In Style: Sheku Tarawallie
Hailing from Prince Georges County, Maryland, fashion designer Sheku Tarawallie (also known as) Sir Shek made the choice to start a clothing line some years ago on his birthday. Using less than a hundred bucks, Shek hadn’t taken a design class nor has he ever taken a business loan or investment from anyone. Thus, Swavor, his cult-classic brand founded in 2011.
Since then, Shek has well-expanded his brand from clothing pieces to neat knick-knacks and home decorations. He’s created a brand that not only displays top-notch quality and authenticity but represents a deeper meaning than just clothes. Every piece is meant to have some value for the consumer. Shek has had the opportunity to collaborate with brands such as Nike and premiere clothing pieces on Paris runways and so forth.
For our latest installment in In Style, we spoke with creative director and streetwear owner Shek Tarawille. In our recent sit-down, the London-born artist discussed finding his passion and Swavor, the creative’s clothing line. Check out our interview with Shek below.
Where did your love of streetwear begin?
I guess my love for streetwear came pretty early on. Initially, it was mostly the hip hop geared brands, Karl Kani’s, Fubu, Rocawear’s. I went to high school in London so we kind of had a different philosophy on what “streetwear” kind of was. Activewear was mostly what we wore so Nike, Adidas, and the whole tracksuit, “roadman” kind of style was the way we dressed. When I came back to the states it was around the launching of Hypebeast and all the brands like Stussy and Supreme, of course, were killing’ everything really. My earlier life was very important, but that BBC, Pastelle era was really when I dove deep into it and believed it could be possible.
When did you realize you wanted to become a fashion designer and who were some of the people who inspired you?
Honestly, it’s all kind of a blur, but you look at clothes and they are a very tangible thing. Like clothing can define a setting and let you know where you are. It can also play a part in your life. I tell this story like imagine you going to a festival and you put your fit together, you rockin’ your favorite Swavor hoody or tee shirt. That same night you meet the woman who eventually becomes your wife. That garment might have given you that confidence to approach her. You know? And in a very very tiny way, I’m apart of your family history the same way Calvin Klein is a part of mine. It really is about attaching garments to a feeling & that garment being the representation of that feeling.
As far as inspiration, it has to be Kanye and Pharrell, they showed me that it was possible. They went to faraway places and opened portals into worlds that Black kids just didn’t really know existed. I mean I lived in Europe but Ye was like on the runway; collabs with Louis Vuitton. It all seemed so far-fetched but one day we had an idea to come up with a clothing line. I started Swavor with $191.78, 24 tee shirts, and a logo. Once I got that first T-shirt… I knew. I was like this is going to be it for me. But never in a million years did I think I would have my first solo fashion show in Paris or do a shoe with Nike or drop these huge collections independently. I don’t think I ever saw it going this far.
What’s the story behind the name Swavor?
It’s interesting because originally Swavor was three people. Everyone was talented in different things so everyone went their own way and are killing it. Swavor stands for “Sheik, Wealthy, Arrogant, Victorious, Original, Retail.” So a lot of people don’t know it’s an acronym. It’s just how I was feeling at the time man.
Is there anything in particular that you’re looking to achieve through it?
I have so many themes and so many concepts that I truly believe I can create a Swavor Universe. My collections in themselves have storylines, they have characters… it’s a very loaded, multi-layered thing. I think that clothing in general eventually ends up in the trash. But the brands that we are truly attached to are the ones that allow us to wonder and dream. When you can get lost in a brand, you walk around with the spirit of the brand.
I want Swavor to be a beacon of hope for any creative. I started with $191 and I have never taken a design class. I have never taken a loan or an investement. I just worked my 9-5 and grinded the whole way through. I am no different no more special than anyone else, I just had the balls to go for it. I hope when people wear my clothes they have the same attitude no matter what their dreams are.
Looking back through your collections, is there anything you wish that you would’ve known that may have saved you a lot of trouble?
I don’t think I would change anything per se. I do think I had amazing collections in the past and I moved way too quickly to the next moment. Like our audience would get adjusted to this one thing and we completely did a 180 every single time. While that wasn’t profitable, it did create an aura of unpredictability. Like you legitimately have no idea what we will do next because we did that. But monetizing your moment is a big big thing. I hope all creatives remember that money isn’t everything but it is always helpful to have it.
Can you describe the design process from conception to realization?
Every single piece goes through a very rigorous rendering process. What might look good on a screen, may not resonate well with a fabric, and what looks good on fabric might not fit well or look when on someone’s body. Making sure that those things are symmetrical a very important thing to me. There is also a storytelling aspect within the pieces themselves.
Within the cult, everyone knows that when I drop a piece, you can read what the piece was inspired by and people really get attached to that storyline. Then the next collection might have the evolvement of that storyline and so on and so forth. On top of that, I write a lot of movie scripts. So some of the pieces are really just merch for movies that I can’t afford to make. So if you already have the merch in hand, by the time the movie comes out you might already be attached to the storyline and the characters. So all of those things are happening at the same time.
In regards to the next few years, what’s next for Swavor?
Visuals. I’ve held back from visuals until I had enough momentum to put into them. So hopefully visuals drive the story home. I am putting off investors until I can get a bigger evaluation. But hopefully, my next couple of seasons put me on a higher path. It’s all in the universe’s hands.
If you enjoyed our interview with Shek, check out our conversation with Venus Rose.