove your credentials to get investors and customers for them to believe that your company is legit and not a scam. I’ve been called a scam multiple time already. But that will change we don’t quit.
How do you keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
I don’t watch motivational videos or have a specific religion to consolidate my faith. As we all know nothings gets done on earth unless humans decide to take action. After all, God is only the provider and we are the makers. That’s why the vision for Frikmero itself motivates me, it is so bright and beautiful. You will love it too once you see the impact it will have on millennials and the generation coming after us.
Where do you see yourself going with your art in the future?
Frikmero is like “tumblr” but with blood vessels. At Frikmero, we are artists, entrepreneurs, comedians, film directors and more. The world is getting closer and smaller. And so, our art is going to create bridges to reunite the world and its evolving cultures. The internet is getting vaster with 5G technology and virtual reality. There are plans laid out to conquer Mars along with Artificial Intelligence. But all those exciting ventures are not going to turn out positive without cultural understanding and inclusion. History has taught us that every new era either brings war or peace. At Frikmero we chose peace, we believe we can control the direction of the future and not let it get out of hand.
What is your dream project?
I can’t speak on my dream project right now because I want people to understand the brand first and support it by purchasing from our clothing store.
What is the best advice that you have been given?
Well, this quote by John F. Kennedy always resonate with me, “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” We should focus on turning negativity into positivity. That’s what happiness is about.