Daily Paper's Founders on The Lessons They've Learned 10 Years In

Daily Paper's Founders on The Lessons They've Learned 10 Years In

by Tiana Randall

The peak blogging era of the late aughts feels like a relic at this point, back when people actually built websites instead of Instagram profiles. But as we’ve seen over the years, many of the most successful creatives started out that way for turning their humble blog — and their personal brand — into a full-blown empire.

Daily Paper’s journey can be traced back to a personal blog as well, which three young friends launched in 2008 as a way to cover their music, style and African influences. Jefferson Osei, Hussein Suleiman, and Abderrahmane Trabsini grew up together, which made them ideal business partners for their contemporary streetwear brand that blurs the lines of streetwear and luxury.

The unisex label is based in Amsterdam but has long used the designers’ African heritage as a main source of inspiration. They use African motifs from the past to create a future that goes beyond contemporary fashion, slowly bleeding the same sentiments they take from the old continent and bringing them into the future.

As Daily Paper turns 10 years old, the idea of perfection becomes less of a concern, and the emphasis on it not being “a destination, but a journey” rings truer for them every day. They’re continuing to edit their vision of afro-mythicism while using themes of pre-colonial power as a stunning blueprint for the future.

From showing at Paris Fashion Week to building skateparks in Ghana with Virgil Abloh, leading a new generation of African creatives and opening stores around the world, each move continues to conquer the last. Below, the Daily Paper team reflects on 10 years in business and what’s next.

Abderrahmane Trabsini

10 years into Daily Paper, what are the same sentiments that have traveled with you since adolescence in terms of friendship and working collaboratively?

Abderrahmane Trabsini: The sentiments that we share are definitely traveling. Before we started a brand, we've been traveling a lot to get some inspiration, to do some research, to study the game. We've been traveling to Berlin, Paris, New York ... we were sharing beds and rooms. We started in hostels. I think we're very lucky and blessed that we started this brand with the three of us as friends, and that's very unique because 10 years later we're still friends, we're still brothers and we still work very well.

Jefferson Osei: I think we all have a similar upbringing, so that's a sentiment that we've been carrying throughout the years with our brand, in our DNA, in our ethos, in our values and morals and in the way we run our company. These are things that we cherish wherever we are.

When you talk about a similar upbringing, what does that exactly mean to you?

Jefferson: We all come from an African household. In terms of the way we were brought up by our parents, they all migrated from the African continent for a better life in a western society. We have a similar type of hunger to do well in society and not to waste the opportunity our parents gave us.

What would you learn or take from your younger selves that you wish you could apply to the creatives you are now?

Hussein Suleiman: I miss my curiosity. I used to be way more curious than I am right now. I'm a lot more content now, like a lot more at peace. But I used to be wanting to learn more, especially culturally. The curiosity faded away, like for instance, there's an opening of an exhibition tonight in the Bronx and I love the artist, but nowadays I would be like I don't wanna stay out that late tonight, so I'm gonna stay at home. But back then I would take that opportunity directly. It kind of reminds me of when I first came to New York four years ago. I was outside every day. I really wanted to learn about the cultural heart of the city.

Abderrahmane: I think for me it's actually like the opposite, like 10 years ago I was kind of reclusive. I wasn't outside and I wasn't really about networking and promoting the brand. I was more focused on the craft. And what I do encourage young creatives to do is to go to galleries, go network, go meet people, go learn and be where you want to be in the industry. Luckily, Jeff and Hussein were way more social than me, so definitely to my younger self, I would say get out of your shell and make sure you meet people who are very inspiring. I'm more of a sponge now than like 10 years ago.

Hussein Suleiman

When researching African motifs and heretic emblems from the diaspora, what has been your best resource?

Abderrahmane: I think definitely the articles that you find online because when we started the brand we were such in a big research phase and as a creative, I always was searching for inspiration. So I was always on social media, just reading articles and I think that was the best way to learn. And I think the best way to find inspiration is actually being in Africa, so I think that was the most inspiring thing ever.

