Designer and Creative Director Joe “Freshgoods” Robinson has made a name for his Chicago-based streetwear brand by building authenticity within fashion. Over the years, the self-made entrepreneur has become the people’s champ when it comes to combining the essence of his local community with a culturally-significant message, and his latest collaboration with New Balance is no different.
The “Outside Clothes” collection is described as bringing back the nostalgia of playing outside during our childhood, but it’s also a nod to Robinson’s creative process and the privilege we lost of actually being outside on account of the pandemic last year. The phrase “We miss when outside was outside” is used on some of the pieces from the new collection. It is a statement that Robinson believes to be a true sentiment for many people at this time.
“I didn’t realize until last year how much the act of being outside had played a major part in my career,” he said in a press statement. “Sometimes it takes something being taken away from you to realize what it means to you. And that’s really what inspired this shoe,” he says of the Joe Freshgoods x New Balance 990v3 sneaker.
In true fashion for the young founder, his approach for this collection maintains his knack for blending together relatable elements and cultural references to create an organic narrative behind the pieces he designed. The name “Outside Clothes” is a prime example of how the Chicago native uses his collections as his method of storytelling, all while paying homage to his hometown and others just like it (i.e. Washington D.C. referenced in the campaign video).
“Oftentimes I feel like my city is left out of the conversation,” Robinson tells AfroTech exclusively. “When it comes to major cities that’ve been important to the culture, I just don’t see Chicago being talked about enough for my liking, so I try my hardest to make sure I make people come to Chicago, talk about Chicago, and love Chicago.”
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With each collection that he releases, Robinson has figured out a way to mobilize the buying power of Black consumers in his hometown and beyond to redefine the meaning of Black business. Not only has he helped people fall in love with his city this way, he’s also been able to use his brand as a means to capture Chicago’s Black entrepreneurial spirit that he says dates back decades into the city’s history.
“It shouldn’t be forgotten that Chicago was the epitome of Black Entrepreneurship in the [1950s] and [1960s] so it’s just dope to carry on a legacy that was so notable back in the day,” he shares. “It all comes down to hoping I can inspire the next generation to do it bigger.”
As someone who’s considered a role model to Chicago youth, Robinson believes his path to success as an entrepreneur can prove to kids that they don’t need to leave their cities behind in order to “make it.”
“Every time I talk to younger folks, they are amazed that someone that looks like them, comes from the same hood as them, has accomplished so much,” he says. “It’s super important to me to be around, as much as I can.”
The “Outside Clothes” footwear will be available at select global retailers and New Balance’s website on Sept. 10. The apparel will be sold exclusively at joefreshgoods.com.