#RESIST by AKONG
Unisex t-shirts for social change
The seed for this project began on 24 June 2016, the day after 52% of the UK voted to leave the European Union. Months later, Donald Trump became president-elect of the United States of America and new leader of the free world.
Over the following days, I found myself needing to tune out of the incessant news speculation about what these developments could mean for international relations, and found myself instinctively tuning back in to the sound of peace, truth and meaning for me - the music of Bob Marley.
Growing up in the Caribbean, Bob Marley's music was woven into the soundtrack of my entire life. As a teenager, I wore Bob Marley t-shirts and even tried at one point to grow dreadlocks! When my children were babies, Redemption Song was the lullaby I sang to them every night before I lay them down to sleep. And listening to Bob Marley's voice, transcending all time and space during those moments of political uncertainty, I knew in that moment that I needed to do something to keep his music and his message alive for the next generation.
Several months later, following a snap UK general election in which record numbers of young people registered to vote, I watched Jeremy Corbyn's speech at Glastonbury and found myself being filled with emotion. Seeing this massive sea of young people chanting his name - an outward expression of their desire for the social and political change that he represents - I also knew in that moment that I needed to do something to capture this feeling, this energy, this movement towards individual empowerment and social justice.
The idea to express these sentiments using t-shirts, and the production of the actual t-shirts came together spontaneously within a single working day. There is an annual community event in Brixton, London, called the Lambeth Country Show, which has been growing in popularity every year and now draws crowds of hundreds of thousands of people from all across London. It has long become one of the highlights of our family's and friends' summer weekend calendars.
The morning before the 2017 show was when The Idea came to me. Within that single working day, I had managed to secure a last-minute stand booking to be able to sell at the show, take out the required insurance, source a garment printing company who could do a same-day production run, screen-printing in full colour, including METALLIC GOLD, borrow a table from my children's primary school to furnish my stand, which turned out to be the perfect size to fit my stand area, AND get everything set up on site before 6pm. You could say that it seemed like doors were just flinging themselves open before me one by one to make this thing happen, and happen, it did.
As it turns out, I was wildly optimistic about how many t-shirts I would be able to sell at the event for £20, BUT there was one particular take-away from this whole experience that really struck me and has stayed with me ever since. And it was realising first-hand and up close how much money £20 is to a lot of people. And not like, around the world in general, but right here on my doorstep in London. I came away with this nagging question in my heart about what would it take for people to be empowered to make more money for themselves and their families, to have the financial freedom to buy my £20 t-shirt without batting an eyelid or anything else that they truly desired for that matter?
It is this question that brought me to a personal determination that with everything I do, I will ask myself: In what way could I empower somebody else to make some money, generate an income and create a better life for themselves from what I am doing?
It is this question that has led me to imagine a whole different operating model for my business, where by just through doing what I love to do, I can find ways to empower somebody else in the process. Incidentally, this also gave me the idea to run my JEWELLERS BOOTCAMP, where I am personally training the next generation of budding designers so they can fulfil their own creative potential.