Capturing the London youth culture, streetwear, fashion and music scenes.
YouTube has grown to become one of the leading platforms for creatives, regardless of their interest. Previously devoid of menswear and streetwear related content, videos aimed for the fashion-conscious audience failed to look past high street brands, however, one of the main players in a surge of menswear and streetwear focused content makers over the past year, is Kofi McCalla. A man of many aliases, he is known as The Unknown Blasian – his first venture into the YouTube platform and a reference to his heritage, Icymukof – via social media, or perhaps most widely, as The Unknown Vlogs – from his hugely popular YouTube channel with an audience of over 70,000+ subscribers.
Kofi’s rise to fame coincides with the development of the now infamous streetwear culture and the term ‘hypebeast’ itself, which refers to those interested in the most coveted of streetwear garments (which has now gone on to become a tight-knit community and is perhaps one of the most prominent subcultures of today.) The Unknown Vlogs is a documentation of everything streetwear related in London. From the latest Supreme drops, to tours around high-end flagships, to behind-the-scenes looks at exclusive music and fashion events, all through the eyes of Kofi himself.
Since his humble beginnings, he has gone on to build close relationships with fashion industry insiders and worked with the likes of streetwear store, Ejder and the publication, Hypebeast. His easy-going persona is comparable to his comfort based personal style, you will catch Kofi in streetwear designs from the likes of A-Cold-Wall*, NEIGE, NE.SENSE and Rick Owens whilst he scours London to capture the fashion scene and youth culture for his viewers, on a daily basis.
I caught up with Kofi to learn more about where it all started for him, his grail piece of clothing, and where he sees himself in the future.
Tell us about The Unknown Blasian?
Blasian breaks down my ethnic background. I’m both black and Asian, Jamaican and Indian. At present, I study Law at the University of Westminster and currently based in London. But not all my life. I moved about a lot in parts of London and Greater London, which was a struggle to make friends and settle. That’s why I am good at networking as I was used to meeting new people from different schools often.
What about your journey through fashion and YouTube thus far?
I was bought up wearing Roca Wear and GAP so I was growing up becoming more self-aware of what I was wearing and styles thanks to my parents. I just liked to dress good. It was not until I started shopping with my close friend (@pimp_decisions) in this small town we grew up in outside of London when I really started educating myself and getting involved in fashion. Shopping in TK MAXX for cheap designer, I then started to leave high street shops like Topman and investing in Supreme and Palace, which were the cheaper alternative to high fashion like Raf Simons and Rick Owens to us. Back then, Supreme and Palace were still kind of low-key so purchasing pieces wasn’t an issue compared to present days.Then I gathered interest in luxury brands like Saint Laurent but still being a student I had no money to buy pieces. So I would just film myself going to these shops with friends looking and trying on pieces we couldn’t afford. That is then when the adventures of ‘The Unknown Vlogs’ began.
What was your motivation for starting your YouTube channel? You certainly hit a niche area in documenting the various fashion-related events around London.
I had a channel before called ‘The Unknown Blasian’ which was a flop. Just me talking to the camera and I tried so hard but was unsuccessful. The Unknown Vlogs, which is now my main channel got this far by accident. I never meant for it to get this far. My motivation was finding new spots in London to show others to check out, but to also find new spots where I could hang out. I made new friends like Everett who showed me new parts of London and shops I never visited. From that began many adventures.
How did you develop your editing style? It is very unique and I constantly see it being refreshed and updated.
I would use my iPhone to film and edit to create that raw feel. Then when I bought a MacBook I pushed myself to try create edits as crazy as Raf Simons Ozweegos. That being said, a silhouette so unique, no Aliexpress can rip off. That is why you will see the style constantly developing and updating. At present, I am piled with University work and many other projects but I try to keep pushing the boundaries with my edits. I recently took a week break from filming so I could get better in Adobe and craft a new editing formulae.
I see you have recently been working with Highsnobiety? How did this come about and have you got any other ventures planned for the future you would like to hint about?
I am just lucky enough to be surrounded by the right people who always help and support me. My circle is small but my network is big. Thanks to EJDER. Collaborating with Highsnobiety helps me to push my media to a professional level, allowing me to have conversations with people I usually wouldn’t, which brings me one step closer to achieving my own directed fashion film for brands like Gucci. Highsnobiety contacted me as they liked what I was doing. Sometimes let the work speak for itself as you never know who is watching/ listening.
