I sat down and talked with the manager of Fat Tiger a local clothing shop in Chicago that is known for its original styles and streetwear. Here’s what he had to say about Fat Tiger and much more in the fashion industry.
So tell me your name:
Des: Alright my name is Des, some people call me Des Money.
How’d you get the name Des Money?
Des: Uhhhh shit um, So I mean it started way when I was younger, my mom used to really go all out and dress me up and shit like that. Three piece suits or whatever. So when we would go out to family functions and my aunties and uncles used to just give me money. It was just a thing. My nickname was always like money man cuz I always had dollars on me.
Are you from Chicago originally?
Des: Yea so both my parents are from Ghana but I was born and raised in Chicago. I’m from the burn side, born an raised over there.
So, what is it that you do here at Fat Tiger?
Des: So at Fat Tiger I am currently the manager here. I started off being Joe and Terrell’s intern 6 or 7 years ago. But I just kept going with them ever since we started selling T-shirts out the cribe or whatever. I also have my own brand too doing my own thing. A couple years ago I started the squad brand.
So tell me how’d you get into the fashion industry originally?
Des: *Takes a reminiscing sigh* Let’s see um, I think all came up with The Leaders, Leaders 1354 which is I guess you could say the first street wear store in Chicago, I hope I’m not wrong in saying that. But you know it was kinda like a place where like all of like the cool creative kids gravitated towards. That’s where I met Vic, that’s where I met you know like Terrell and Joe and we just kinda got inspired you know like watching what they were doing. I want to say maybe like 2009? Me and two of my cousins one of them being Church Don’t Stop and the other being PromoKid, we started this one brand called Nerdy and that was like our foot into street wear. Then one day, this was like, 2009 or 2010, Terrell tweeted that they were looking for an intern and I was like shit, I’m cool with these dudes. So as soon as I saw them tweet that I was like “damn bruh I’m guna pull up.” And that’s how we started our relationship from there.
So you’ve been doing this for seven years huh. How old are you again?
Des: I am 29. Yea I’m a little seasoned, a little ripe. *laughs to himself*
So what is your favorite part about what you do?
Two girls walk in the store and see Des and he immediately gets up ad hugs them both.
Des: My favorite part of what I do, I mean it’s that. *gestures towards the girls* New energy, youthful energy, um and I feel like you know, with what we do we are able to contribute to society and being able to have a voice and use that in a positive way especially in a place like Chicago. I think we live in a beautiful place, like Chicago is beautiful as hell but at the same time it’s very tragic. I always want to combat that tragedy with positive energy and we’ve got a medium to do that.
How do you think Chicago is making its own mark in the fashion industry?
Des: I think we just do our own thing you know, like you said I don’t think Chicago has ever up until more recent times, really been recognized for fashion. But you know Chicago has always had fly people, we’ve been fly as hell for years. From the 70’s to the 80’s people been wearing gators, people been wearing tailored suits for years, but I think now having kind of a cultural renaissance in the city, shot out to Keef, shot out to Chance, I think that has really helped bring a lot of light onto all of our art. I think we just been staying true, thats one thing about Chicago, we aint for no one we are who we are.
So where did the Fat Tiger name come from?
Des: Ooooo great question. We were trying to figure out a name for the store and everyone was like ahhhh we just started having hella brain farts. But then I think it was Vic that kinda came up with the idea, he was like well how about we think about this from the stand point of a band name. And they’re like three bigger guys, and we was just like damn why don’t we call ourselves fat tigers. Its fun but it also has some symbolism to it. When you look at certain different cultures the tiger represents strength and honor and just the same being ‘fat’ or big means to have wisdom and be well rounded. So that’s kinda where it came from.
So I know you guys are switching stores pretty soon, so what is the next goal for Fat Tiger, what are you guys working towards right now?
Des: Well one big thing that we keep trying to emphasis is the workshop. We really want to dedicate more of our shop to teaching the youth. We’ve been doing this for a while and it’s been working so it’s only right that we give back. With the whole workshop label being attached to our name we want to really delve into that some more. I don’t know if you know but last year we had maybe three workshops ? One was kind of just introducing ourselves and talking about street wear, another was led by Terrell where he talked about free lance and how not to get caught up in the downfalls or whatever. We want to make sure we are informing the youth and are able to help them develop certain creative skills. One thing thats super cool thats being added to the store is a classroom that we are going to dedicate to our workshops.
So big moment for you guys recently, how’d it feel seeing Lebron wear one of your guys hoodies?
Des: Oh man its so crazy because everything hits us at different times so I didn’t hear about till around an hour later and I came into the store and was like YO did y’all see what I just saw?! So it was cool we all got to have different excited moments at different times, but nah it was crazy man, especially for Terrell because he’s been a Lebron fan for years. We are all like family you know, so a win for him is a win for us.
So you brought up Keef and Chance earlier and their influence on art here, so how do you think the music scene influences fashion and visa versa?
Des: Word. I mean it goes hand in hand you can’t have music without fashion because fashion gives personality to musicians. Music and fashion are both art forms that I believe tell stories you know what I’m sayin? From our clothes alone you get our attitudes, you get our moods, you get our perspective on culture. That’s the same thing you can get from your music and whatever musicians you’re into. And it’s cool to be a part of that, all of us being from chicago we care about the city and want to make it look good.
Alright last question, do you guys here have any plans of branching out into more Fat Tiger stores in the future?
Des: I mean we always want to grow you know, but we never want to force growth. We’ll be moving into our third store this coming summer and every time we have to move it’s always been a thing that just feels a bit natural. I feel like opening a new store is something, you know, you do that when you’re ready. I think for now we are cool with this store but we are always trying to grow and we’re always going to keep growing.