Albany Teen Lands Business Deal With Retail-Powerhouse, "United Arrows," In Japan

Albany Teen Lands Business Deal With Retail-Powerhouse, "United Arrows," In Japan

Taofeek Abijako talks to me about his clothing design company, "HEAD OF STATE"

“I can't even believe I’m alive right now."

Taofeek Abijako, an 18-year-old soccer player and entrepreneur from Albany, NY, tells me as he sits next to me on a bar-stool at the Daily Grind Coffee Shop dressed head to toe in clothing from his design company, "HEAD OF STATE."

While most 18-year-olds are planning their schedules or packing their bags for school, Abijako is taking a gap year to negotiate business deals with high end international retailers.

Founded in 2016, "HEAD OF STATE" features a combination of printed t-shirts manufactured in Pennsylvania, and threads Abijako hand-paints himself.

The concept behind the unisex design company was inspired by the song “Coffin for Head of State,” by Nigerian Afrobeat singer, Fela Kuti, which touches on the corruption of the church and government in Nigeria -- Abijako’s home for his first 11 years of life.

“There's a lot of issues going on lately with politics especially back in Nigeria," Abijako told me. "Fela, who's one of the biggest inspirations behind this... his song was focused on exposing corruption, calling out the government and all the messed up stuff that's going on back home, and I relate to that in so many ways.”

During his senior year of high school, Abijako left the soccer field to begin painting designs on converse sneakers and uploading pictures of the finished products on Instagram.

“The art was really his passion,” David Weiss, the varsity soccer coach at Albany High, Abijako's Alma Matter, told me, “Soccer was his hobby and art was his passion, and I just think it's wonderful at his age to find out what his passion is.”

After receiving many Instagram messages of individuals requesting customized sneakers with his designs, Abijako reached out to his fellow Albany High graduate, a film major at SUNY Albany, and crew member of “As You Are,” which premiered at the 2016 Sundance film festival, Aden Suchak, and began developing his brand,

Major streetwear blogs, like Hypebeast, and celebrities and the like began taking notice.

Amandla Stenberg, or “Rue” from the Hunger Games franchise, who was on the set of "As You Are" with Suchak and Abijako, can be seen rocking HEAD OF STATE shoes.

What began as painting geographic designs on converse and vans , ended in a discussion, only seven months after his initial post, between Abijako and a major Japanese retailer: United Arrows.

“In 10 years I expect Taofeek will be one of the most popular and sought after designers in the world, let alone the country,” Suchak told me, “I think he has the talent and certainly the motivation to get there.”

Suchak (left) and Abijako (right) posing for Abijako's Instagram back in October

The collection, described by Abijako as a “social commentary," utilizes simple colors and fits paired with hand-painted acrylic designs to produce sophisticated streetwear which could be described as a "crossover between the brand Supreme and the artwork of Bruce Gray."

Pat O'Connell, one of his teachers and mentors at Albany High says that upon a first impression he realized, “he knows what he wants to do and what he has to do to get there, which is very difficult for kids this age.”

“I want to focus on saying stuff without using words,” notes Abijako, and with his first major business deal since the birth of "HEAD OF STATE" being with United Arrows in Japan, he seems to be saying quite a lot.

All images courtesy of Taofeek Abijako

Cover Image Credit: Taofeek Abijako
Cover Image Credit: Taofeek Abijako
Cover Image Credit: Taofeek Abijako

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Why Loving Clothes Shopping is Important

learn to love to shop!

Clothes shopping can be stressful, daunting, and uncomfortable. It is something that I dreaded for my whole life. It was always so full of promise when I first walked into a store but it always ended with sadness when nothing looked right on me. I would remember why I hated going shopping in the first place and would end up being depressed over it. The mirrors in the changing rooms only made it worse because it was just another reminder of why I hated clothes shopping. It took me until I turned 23 to love shopping again. I began being able to fit into clothes and became more adventurous with trying on things that I never would have in the past. I was losing weight in a healthy way and I finally began to shop in a better mood. I would walk into stores with my head held high and ready to find something to try on. I love trying on pretty tops and feeling so excited when I saw how amazing they looked on me. I love being able to walk out of a store with something that I really love and that I could not wait to wear. I wish that I could have found this feeling of happiness sooner. Some of the things that I do know when I shop now are as follows:

  1. Find one thing that really catches your eye: I search the store for something that really catches my attention. It could be a top, a bottom or a dress whatever it is, I make sure that there is something special about it.
  2. Take Multiple Sizes: Every stores sizing is different. Do not get discouraged when you find something in a size that would fit you somewhere else and it ends up not fitting here. I come to accept this one. I would rather feel comfortable in what I have on then be stuffed into it.
  3. Search the Clearance and Sale Racks: These are the best places to look for things because not only are they marked down but there are so many different options.
  4. Make sure it REALLY fits: Test it out, walk around, make sure that you can breathe and feel comfortable in what you have on. This one is really important because I now only buy what I feel good in.
  5. Have Fun: Shopping should not have to be dreadful, it should be something that you can do with ease.

If anything, make sure that you buy something that you really love and can see yourself wearing. Do not just buy something to buy it, you should really love it. It took me so long to love my clothes and even longer to love shopping for them. Loving this experience has really opened up my eyes to what is out there for me. I hope this helps you too!

Shop on!

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Natural Does Not Have To Be A Hassle

Tips on how to achieve perfect natural hairstyles in less time.

Having curly hair in college can be a struggle sometimes. Each morning consist of find clothes and spending an hour or more in the mirror trying to detangle and moisturize your curls for the perfect style. My fellow naturalist, it can all be so easy with 5 simple tips:

Tips 1: The tangle is real!

If your hair gets tangled while you sleep try LottaBody and twisting your hair into sections at night. When you wake up your hair will be detangled and it will cut your hair time by minutes since the twisting method will also reduce shrinkage.

Tip 2: Shea doesn’t have any moisture.

Find the best product for your hair. Just because it's name brand hair product, does not guarantee that it will work best for your hair. Everyone hair is different, so the better you learn your hair the easier it will be to get your perfect hairstyle on the first try.

Tip 3: Time is money.

Try waking up 30 mins earlier. Waking up early may be a hassle but consider your hair as a new relationship. In every relationship, you must put the time in to get to know each other better. Waking up will allow you more time for changes and laying each piece of hair perfectly. Once you learn your hair you can sleep longer and doing your hair will take less time.

Tip 4: H.2.O.

Water is always your best friend. When it comes to your hair, water is your pencil and pen. It is used for creating and fixing mistakes. Applying water to your hair can be tricky. Find the balance between avoiding shrinkage while having hydrated hair. Every natural lady needs a spray bottle. Life without a spray bottle is basically an unfulfilled life.

Tip 5: Curls that could kill.

Try a new style the night before to see how your hair will fall and be placed. Practice makes perfect. Utilize your bobby pins because they will make your life so much easier and make your style choice unlimited. Don’t be afraid to try different creative styles. Your hair, your curls, are your crown! Wear it with style.

These five simple tips can help any naturalist on her journey to loving her curls and cut minutes off their morning routine.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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