Alexander-John's OG Chain Collection: "This Is A Black Story"
By Stereo Williams
"The OG Chain collection is designed to bring a spotlight back to where streetwear all began."
Alexander-John believes in authenticity.
"Spray cans draped in Cuban links serve as a visual for luxury lifestyle," John explains. "While also paying homage to graffiti art deriving from hip hop culture."
One of the most famed designers in the game, Alexander-John's collaborations with major brands like PUMA and Saks speaks to his reach—but when you take a close look, they’re also indicators of what his values are as an artist.
“Whatever I get asked to do, I need to be able to find a tie somewhere to my story, where I was influenced by it or a part of it,” the designer shares with ROCK THE BELLS. “You’ve got to find that connection. So what I look for is, normally, a connection. It doesn’t have to be the ‘coolest’ project, but if there as an authentic connection there; where I can remember ‘This is what I was doing at that age or in that era,’ I feel like it’s my job to tell that story. To push that out there, because that’s my lens.”
That connection to sincere expression is what’s informed John’s designs from the very beginning. Not having traditional training, he had to find his own creative voice and build his own brand from nothing.
“What inspired me was the fact that I got to design from a pure place,” he explains. “I didn’t have the schooling. I didn’t have a lot of the clothing—my family didn’t have the money to provide me with cool things or cool sneakers. So for me, that was a platform. You can think about it like, ‘hey, I have nothing’ or ‘hey, I don’t have any guidelines that I have to go by. Because I’m in this position, I can create from a pure place and share with the world what these new ideas. And growing up like that, you have faith, you have God. Prayer is a thing, before any job design concept gets sketched.”
His belief in himself is born of a willingness to push himself creatively and stylistically, never allowing complacency—or commercial success—to dictate how he feels about his work.
“I’m constantly being asked to do something that doesn’t exist."
“Customizing shoes, as a profession wasn’t a thing 12, 13 years ago when I started. We were looked at as guys who were doing finger-painting on shoes. Now, when you look at how serious its’ taken by the industry, to the point where I’m getting opportunities…this game has evolved quite a bit. You’re constantly doing something that you’ve never done before.”
“That’s your job—to produce what hasn’t been done.”
The Cuban link chain motif is consistent throughout this collection, a testament to the street culture from which it was inspired. And for Alexander-John working with an icon of culture makes for a winning combination.
“You get to do something cool that has a really dope tag to the history of music,” John says of working with RTB and LL Cool J, in particular. “You [can] do the most authentic thing that you can that involves this figure but doesn’t lean so heavily onto him but from the legacy that he’s admired [for.]"
The Chain Collection pays homage to Hip-Hop, boldness and Blackness.
"This collection offers today’s streetwear enthusiasts an opportunity to support a collection designed with meaning and purpose. This is a Black story, this is a true story, this is the culture... we Rock The Bells.”