Recently I had the privilege of being involved in a photo shoot for Awkward Black Girl, in collaboration with Royal Dynamite. Awkward Black Girl is “an award winning web series that follows the life of an awkward black girl named “J”. Upon being asked I immediately said yes! I love the web series Awkward Black Girl and was super excited to add my face, goofiness and "awkwardness" to the campaign. The campaign was entitled "Crown Me Awkward", and was a play on the theme of the Awkward Black Girl web series and how being "awkward" talks to most almost any person at some point in their life. It's unifying and fun all in one, which is a great combination for young, fresh and up and coming brand.
It was a fun and exciting experience and certainly gave me the modeling bug once again! At the shoot I became better acquainted with the owners and creators of Royal Dynamite, after learning briefly some of the awesome things their brand stands for I thought it would be the awesome to share it with you all. Here Cecil Williams, one of the founders of Royal Dynamite, expands on all that is Royal Dynamite.
Why was Royal Dynamite created? and what is the vision of Royal Dynamite?
The company was created out of a need to fulfill my entrepreneurial desire to do something that was creative, sustainable, and philanthropic. The vision was to build a community based-platform for artists and consumers to interact using artistic fashionable pieces.
Tell me about yourself? Where are you from? What's your educational background? What is your fashion background? Has fashion always been an integral part of your life?
I was born in Sierra Leone (West Africa) and lived there until I was 13 after which my family was forced to relocate to the Gambia as a result of a civil war that went on for 11 years - it ended in 2002. After graduating high school, I moved to the United States and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management with an emphasis in Information Systems. As it pertains to fashion, I have never really considered myself a fashion designer but I come from a lineage of artists and designers - my grandmother and her sisters were a creative trio, and their body of work and knowledge serves as an inspiration and influence in what I do.
Who are some of your favorite designers that are similar in style to Royal Dynamite?
It is difficult to categorize and compare designers that I idolize to Royal Dynamite. Our model at the moment is quite simple; we create artist designed t-shirts to help raise awareness about educational disparities that exist, particularly in the developing world, while having our consumers feeling confident, comfortable, and fashionable. We are inspired by the work of other t-shirt and clothing lines such as Johnny Cupcakes, Threadless, Sevenly, Obey, and Out Of Print to name a few. With regards to high fashion, I love what Givenchy is doing with its streetwear and t-shirt collection.
Who are the designers/creators of Royal Dynamite?
Royal Dynamite t-shirts are designed by a community of artists, illustrators, graphic designers, and fans from all across the world. That is what makes the process exciting and somewhat unique. Our first set of t-shirt designs was a creative collaboration between myself and an Italian graphic designer - Matteo Neri. Our two most recent and most successful collaborations were a true testament to our model and platform at work.
The first collaboration was titled #WAR- We Are Royal. This was a partnership with an Orange County based artist with strong ties to Sierra Leone, Arnold Randall. What is most exciting about this collaboration is that every design was originally hand-painted and every t-shirt comes with a six-track EP which we collaborated with AGOne Entertainment, an independent record label based on California.
Our second collaboration was a partnership with Issa Rae of the award winning web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. We created a themed t-shirt design contest, titled “Crown Me Awkward” and one lucky fan of the show created the winning design which has been our best selling t-shirt thus far.
Do you consider yourself an artist?
For the most part, I do. I handle the creative aspects of Royal Dynamite and I am mostly involved in working with the artists to relay the vision of the company, so their artistic interpretation reflects this.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I have been inspired by some very creative and successful entrepreneurs who are doing a phenomenal job at branding. One of them I mentioned earlier was Johnny Cupcakes; another person that inspires me is Gary Vaynerchuk, who in my opinion is a branding genius. I love and admire what brands such as Ted Baker and John Varvatos are doing and also get a lot of inspiration from TOMS and Bonobos. I also read a lot about business and entrepreneurship, and find inspiration from the articles I read and the people featured in them. I find that process very stimulating and it helps nurture new ideas for Royal Dynamite.
How much work has been put into bringing your vision to light?
My business partner, Raphael Saye and I have diligently worked for the last 3 years to grow our vision, and there is still much work to be done. In late 2010, we were both supposed to fly to Sierra Leone for my sisters’ wedding and were on the verge of launching our new website along with a new collection of tees. The week leading up to our departure was super hectic - we worked 18 hour days to make sure we had a system set in place during our absence. It was gruesome, yet exciting and sometimes the only time we stopped working was to grab a quick bite to eat. When you are still in startup mode, you have to wear many hats and become everything to your company. It often involves satisfying both your internal and external obligations, which can sometimes become overwhelming but we have managed to get it done over the last 3 years and look forward to many more years to come.
What was the most difficult part of establishing Royal Dynamite?
There are many aspects of our business that have posed a threat or challenge to our establishment but branding has been one of our biggest challenges so far. A few reasons for this can be attributed to a lack of huge amount of start up capital dedicated to marketing and also a lack of the right human capital. I believe that with a bunch of super talented individuals and today’s technology and tools, a great team can turn sand into gold when it comes to branding. We are gradually building our team to make sure we have the right people equipped with the right mindset to creatively propel us into becoming a household brand.
When did you know that creating a clothing line was something that you had to pursue?
To let you in on a little secret, I am more passionate about technology, e-commerce, and its ability to affect retail and fashion than just simply creating a clothing line. I am excited about the capabilities of today’s’ generation and the resources we have at hand to innovate and create while making an impact. So my pursuit of Royal Dynamite really was more so out a of need to create something sustainable utilizing my skill set and fueled by passion. I love collecting t-shirts and have been doing so for that last 6 years and felt I could create my own line that could also serve as a conduit for inspiration to many other young entrepreneurs, especially minorities and children in Sierra Leone/Africa at large.
Do you feel that Royal Dynamite is or will be making a difference and an impact in the fashion?
We certainly will be making an impact in an unusual way. Our tagline is ”Collaborative Style For Awareness” - the idea is to partner with different businesses, brands, and artists to help raise awareness on the importance of education in Africa and globally. A man I greatly respect, Nelson Mandela, once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon by which we can change the world”. Our goal is to utilize the style we create to influence something much bigger than fashion. With such ambitious goals, I would hope that we can make an imprint in the fashion world, while inspiring and helping to nurture young minds into great thinkers and innovators.
What level of success do you wish to reach with Royal Dynamite?
I always tell my family and friends that “God is the limit, not the sky”. We would like to create a staple brand that is recognized throughout the globe. We would love to stage a big collaboration within the fashion industry and would certainly like to be part of the movement to advocate for better educational standards globally.
What are the next steps for Royal Dynamite?
There are quite a few things in the works; we would like to expand our collection of tees to a kids line. We have some very creative ideas in mind for that and are super excited about bringing them to life. We would also like to expand the line and our collection to include more than just t-shirts/tops and work with amazing artists to create other exclusive fashion items, so please stay tuned for more on that.
Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
We can be found on just about every relevant social media network and online. You can find us on Facebook.com/Royaldynamite, Twitter.com/royaldynamite, Pinterest and Instagram (@Royaldynamite). Our t-shirts are sold online at www.royaldynamite.com, and on Roozt.com, which is the world's largest online marketplace for socially conscious brands. We are also carried online on Karmaloop/Kazbah and Soletron.com. Check us out and support the movement. For every t-shirt you buy, we will donate an educational package to a child in need.
Indeed great things are on the horizon for Royal Dynamite.