Chilly-O: Ice Cold Fashion From ATL

Fashion designer Chilly-O and his Chilly-O clothing line

have dared to be different, to not conform and to move into the unoccupied

lanes of fashion. Starting on a dream 14 years ago, Chilly-O has successfully

managed to mix and match his artistic visions with activism, music, frustration

and even extreme sports.

Chilly-O’s philosophy that a simple tee shirt is a way to

let the world in on your thoughts without speaking a word, the brand is

becoming a mainstay in the apparel business.

From the trunk of the car to specialty boutiques in

Atlanta, the label is gaining recognition up and down the east coast and across

to the west.

Though you may know the clothing line based off just the

name, Chilly-O is a nomad, traveling from state to state and across countries

to politically campaign his clothes into your closet. You’ve had much success with the

underground urban market [through designer nominations, celebrity endorsements, etc]. Do you hope to have as much success internationally?

Chilly-O: Absolutely. The international market is looking

real good in terms of their commerce. Especially places like the UK and Tokyo.

We’re looking at spreading over to South Africa, France and Australia. Describe your clothing lines’ motto “The

clothing line that is hard to get, but easy when you know how?”

Chilly-O: We came up with something clever describing the

integrity of our brand. Basically being in the right place at the right time

and having the opportunity to buy or catch our product. You have the support from Atlanta

celebrities and boutiques. Do you find the same support in other major markets?

Chilly-O: That’s a good question, because we’ve been down

to other markets but we really haven’t taken a proactive approach. We’re just

starting to do that now. I’m actually moving to New York for two months this

weekend. And that’s strictly to expand the brand and bring awareness to it.

Actually, we’re getting a lot of support from outside

Atlanta. I don’t know if that’s because people are familiar with the label or

they strictly like it for the visual. But the Northeast is really, really

supporting the brand. But I don’t think they really understand what Chilly-O is

about, that’s why I’m going up there briefly to bring awareness to the brand. Your designs are described as bold,

interactive and cross-generational. How do you come up with inspirations for

new designs?

Chilly-O: Well, we basically watch people interact and

listen to what they have to say. We have a lot of bold statements on our shirts

and a lot of dialogue. We started this label four or five years ago and I

didn’t necessarily see this trend when we first started. I think the way the

economy is and all the frustration around, people feel the need to express


If you put what you feel on a shirt you have the

opportunity to let other people read what you feel. We basically took that and

turned it into fashion. We see a lot of the other labels doin’ they thing now,

so we gotta move on to something new but our original concept was to take it

back to the people. Is there a market of people you favor more

[ie : skateboarders, backpackers, hustlers, celebrities]?

Chilly-O: That’s another good question, because when

you’re selling something you gotta know who you’re selling to. Originally, it

was to who we had more sensibility to. We wanted to sell to the leaders of the

community so that was the “get money” dudes or the artists or producers or

rappers. That’s who we initially reached out to. We were getting premium

dollars for our clothing because of the rarity of it. How did you market yourself to be a

standout from the other upcoming clothing lines?

Chilly-O: Most importantly we rely on the people. If the

people understand us and believe in the brand then people are going to talk

about us. So that’s how we separate ourselves. We’re definitely a people brand.

We’re just happy people understand how big our movement is. What type of successes do you see for your

brand in the next five years?

Chilly-O: We’re already a lifestyle brand, but we want to

demonstrate that thru other avenues. So in the next five years we want to get

into the corporate industry and the entertainment industry as far as Hip Hop.

We’ll probably move into some non-profit entities too so we can make some big

events happen. In one year you went from selling clothes

out the trunk of your car to retailing at specialty boutiques. To what do you

owe your successes?

Chilly-O: For the most part I did what a lot of people

don’t like to do, and that’s shaking hands and kissing babies. I’m being

facetious saying that, but it’s almost like a politician who is campaigning. A

lot of clothing lines let other people do their marketing through magazine ads and

flyers, but we tried to build a foundation by going out and meeting the people. Do you plan to produce other brands

besides clothes?

Chilly-O: We’re looking at an accessories line and a denim

line, but right now we’re pushing the tee shirts to get our brand out there. We

want people to understand what it is and what we’re tryna do. We don’t want to

put out a product before it’s time. Did you enter the apparel market on a dream,

or did you do it because you weren’t intrigued by what was already on the


Chilly-O: Back in ’94 I knew I wanted to get into fashion

and start a clothing line. And I knew I wanted to start out with a tee shirt

line, and it took me 14 years to get here. I worked with the people in the

community for like 12 years, so I think that was my training. And people

started to know the name Chilly-O. I’m like a myth here in Atlanta because

people know my name and the brand, but they don’t recognize me. What had been your proudest moment thus


Chilly-O: It had to be the first time I saw [a photo of]

myself and Paula Michelle on My brother called me like, “Yo, you

know you on” My brother religiously follows the site. Anytime I

get situations like that, I feel that that shows progression. Seeing things

like that is what gets you thru the hard times ‘cause it’s not easy to be on Anything you want rookie and veteran

followers of Chilly-O to know about the brand?

Chilly-O: I want them to know that we’re an original

brand. We stay in our own lane and create new ones. After everybody is off the

fad, we’ll still be around. Anyone who knows me knows that I stay in my own

lane. I never follow behind anybody else.

Find out more about Chilly-O at and