How Hakeem Harris Used Sweats to Create a Land of the Righteous
Sweatsuits are the name of the game in fashion right now and there is a focus, more than ever, on supporting Black brands. With that in mind, QG's fashion editor sat down with Hakeem Harris, the founder of one of the hottest Black-owned streetwear brands of the moment to learn about his story, the inspiration behind his clothing line and how he creating a movement with his company Land of the Righteous.
Tell us a little bit about your background and what inspired you to start Land of the Righteous?
Well, I am originally from Harlem and have been in Los Angeles for four and a half years now. Initially, I was focused on the music industry doing A&R, but fashion has always been interesting to me, and creating a clothing line was something I had always wanted to do. I have always been about forming my own path and not necessarily doing things in a traditional way, so about six months, when I was on a flight, I decided why not start my line now and I began sketching my first sweatsuits.
What is the inspiration behind the brand's name, Land of the Righteous?
Initially, the name was more of a sarcastic reference I made when I was thinking about all of the “L's” we as Black people have had to take in society. However, it kind of stuck on me and I figured I could give the name positive meaning, focusing on being free, living loudly and openly expressing yourself.
Can you describe your brand's aesthetic and who you would consider as your target customer?
My brand is all about what I call "swag luxury." It's stylish but also utilitarian. It is rooted in urban life but could be worn by anyone that enjoys expressing themselves through loud colors and patterns. There actually was not a specific customer in mind when I created Land of the Righteous. I was really creating clothes that I wanted to wear and trusting that there would be other people that would want to wear them too. I also specifically wanted to do unisex looks because I felt like choosing to focus on menswear or womenswear solely would be limiting.
After starting the brand, it has already been worn by people such as Ryan Seacrest, Karen Civil, Jordyn Woods; what do you think has influenced it to gain attention so quickly?
I honestly think the quick adoption by people has been because of the brand's organic tone.
For example, with Ryan Seacrest, I had been wearing the clothes around L.A. and someone close to Ryan saw me, asked about them and subsequently ordered outfits for both Ryan and his girlfriend, which they ended up wearing on his T.V. show. I would say that the product has almost marketed itself; while I have reached out to make connections with people in the industry, I have not spent any money on traditional marketing.
With everything going on in the world right now, how did COVID-19 impact your business?
Obviously, COVID-19 has had such a horrible impact on our world. However, there have been positives that have come out of this time. As I mainly make sweatsuits, my product is perfect for this new "work from home" lifestyle. My clothes are functional and allow people to be comfortable, yet stylish, which everyone seems to be looking for right now.
As the world begins to "re-open," how do you think fashion brands should begin to rethink the industry and how to appeal to customers?
Brands have to adjust to the times and they have to be connected to the community more than ever. Right now, as there aren't too many live events, I think they can do this by using social media more creatively to connect to consumers. But at the end of the day, consumers have to believe in your brand and its values.
With the Black Lives Matter Movement taking over, how should Black-owned brands use their voice to align with the cause?
In my opinion, the biggest thing Black brands can do is bring awareness to and support each other. Black businesses are vital to the freedom of the Black community so we should use the resources and opportunities we can create to give back to the community. Hopefully, one day, we will get to a place where we can grow and be sustainable primarily from the support of Black people.
I know there are other branches of Land of the Righteous in the works; where do you see the brand going from here?
We are currently working on Land of the Righteous tech, music, T.V. and film projects. We have an app coming out, hopefully, in September, that will be focused on the intersection of music and tech. We also have a music branch where we will be releasing projects and we are working with a movie house on some television and film ideas. We also want to continue to expand the fashion branch; my goal is to ultimately build a Black version of LVMH.