The first collection from Jide Osifeso and Reigning Champ, Weeping Eye finds strength in adversity and draws inspiration from the rain-soaked climate of the Pacific Northwest.
Featuring an anorak, bomber jacket, cargo pant and more, Weeping Eye showcases Osifeso’s utilitarian perspective and experimental approach with refined boxy fits made to layer, robust pocket and zipper constructions, and a combination of striking screen prints and embroidery.
Osifeso’s recent design work includes projects with Nike, Kendrick Lamar, TDE, Jaden Smith, and his own label HYMNE.
We recently sat down with Osifeso to discuss the origins of Weeping Eye, his design background, and how a personal connection to concert merch sparked his passion for products that transcend function.
Your first Reigning Champ collection has been in the works for over a year. Looking back on the process, was there a specific moment when you knew what the vision would be?
I was having lunch with Craig (Atkinson), and we were just, not even talking about my product, but just talking about product in general. I was picking his brain about his approach to fabrication and construction, and the history of CYC. When we had that conversation, it was like, “Okay, this is the way to merge what I like and what Craig has done for all these years and have a new point of view come out of that.” I think that was a eureka moment of what this partnership should be.
How does season one reflect your design ethos, as well as Reigning Champ’s?
I feel like I have a complementary sensibility to what’s done at Reigning Champ. When I think of this company I do think particularly of fleece, I think of nylon, I think of sportswear. I think of heavier weight terry, colder climate weights, stuff like that, which is what I love to wear. It wasn’t really a departure for me, it’s just a different part of my brain being used for the same thing. The stuff that I would design here would probably fit with stuff I would design anywhere because it’s my sensibility. I don’t have to get into a different mindset when approaching this product, I just stay within the perimeters of what I feel when I think of CYC and Reigning Champ.
Looking at the name of the collection, Weeping Eye, what was the inspiration behind that?
I think back to a conversation I had with Craig, when I’d asked him why he chose to name his company as he did. He said something along the lines of, “We wanted to be the best. We wanted to be the champions of what we do. We wanted to make the best fleece, the best construction. We wanted to have the best flatlock (seams), we wanted to have the best whatever. Whatever we do, we want to give it the proper attention and make sure that we’re not making any compromises.”
After hearing that and some discussion about CYC’s history, I wanted to relate the perspective we shared for product back to day-to-day life. I want to explore being a champion. What is that? What’s that journey? The ups and downs, and the ebbs and flows of becoming a champ.
Relating that back to why I titled it Weeping Eye, when I was approached to do this I was definitely going through a somber period of my life. When I think of Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest I think of rain. It’s a kind of somber environment. I thought the contrast between gloomy weather and literally weeping, or rain falling from the sky as if it were weeping was fitting. I thought that was a cool thing to explore and relate back to the overall exploration of what Reigning Champ is to me.
You’ve said in the past that one of your main design inspirations was concert merch?
At what point did you go from simply appreciating merch to seeing it as an opportunity for design?
I think from the jump. My taste in graphic T-shirts, especially stuff that I wear, it’s always been based in that. The configuration of, “This shirt is supposed to advertise this event, that happens at this place, on this date,” I thought was pretty cool. It’s almost an ad for how I identify as a person. I know there are shirts that I have from concerts when I was younger that are a part of my identity. If I didn’t have that shirt, that’s almost like throwing away a picture of yourself from when you were a kid, it’s like a timestamp.
Everything on those shirts had a function. There were never any cutesy details, there were no weird appliqués, it was just a graphic T-shirt. So, when I started making graphics professionally, that was what I wanted to do. Eventually I started making them for other people. It was the most natural thing ever because that’s what I always loved. I would sometimes not buy lunch at school because I knew I was going to a concert that weekend and I knew I wanted to be able to get as many items as I could.
You’ve designed tour merchandise for major artists, but also album artwork, stages and numerous other projects. How does you approach change depending on what you’re working on?
It’s always different. I have my sensibilities and I know what I like, but different people want different things. My approach to working with an artist is, what’s best for them? How can I take everything I’ve ever learned in my entire life and put it through the lens of x-person and apply it to x-project? If it’s any kind of graphic, if it’s a tour poster, this needs to be able to represent the tour, this moment in time accurately and appropriately. When I’m listening to your music, the way I feel when I hear it is going to dictate how I design stuff for it. I try to do the best for the art, it’s my sensibility but not necessarily my taste. It’s the taste of the artist.
Speaking to the process of designing for others, you’ve designed for RVCA, Nike, Adidas and more, but also started your own label, HYMNE. At what point did you discover what your sensibilities were and what the vision for your own imprint would be?
It’s weird. I think if you spoke to someone who knew me when I was 17, they’d probably tell you that I dress the same right now. The stuff I make looks like my 17-year-old self could also wear it. There wasn’t too much of an evolution. My taste got a lot better and my actual skillsets got developed. But I think that I fully figured out what I wanted to do, specifically with HYMNE, maybe within the last year.
I stopped doing it for a while because I was like, “I don’t know if this is it.” But then I did a hard reset and I went back to square one. What kind of zippers do I want? What kind of fabrics do I want? What kind of construction do I want? How do I want to finish my seams? What kind of fleece do I want? What kind of denim do I want to use? How am I going to wash it? I kind of broke everything down to a granular level. Now it’s exactly what I want to do and say. It’s exactly what I want to express. We’re going to be selling it next month in Paris and I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s exactly what I want.
Going forward, how do you plan to balance HYMNE with your other projects?
It’s going to be an insane split of time. I think now, and especially next year, I’m planning to be more collaborative. I’m planning to work with a lot more people in various aspects. Whether it’s my business, whether it’s my design, I think the best use of my time isn’t physically doing everything but just having my hands in a bunch of different things. But that being said, there’s just so much more on the horizon, stuff that I’m scheduled to do next year. It’s going to be an insane split of time, but it’s going to be good. There’s going to be a lot of music.