Who do you look up to in terms of people within the creative industry?
Of recent months, Samuel Ross. At first, when I discovered his work, I didn’t know much about him or his work. His clothes just looked cool and unique. I bought a couple pieces at first but it wasn’t until his interview with Hypebeast where he breaks down the meaning behind his brand A-Cold-Wall*, which made me look up to him. Other than him, then it is mostly directors. At the moment, Dexter Navy and @brthr_ are both the gods of directing who always inspire me and my work.
You always manage to look so comfortable in your clothes, what are your main influences on your personal aesthetic?
I commute every day around London. For the long days especially, I need an outfit that will last for the whole day, keep me warm, not too bold and make it easier for me to travel in. I learned Vans and joggers were key so I worked with that, looking for nice high fashion pieces like Rick Owens or NE. SENSE and streetwear pieces like EJDER or M+RC NOIR, with some contemporary UTTER MENSWEAR pieces. Combining these different pieces to make one cozy outfit.
Menswear and fashion YouTube has been on the rise in the past year or so, why do you think this has happened?
Men are becoming more self-conscious about their outfits and the whole reason for fitting in and impressing friends or girls but why YouTubers are on the rise? Maybe due to the influencers on there like Sangiev and Avery G that make people want to do what they’re doing.
Besides your YouTube, what other creative ventures are you most proud of?
TBA. Like I am currently working on so many potentially life changing, career changing projects and that is all I can say. My mind is filled with ideas and projects for the future so I can’t think of anything other than YouTube that I have done in the past.
What is your ultimate ‘grail’ piece of clothing?
Definitely Raf Simons archive pieces from AW 1999-2003. I still want those first Yeezy 750s greys that dropped. Only because I remember when I first saw the photos of the shoes, which were made by my favourite artist, had me dreaming about them for weeks.
Can you break down your process before investing in an item of clothing?
I ‘try’ to look 2 years ahead of time. As fashion is a year ahead and I’m not a fan of how retailers decide what the biggest trends are by mass producing a certain style that everyone has to buy at present, but that’s another story. I try to create my own style before trends pollute it. So I research in my spare time old runway pieces from Gucci and especially Dolce & Gabbana AW 2002 and pick pieces I like. Then try to find cheap alternatives online or from BUMP, Depop or Grailed. Then that becomes my style, which could be big in 2 years time, who knows. Fashion does like to repeat itself.
If you could only wear clothing from one label, what would it be?
Dior Homme. Jesus blessed Dior’s Homme’s x Toru Kamei collab which really made me a big fan of Dior Homme. So at present, it would be this and I want the whole collection but for a bag alone, it costs £4,000 so I guess I won’t be getting pieces anytime soon.
What music are you into right now and does music influence your style at all?
Music heavily influences your style I believe. Through the likes of ASAP Rocky and Kanye West who are, in my opinion, the fashion pillars in music right now. At the moment, Kendrick Lamar- DAMN album is being played on repeat all day since it released.
Name a low-key musician that you are into?
Swoosh God. Check out Aint No Way – Swoosh God. That is too fire !
From your own experiences, what advice would you have for someone wanting to get into the fashion industry?
I heard there is a network launching very soon called ‘PLUGGED’ which gives menswear YouTubers sponsorships and helps them become bigger YouTubers. When that launches, I am excited to see how the fashion youtube game changes as this will help get people into the fashion industry. I will post more about that if you are interested, on my Twitter or Instagram @icymukof.
Clothing line wise (being a YouTuber is easier, however), unless you have a powerful meaning behind your brand that gives purpose and you believe your brand can make a change in this world. Then don’t do it. I believe many people out there just make clothes because it is like a trend or to look cool to their friends. If you are really keen to start a clothing line and you want to get into this fashion industry and you believe this is your only option and you don’t want to be a furniture designer or an artist. Then educate yourself. Start printing on Champion, and as long as it has a meaning and brings purpose, people will come to you. Like they say, Rome wasn’t built in the day, so another thing. Be willing to spend years fighting ups and downs until you make it successful.
Finally, what can we expect from yourself in the next year, and in 5 years time?
I promise to deliver more than just the daily vlogs on Youtube.
Interview and text by Dan Whitewall