My Soapbox: Floyd Johnson, OATW
Known as “Floyd From Ohio” or Floyd “Fresh Daily” Johnson by his friends, the 27-year-old local designer/photographer just flew back from an assignment shooting Olympic players for Nike in Los Angeles.
A college dropout who’s been rejected from DAAP’s fashion program three times, Johnson has carved out a creative niche representing his home state in apparel, that reaches across the globe from his studio apartment in Northside.
Maria Seda-Reeder recently sat down with him to discuss what he’s doing these days and the shirts/hats worn by everyone from indie starlets to suburban dads.
Soapbox: Tell me about Ohio Against The World.
About two years ago, I saw someone online from Cincinnati, wearing one of Nike’s Brooklyn Against the World t-shirts in their avatar photo and it was kind of offensive to me.
I was like, “you’re from the Cincinnati! At least represent where you’re from!” So I appropriated it to make “Ohio Against the World” t-shirts, and since then, I’ve gotten it trademarked.
These days I’ve got the shirts, hats, tank tops, and I’m currently working on the prototype for a sweatshirt.
OATW is a brand extension of the original trademark. It came about because I was on twitter and somebody wrote the hashtag #OATW. So many people are on twitter these days and there’s only 140 characters that you have to write with.
OATW is just short and concise so it’s convenient, but it’s also on that futuristic tip.
SB: What’s your process?
For me, it begins with the idea. The way the hats came about was that I saw these Patricia Fields leather caps from the 80s with the word “SEX” on them in thick, acrylic, all-caps letters across the top of it.
I thought, “How cool would it be to appropriate this?” (I’m keen on appropriation.)
And then the process becomes finding people locally who I know to bring these ideas to fruition. I started screen-printing shirts myself, my Pops has had a screenprinting business in our basement ever since I was born, but with all my jobs it started to get to be too much. So I got [local design group] Able Projects
on board. I also work with Such and Such
on die-cuts for the hats.
SB: What’s the deal with you shooting for Nike? Were they aware of the Ohio Against the World campaign, and is that what brought you to their attention?
The photo shoot was for Nike soccer, so I wouldn’t say that the two were related at all; but a friend who is a designer there definitely has asked me about it, so somebody knows about [my appropriation of their slogan].
About four years ago, I reached out to Shaniqua Jarvis because I really respect her work, and this past April her people reached out to me for the Nike campaign.
They wanted someone who could do more candid-style street photos, so I sent them some samples of my work and they brought me on board to shoot two American Olympic soccer players in LA for a kind of “day in the life” photo project.
SB: What does OATW mean to you and to the people who buy it?
It’s a visual shout-out to my home state, but it’s also a unifying thing. A lot of creatives that I know have left and moved to New York or moved to LA, and there was no sincere Ohio-based thing going on.
There’s a lot of support for the teams here in Cincinnati (and that’s dope), but it wasn’t anything that was more fashion-forward. Initially I worked with t-shirts but I’m trying to move it more fashion-forward because people don’t usually think of Ohio like that, and I want to change that.
SB: Is finding local sources for your merchandise important to you?
Yeah, I’m really keen about using other creatives in Cincinnati that I know have phenomenal businesses; that’s how you build community.
I get my shirts screen printed by Able Projects, the die-cuts for the hats at Such and Such, and I’m also working with Rosie [Kovacs, proprietor of the] Brush Factory
on some pieces for the fall.
We have all this talent here, it only makes sense to use local people.
SB: Is fashion or photography more important to your creative practice?
They go hand in hand. I have this Einstein quote that is perfect for that question: “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
I just want to do everything. I could be a DJ tomorrow; I could be a producer. I’m curious about creating.
SB: Who’s the coolest person you got to photograph wearing your clothes?
I ran into Chloe Sevigny at [vintage punk rock clothing store] Search and Destroy in New York, so that was cool.
To be honest, I just want real people wearing my clothes. When the first person contacted me from London and wanted a hat, I was so stoked! They may have no idea where Ohio is on the map but there are people in London and Paris wearing OATW hats.
SB: I’ve heard rumors you were featured in
Playboy magazine once?
Yeah, there was this “Best Man on Campus” competition that Playboy
sponsored, I was at Cincinnati State and since I’d always been into fashion, I submitted some photos.
I got to go to New York to be shot by Nigel Barker from America’s Next Top Model. I never watch TV, so I had no idea who he was, so I was very normal when I met him.
It was my first time in New York. I only got paid like $200, but they had a stylist on the set, and I got a free hotel and free transportation.
SB: Where can people cop a t-shirt, tank or hat these days?
or the CAC
, and I’m in the process right now of making my own website because of the international demand for the merchandise.
You can also hit Floyd up on Facebook or Twitter.
Photos by Scott Beseler and Floyd Johnson