We recently connected with Phaon Spurlock, a writer, marketer, and the creative mind behind the emerging BKLYN LEAGUE clothing brand. To profess that Spurlock is a man of many enviable talents is an understatement. These days, he has his hands in a bit of everything, and wouldn’t have it any other way. Read on to learn more about BKLYN LEAGUE’s origin story, Spurlock’s ever-evolving personal style, and his advice for carving out your own unique path in the fashion industry.
CYTIES: How did the BKLYN LEAGUE brand emerge?
Phaon: BKLYN LEAGUE was born from my desire to design a creative outlet that could merge a few of my worlds: fashion, entrepreneurship, and philanthropy. It’s also an expression of my love for Brooklyn.
Although I’m not a native the borough has helped mold me as a person and I want to share that feeling I get with others, be it homegrown folks, transplants, or those who just like the vibe.
CYTIES: How do you define BKLYN LEAGUE as a brand and aesthetic? And, what matters to you most about what it stands for?
Phaon: I wanted to build a brand that unified the old and the new. BKLYN LEAGUE is a streetwear brand, with an aesthetic that pays homage to 90’s hip-hop—distinctive to neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy—and the new Brooklyn hipster style. Brooklyn has become super gentrified, so I want to honor the past, but also recognize the cultural shift underway.
CYTIES: How much of your own style and experiences is reflected in BKLYN LEAGUE?
Phaon: A lot of my varied personal style is reflected in BKLYN LEAGUE. I like to have fun and mix things up. One day I’m in streetwear, the next day I’m on a preppy vibe, and the following day my style might reflect a blend of the two.
With that said, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve also streamlined my daily style. I’ve discovered I really like wearing t-shirts. I feel that’s the opposite of so many people, but it’s the truth. I enjoy tees, because you can easily dress them up or down, depending on the occasion or your mood.
CYTIES: If you had to choose one or two songs (or albums) that reflect the essence of BKLYN LEAGUE, what would they be?
Phaon: Whew, this is a hard question! I created a whole playlist that reflects the essence of the brand called BKLYN LEAGUE The Mixtape Vol. 1. Of course, it will be 90’s hip-hop, so I will say “Brooklyn Took It” by Jeru the Damaja and Juicy by The Notorious B.I.G., with honorable mention given to Brooklyn Zoo by ODB.
CYTIES: What’s been the most enjoyable part of bringing BKLYN LEAGUE to life?
Phaon: It’s been great to unleash myself to be super creative. I love being able to think about a design, create it, and then make my vision available to others. Also, I enjoy working with non-profit organizations in Brooklyn to give back.
CYTIES: What challenges have you faced, if any, as a Black man emerging in an industry that lacks representation?
Phaon: I made a deliberate decision to create my own space within the fashion industry. My brand was started with my own money, so I was able to create exactly what I wanted without any interference. However, I’m not naive. I know that many of my brothers have faced and are facing issues within the fashion/apparel industry as they aspire to advance in their careers.
Any challenges I might encounter are on the backend, and specifically around perception. When an up-and-coming Black designer creates they are, more often than not, seen as one-dimensional or only serving one community, which can limit their brand visibility. It’s been hard for many Black designers to break out and become mainstream or household names if that’s what they want to achieve. There are tons of designers who create for major celebrities or fashion houses, but their brands never get the recognition they deserve.
CYTIES: What lessons would you share with youth trying to emerge in this industry or thinking about exploring a career in this industry?
Phaon: The most important first step is to become super knowledgeable about the industry. First, take courses, meet and chat with people who are in the industry, or even intern. Having a good knowledge base can really help you in the long run. Second, figure out what part of the industry works best for you in terms of carving out a niche. Do you want to be a designer, editor, journalist, publicist, seamstress, creative director, etc.? Determine that and then make your end goal, your north star. Third, create a plan based on knowledge and real information, on what entry point(s) you can leverage, and your unique path toward acquiring your dream job. It may not go exactly as planned, but that’s ok. The most important thing is to have a compass point.
CYTIES: When I say “Creatives” what comes to mind?
Phaon: Creatives are people who pull ideas from their imagination and execute on them, often creating something that did not exist before. And, a creative doesn’t necessarily mean someone who is in the arts. It’s a very broad catch-all. A creative can be an inventor, business owner, or even a doctor. Have you ever seen a dentist reconstruct a smile? That takes real skill and creative thinking because human anatomy can be complex and is unique to each individual.
CYTIES: What’s next for BKLYN LEAGUE as it evolves?
Phaon: We plan to work on distribution deals that land our products in boutiques and department stores. We want to remain true to our mission to give back, and our essence as a unifying brand, all while continuing to look fly.
CYTIES: What else is occupying your time and energy these days?
Phaon: So much! I’m a New York University Adjunct Instructor, President/Owner of a creative agency called Prototype MKTG, Editor-in-Chief/Lifestyle Writer for LuxuriousPROTOTYPE, and Owner of the BohemeHomeBasics home goods store.