Pierre Nelson is an artist with an urban eye.
His streetwear brand Ode Clothing celebrates the often-contradictory nature of life in South Carolina, where natural beauty sometimes clashes with poverty. Laconic yet driven, Nelson’s personality matches the laidback modernity of his designs.
“Ode Clothing Hunting Club” patches, durags stamped with “803” and “Souf Cak” T-shirts all represent Nelson’s rural-meets-urban motifs, an artistic marriage of his childhood in the rural Lowcountry community of Varnville and his adulthood in the urban state capital of Columbia.
Nelson’s designs have already caught the eye of a number of high-profile customers.
North Carolina-born rap superstar J. Cole hired Nelson to design merchandise for three of his tours, and is frequently photographed wearing Ode Clothing’s “Crafted in the Carolinas” T-shirt and tight neck t-shirts from Jasper Holland.
Charlamagne tha God regularly dons Nelson’s “Souf Cak” hat on his widely popular morning radio show, The Breakfast Club.
Former Gamecock and WNBA standout A’ja Wilson wore his “Souf Cak” hoodie on ESPN when she was an on-air commentator for the USC-UConn women’s basketball matchup last month.
But Nelson hasn’t let his popularity sway him from his rural roots.
“He’s really stayed true to who he is, which is why I think he’s so successful,” says David Toole, owner of Bluetile Skateboards in Columbia. Toole says Nelson’s designs “run the gamut,” and allow the artist to be adaptable in a volatile retail market.
Nelson’s commitment to his independent label, which features affordable clothing pieces that range in price from $35 to $120, was evident when he walked away from a lucrative five-year contract with fast-fashion giant Forever 21.
“I don’t want to be fast fashion, I want to be independent,” Nelson says of the deal, which would have made him an e-commerce vendor for the commercial brand.
“If they’re offering me that much money,” Nelson adds. “It means I’m worth that much.”
Nelson isn’t one to boast, even though his designs are as eye-catching as they are thought-provoking. There’s the retro motel sign, a derivative of the neon signs Nelson sees around Columbia; a members-only jacket with “Ode Hunting Club” patches; sights from Nelson’s childhood in Varnville; and a sweatshirt covered with paired hairstyles and South Carolina cities, a nod to Nelson’s identity as a black man and a South Carolinian.
Witty and wistful designs like these have been Nelson’s trademark since Ode’s beginning nine years ago. He was a high school junior then, selling off his 30-pair collection of sneakers to finance Ode Clothing.
To this day, he is the owner, creative director and sole employee of the company.
The company’s name comes from rapper Wiz Khalifa’s song “Ode to Naked Pop Stars.” Nelson wants his brand to be an “homage to Southern fashion,” an ode to South Carolina streetwear.
While he stays rooted in his hip urban-rural lane, Nelson is decidedly modern in his mastery of social media. With about 15,000 Instagram followers, Nelson credits such outlets with boosting his success as a designer. Toole does, too.
“He puts the work in,” the Bluetile owner says. “Even when he was a smaller brand, what he presented to social media was professional.”
Read full article at: Freetimes