Just 7 years ago, the creative scene in South Carolina looked a lot different from the beacon of hope it is today. In fact, according to Pierre Nelson, owner of Ode Clothing, it was almost nonexistent, “I don’t remember people having so much pride in being from SC as they are now.” As a true testament to time, the same hometown adoration that sparked the creation of Ode Clothing is the very flame pushing the cultural renaissance in South Carolina in present day.
In Pierre’s eyes, there was a void the conversation surrounding Southern streetwear culture that was yet to be tapped into. The self-taught designer would skip class (“Go to class, people.”) to research the streetwear market and took it upon himself to capitalize on the opportunity to pay homage to his Southern roots, thread by thread.Since then, Ode Clothing has been worn by notable figures such as Waka Flocka, the Game, J. Cole, Charlamagne Tha God, Joey Bada$$ and has even been featured in High Snobiety and Complex. Still, the 24 year-old insist on remaining humble by remembering where he started, “It really hasn’t ever gone to my head. Owning a brand at such a young age made me mature fast and I know that having an ego could get in the way of me expanding.”
What a difference time makes…
You started your brand back during your senior year of high school. What was the moment like for you when you knew clothing was the route you wanted to take?
Probably early in high school because I use to skip class to go to the library just to look at clothing sites (Don’t do that, people; go to class). I started a pendant line when I was in the 11th grade and I made one shirt that sparked the idea in me to start a clothing line.
When I would try to research Southern streetwear brands, I [realized} there wasn’t really a market for it so I saw it as opportunity I could capitalize on. We didn’t have an art media class at my high school so I download Illustrator/Photoshop and taught myself how to design.
I believe that there’s always a story within a name. With “Ode,” what’s the significance of that word to you & how did you come up with the concept?
When I first wanted to start my clothing brand, I couldn’t think of a name. I was on iTunes one day and I saw Wiz Khalifa song “Ode to Naked Popstars” in my music library and the word “Ode” caught my attention. I found out the meaning of “ode” was to pay homage to something in which I pay homage to the Southern streetwear culture. That’s why most of the designs are heavily Southern inspired. It seems like you’ve established a pretty solid support group around you to help push your different initiatives. How were you able to cultivate your tribe?
I’ve had Ode for over 7 years so, the brand’s name has spread overtime through word of mouth. Over that time I’ve built relationships with people who are now in positions to help me expand my brand.
We live in a time where art and ideas are shared so frequently, it’s hard to tell one person’s original thought from another’s. How do you stay inspired to keep the designs of Ode Clothing fresh and original?
I try to not pay attention to what other clothing brands are doing because I feel that’s the only way for me to not get influenced by someone else’s design. When I do need inspiration I usually go back to my hometown, Hampton [Varnville], SC because that’s where I started Ode and that was where I first was influenced to start designing Ode.
I always felt like SC had a lot of hidden talent they just wasn’t given the same recognition as artist from bigger places.
What do you think of the state of streetwear now from when you first began in 2010?
It’s changed a lot. When I first started, Instagram wasn’t even around yet, so I had to expand the brand on Facebook compared to now where I have more influence on Twitter/Instagram. Also a lot of brands from when I first started aren’t around anymore. I feel like the term “streetwear” has become so vague now it’s hard from me to define what streetwear is. It’s a lot of fast fashion now and I feel like streetwear isn’t the same as it used to be.
I try to make timeless pieces that people can still wear 10 to 20 years from now. I feel Ode has lasted so long is because we make Southern inspired streetwear; which was largely missing when I first started. Plus I make it known we are a brand from South Carolina because people don’t usually think of SC as a hotbed for fashion. This summer you had the opportunity to partner with APB to host a pop-up tour. Why was it important to create this space for young artist and locals to be a part of?
One of the guys that work at APB, Josh, has been a fan of my pop-up since I used to do them at Sneaker FF in Charleston once or twice a year. He used to work [at Sneaker] before becoming a store manager at APB so he started plugging me in with the other APB shop owners.
I’ve been having pop ups since 2012-2013 and they usually have big turnouts. I feel like it’s important to have events like the Ode pop-ups because SC doesn’t have a lot of cool art events that cater to the younger people. These pop-ups have introduced performers to a crowd of people they might not usually have the chance to perform in front of and introduce people in SC to dope artist that are here.
When people talk about SC, it never seems to be in the best light. Some say we’re behind on everything or that there’s simply nothing to do. What’s your take on this?
I always felt like SC had a lot of hidden talent they just weren’t given the same recognition as artist from bigger places. Now, I feel people in SC are on the same page as everyone else because of the internet. A few years ago, people in SC just didn’t know what was going on around the state, but because of social media we are more informed. I feel like SC is going through a renaissance and I’m just glad to be a part of it. What’s your take on the growing creative movement happening in SC and how do you plan to continue to push it forward?
I’m glad it’s growing because when I first started making clothes SC unity was nonexistent here but now everyone is jumping on the SC wave; and other people that were in the SC creative scene around 2010-2013ish would tell you the same.
There weren’t that many “quality” events going on. The SC creative movement was basically nonexistent compared to now. I don’t remember people having so much pride in being from SC as they are now. There are more crews working together now to throw events and a lot of them are good. I’m going to continue building Ode and having pop-up events more frequently.
Best advice you’ve received since starting you’re clothing line?
My brother told me, “Don’t get lost in trying to make money; just focus on improving your craft because if what you are doing is good the money will eventually come.”
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Peace, peace, peace,