Mr Ouigi Theodore – a graphic designer trained in History – is the co-owner and creative director of The Brooklyn Circus – the cult lifestyle shop and clothing brand in the famed New York City enclave he has lived in since his family moved from Haiti when he was just 8 years-old. Mr Theodore has grown his label to an additional shop in San Francisco, an online sales revenue stream, various pop-ups and a distribution network stretching as far as Japan. He is a big inspiration for MR KABELO KUNGWANE of The Sartists, who reflects on ‘Uncle Ouigi’s’ influence on his own path in fashion.
One of the first pictures I ever saw of Mr Ouigi Theodore – or Uncle Ouigi to me – was when he was featured in Street Etiquette’s Black Ivy editorial in 2010. Those were my early days on Tumblr and Facebook, I was in high school and loved history; a love that kept me glued me to developments in vintage clothing and style. Dressed in a grey newsboy cap, grey herringbone scarf, brown jacket, college cardigan, folded jeans and brown Oxford golfer shoes; he reminded me of the ordinary people and political icons I saw in my history books, and I was fascinated and inspired by his style. I have been following him ever since.
I call the founder of the eleven year-old brand the American Pantsula, because of his authentic American style, one that will be familiar to many South Africans. The word Pantsula emerged in the 1950s & 60s in the townships of Johannesburg, particularly Alexandra to the north, and Sophiatown, a stone’s throw away from the CBD. Pantsulas were mostly gangsters who were into the American style: the jazz life; the Dobbs hats; suits and Flosheim brogues. When the culture evolved, Panstulas re-emerged as dancers, also inspired by American workwear styles: Coveralls, Dungarees (Amadelela) to Dickies work shirts and pants, and dare we forget the Converse All Star.
I had always imagined Mr Theodore’s eye and taste to be that of someone who would stand side to side with The Sartists, digging at vintage markets and city outfitters in Johannesburg. I was right. He discovered us on Instagram while doing research for his first trip to South Africa. He saw that we had similar tastes and when he came to South Africa we got the opportunity to meet him and show him around the city. He is one of the people who inspired and fathered what we do as a collective and we were the guys to show him around the city. It was amazing, a dream come true.