Charlotte native, Darrell Anderson, AKA D.A.K.A., has got style to spare. And, good news, he’s willing to share.
A self-proclaimed “stylist, artist, and fashion fanatic,” D.A.K.A., founded the fashion blog, The AlleyKatWay, to share his thoughts on fashion, music, pop culture and the arts and serve fashion-conscious men. He promises, “Each week you can find new features on everything ranging from the hottest colors of the season, how to find the best online deals and articles on some of my favorite style icons, new & old. I’ll also hit on pop culture and lifestyle topics, and take you inside my closet to show you how I pull things together.”
Earlier this year, D.A.K.A. was awarded a HUG (Helpful Unfettered Gift) micro-grant for AlleyKay way and today he launches a new podcast, TAWKS, about fashion & pop culture news & life lessons. That makes today the perfect day to catch up with him about how he got started and where he’s going.
How did you get started with Alley Kat Way? What inspired it?
TheAlleyKatWay is an extension of myself and my style — just all of the cool, quirky and eclectic parts! I was inspired by seeing a lack of fashion blogs that spoke specifically to young black men and celebrated all the ways our style is unique. I wanted to create a lane for us where there wasn’t one.
My main goal is to inspire others to embrace their personal style and truly showcase it in every situation. Do you have to wear a suit to work? Ok, jazz it up with dope accessories. Do you prefer dressing more androgynous at times in long flowing dusters and jumpsuits as I do? Take style cues from women’s wear don’t be afraid to rock the hell out of it.
My background is in art and I studied graphic design in school, so I’ve always been creative and loved creativity. It was probably around high school that I realized I could be equally as creative with my clothing, so I started experimenting with different looks — LOTS of different looks! Again, just seeing a lack of diverse representation for young black men in fashion really got me started doing the work I am now.
What are your key influences?
I’d describe my style as a mix of 90’s R&B, disco and club kid. I’m completely obsessed with the style and artists of those musical time periods. I get bored quickly, so I’m always switching my look up, especially with my hair. I’ve had locs, braids, afros, curls and almost everything else. I pretty much draw inspiration from anywhere I can get it, but the people whose style I love the most are Miguel, Prince and Anderson. Paak.
Why is creating fashion in a city like Charlotte important? Are there other Queen City fashion designers you respect?
Charlotte is such a unique city and is becoming a melting pot of people and cultures. Being a native, I always looked outward to places like Atlanta, New York or LA for my fashion cues growing up. But, there are so many truly creative and stylish people right here in my city. I’m happy to say I’ve gotten to know some of them in the past few years.
I’m really feeling the work of Gary Javier, who’s a wardrobe stylist and makes most of his own outfits. Also, Joél Baang has a really cool unisex line called Ecru that I’ve got to get my hands on.
Oh, and a local rap artist NiGE HOOD who got a super cool eclectic style we aren’t seeing in hip hop these days.
How does it make you feel when you wear your fashion in public? How does it feel when other people wear the clothing you make?
I feel complete — and that’s the honest truth. When I put on an outfit and it reflects how I see myself and what I want to project to the world, everything feels right. It’s even better when people recognize that and appreciate it as well. When somebody wears a piece I created and they style it in their own way, it gives me that affirmation that this is what I‘m supposed to be doing. Creating and sharing it with the world.
What’s next for Alleykat Way?
I’ve been making the transition deeper into the fashion journalism realm lately. It encompasses everything I want to do with writing, creative directing and styling, so I can truly turn TAWKS it into a full-fashion media company.
I’m really excited to announce my new fashion podcast called TAWKs launching this Friday, June 12 on all streaming platforms. It’s an extension of TheAlleyKatWay blog with two of my good friends — Torrien & Nayo — co-hosting with me. You can find me on all social media @thealleykatway and follow TAWKs podcast at @tawkspodcast on Instagram and Twitter.
I actually used my HUG to take my first ever sewing class! I’d been putting it off for years, and it gave me a good foundation to build upon. Now, I understand the construction of clothes better, speak the language of sewing and can translate that into creating my own line in the future.
I didn’t think I would get [a HUG] at first, so it was completely unexpected, but I’m so grateful for it! Knowing that somebody else believes in my idea and dream enough to put some money behind it really means a lot. A little goes a long way and that definitely gave me the push I needed to keep going and know I’m on the right path.
What advice do you have for Charlotte’s creative community?
Keep going! We’ve got a really good thing going on here and as the city continues to grow, we are going to grow with it! Let’s collaborate more and keep loving on the QC through our talents.
How can people contact you about having you make clothing for them?
I’m always open for custom pieces! I mainly specialize in screen printed and hand-painted shirts and apparel. Just email me at email@example.com and let’s create something dope together!
HOW CAN I GET A HUG GRANT?
HUGs are $250 micro-grants awarded to individuals or organizations (for-profit or nonprofit) working on creative initiatives that are open to the public in the Charlotte area. HUGs are “strings-free” and are intended to remove a small financial obstacle holding a project or a person back from realizing the potential of their idea. HUGgees (HUG grant recipients) are also eligible to participate in special training events and seminars throughout the year. Since 2017, more than 100 HUG micro-grants have been awarded in Charlotte. To apply for a HUG, visit www.HUGGrant.com
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