Written & Shot By Ryan Lyons
Everytime I’m in The Good Company they’re playing some different shit. I think I was visiting them during the first time I’d heard Father’s “Wrist”, prior to Drake’s signing of ILoveMakonen, and prior to his eventual remix of ILoveMakonen’s viral hit “Going Up On A Tuesday”. It’s not that often that they’re not ahead of the curve, and I’ve rarely see them just follow it. There’s levels to every game; even Streetwear. Kumasi, Kahim, & Quinn do a good job at standing out from their peers because they’ve carved out a unique lane for themselves by creating a platform for culture they appreciate. They’ve additionally allowed garmets like a long sleeve tee be a canvas for anything from their own “wave” graphic, iconic logo flips, or photography.
"Niggas are scared to be themselves. There are squares that are tight and there's hood niggas that are tight. And there's hood niggas that are lame as fuck. And there's squares that are lame as fuck." If it's true to you then it's tight." It's could be tight, but is it you?" - Kumasi, The Good Company
Walking down Allen St, I bumped into one-third of The Good Company a couple of minutes before our supposed meet-up. It was Kahim Smith, the chillest tall dude you’ll ever meet, who dons multiple neck tattoos that are complemented by a wicked smile with a confident gap in the middle. It happened to be one of those rainy New York days where time just drags by. Nobody really wanted to be out. We grabbed some brews and headed towards the shop meeting fellow ringleaders Kumasi Sadiki and Quinn Arneson. Naturally, we all downed a pack of cheap Budweiser while diving right into the story of their journey to New York City’s Lower East Side.
A little over five years ago, the guys met as part of a small scene, all while doing personal projects in The Bay Area. Collectively, they started their shop on an impulse; Kahim joined Kumasi around 2010 while collaborating on his brand FREEDMINDS. Quinn joined the gang when he got wind of their desire to head east. When they got to New York, they slept on each others couches and did whatever they had to do to meet their goals. “This was the first spot we looked at and it looked like shit at first,” says Quinn reflecting on their hard work. “ We’re the furthest [Streetwear] shop out as far as the Lower East Side but I feel like it’s pushing the boundaries of the LES.”
Sitting at the small black fold out table at The Good Company, it’s comforting to be around so many young and blunted people who don’t really give too much of a fuck, yet strive for excellence at every turn. Our conversation shifted seamlessly from fashion, and style to music and how it's all becoming raw again with many thanks to the internet. I was curious as to what the forever cliche saying "stay true" meant to The Good Company especially when it comes to the music world and fashion world everyone's one minute from someone calling someone a sellout. Kumasi noted the positivity in current culture. "I feel like it's back to the essence of all these movements. Skate and street culture is so close," he states passionately." When Hip Hop started it was close to graffiti and dance. Now, the rapper is having something do with making his album cover. That part is tight."
What's not tight? Kumasi also keeps his answer straight forward. "Niggas are scared to be themselves. There are squares that are tight and there's hood niggas that are tight. And there's hood niggas that are lame as fuck. And there's squares that are lame as fuck." If it's true to you then it's tight." It's could be tight, but is it you?" "I don't fuck with blatant copying," Kahim adds. " There's a lot of blatant copying and pasting going on. It's like do you continue to try to please every one or do you continue with what you fuck with yourself?"
But don't expect The Good Company to be just "the good guys" that stay broke and don't get their share. "I want some money too," Kahim puts. " So, I don't want to be underground but I don't want to be doing it just for the culture. I'm trying to fight the good fight but at the same time I'm trying to make $100,000 plus at some point. I would like to reach a wide enough audience to where we have enough people that fuck with the shit."
They've all got an ill opinion on art. In fact, though it’s quite obvious that each of the members has their own individual and sometimes opposing thoughts on different situations, within their work, they call come together for one beautiful wave.
When they’re working as a single unit, The Good Company is at their best, creating consistent collaborations with homies, local shops, and indie musicians. It’s not that odd for streetwear brands to do this, but with them it seems that they collaborate so much that it’s almost the bain of the shop's existence. Quinn, described by Kahim as the most fine art oriented member of the shop, says that was his original intent. “That’s like what made us who we are. If we hadn’t done a pop up with Peas-N-Carrots we wouldn’t have gone as far,” he says ironically, as he puts together a “market meat” graphic for tote bag collab with a gallery down the street. Kumasi chimes in, “ I also think that the collaborations were birthed out of friendships that we had for a while. We just leveraged all these relationships that we had been building by doing other things and at that moment it looked like it just came out of nowhere but lowkey this had been bubbling under for a minute.”
They’ve also become a much needed physical representation of brands that have developed cult like status from the internet, with lines ranging from DPI, GOLF WANG, RARE PANTHER and their own brands, The Good Company, FREEDMINDS, and H33M. Some of these brands that were birthed online are growing in their own retail space like DERTBAG, a line also featured in The Good Company’s ever growing stock. The shop seems like a forever changing display of work, but the most endearing part is their own personal progressions along with the lines they carry. It’s all too reminiscent of how New York Streetwear developed from people with their own t-shirt lines, eventually spawning into a million dollar industry; one that’s definitely braved it’s peaks and valleys. Naysayers and old heads will always be somewhere complaining that “Streetwear is dead,” but that’s not the way Kumasi sees it as he defends the culture while laying behind the desk playing songs from Philly emcee Grande Marshall. “These kids are going to be wearing clothes forever.”
Connecting to music is just something they do naturally. Many of the clothes in the shop appeal to those who have an affinity for underground Hip-Hop culture, from the escalated Odd Future to cats like Yung Gleesh. “It’s completely organic,” Kumasi confides about the relationship between the shop and certain Hip-Hop acts like MellowHype, an Odd Future sub-group. Visiting the shop a couple of months back by chance you could’ve bumped into anyone of the Odd Future members, who’ve been supportive of them since the early stages. If my own time with the Good Company has shown me anything it’s that we have a generation less concerned with joining someone else's bandwagon, and more perplexed with creating their own.
Their integration into the Japanese Streetwear market happened just as fluidly. As Kahim puts it, “ We’ve been seeing Japanese sales pop up ever since we started FREEDMINDS, and even more with the help of Goro over at Minano [ a shop in Japan] .” They’ve now established their brand in shops in Australia, Los Angeles, and the latter.
While they’ve integrated into New York’s scene, the shop still exudes California air, from the illuminated ocean wave sign in the background, to Kumasi’s dirty vans, to the vibe within the way they talk. We all laughed while discussing our last 9 to 5’s such as Kumasi’s short stint at an Aquarium and Kahim’s time at AT&T where he was, “slinging cell phones.” Though their odd jobs weren’t the most enjoyable part of this long process, their investment in themselves has already proven worthwhile.
One of their projects, “the slicer,” is a skateboard in the awkward shape of a pizza, which could be understood as an ode to a New York staple. It’s actually quite symbolic of the grind and their store at the same time. Most New Yorkers survive on that slice. And if these guys stay ambitious, they’ll grab the whole pie.