When you are in Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco or any part of Africa, you learn so much which you bring back home. For example, I remember in 2013 or 14, we went to Morocco for our first lookbook shoot outside of Holland and I looked way different in my country than beforehand.

Is there anything specific that you learned about your origins that you didn't know about before doing research?

Abderrahmane: I think a good example is when we did the shoot in Morocco, we went through the market and we were looking at a lot of rugs, and I grew up with those rugs. So one day I was like, What do those rugs mean? So when I came back I bought a book about it and I learned a lot about it, like those motifs are about fertility and womanhood. I'm like, Wow this is sick. And those motifs, we used them in our collection as well, so that was cool.

When bringing two completely different cultures to exist as one, what are some of the surprising similarities you’ve found between European culture and African culture? Or is it the vast difference that you celebrate?

Hussein: Oh there's so many similarities. We wanted to use the brand as a vehicle to learn more about the continent that we are all from. We were fed a lot of misinformation about the countries that we were from growing up. I remember the first time me and Jefferson went to Johannesburg for instance. I was so surprised about how a lot of the streetwear movements that were going on in LA, New York and Europe were also visible in South Africa, or that the kids over there were like actually super similar in everything that they do.

The only difference is they approach everything from different views. For instance, the subject matter when it comes to some of my favorite streetwear brands in Africa is that the subject matters are about African things, about local things. The clothes are also used to send certain messages that they care about at that moment. So I do still see the similarities that they use — the t-shirt or the sweater, the clothes, the art pieces, the music — as a canvas of self-expression. It's just that their self-expression is rooted around the things that influence them.

Jefferson Osei

Community building has always been a part of shaping your brand. How has the internet served as a catalyst in your journey to becoming a streetwear brand that crosses over into luxury lines?

Hussein: I think the internet helped connect us with like-minded individuals from all over the world, also the internet helped us to stay in touch with all these like-minded individuals all over the world. And so for community building, obviously the internet has been super important. Like, from the blogging days to the forum days, to the social media days to now the group chats that we are all in with people from all over the world that actually have similar views. I think the internet really helped make it visible.

Abderrahmane: I think a lot of the ideas come from the internet, like in terms of inspiration, but also we search on the internet for like local artists. We found the artist from Somalia, his name is Mustafa, for SS23, we found a Sudanese girl called Yasmeena. Shout out to the algorithm, if you keep searching for the same things, things come on your radar. So I think that's a beautiful thing. And regarding the cross into luxury lines, I think it's not luxury per se, but we are getting older. We started this brand when we were like 23, so we were into the basic stuff, and after 10 years you want to progress, you want to make more mature stuff that you personally want to wear. The brand is really a reflection of us and in those 10 years, your taste level changes, and you can clearly see that in the brand. We're not making only t-shirts and hoodies.

With your fashion exchange program, in what ways has leading a new generation of creatives been a part of your journey?

Hussein: I think it is a given that we have to do this. I don't think we had a choice. Everybody put us in a position where we could do something as beautiful as Daily Paper. We want everybody to experience something similar, so if I see somebody that wants this as well for themselves, why would we not open doors to share our knowledge?

So we created this program together where we actually have interns coming from the continent. And I think when you do something like that, you also benefit from it. It's not a one-sided thing, it's not a charity program. We open our doors to creatives with a totally different outlook that are extremely ambitious into our offices. I think that should be something that everybody in the world has to strive to do.

Abderrahmane: We low-key hoped that we had that opportunity ourselves like 10 years ago, to see someone's operation, to see how things are working. We had to figure all things out ourselves along the journey. So we're kind of blessed that we kind of build a brand that is inspiring for the new generation. We're open house, everybody's welcome to visit our office, to see how we work, and to get inspired. We always say everything is possible, you just gotta figure it out and put in the work. Eventually, we gotta pass the torch to the new generation.

Photo courtesy of Daily Paper