Austin Artist Chaka Mahone Lands a Spot in Macy’s Competitive Incubator

Best known around town as one half of hip-hop duo Riders Against the Storm, rapper Chaka Mahone is also an accomplished visual artist. He launched his NefrFreshr clothing line in 2017 with a dynamic art and fashion show in Antone’s gallery. He now hopes a new Macy’s-sponsored brand development opportunity could bring the line to a wider audience.

Out of 600 applicants, NefrFreshr was one of six companies accepted into the department store workshop at Macy’s incubator program. Over a six-week period, Mahone will take part in an intensive program that includes lessons on everything from brand identity and marketing to how to build relationships with investors and retailers. The final classes will be held at Macy’s New York headquarters in late May.

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Program participants aren’t guaranteed placement at Macy’s stores, but they do receive coaching on all the things they need to open those opportunities.

“It’s about scaling the brand,” Mahone said in early May. “It’s about that tipping point and moving to that national platform.”

This will be the second development program Mahone will participate in for NefrFreshr. He recently graduated from Austin Community College’s Fashion Incubator. That experience helped him grow the brand “in a big way,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have had the confidence or the knowledge, the language to speak to make (Macy’s) app competitive if I hadn’t gone through the ACC incubator program,” he said. declared.

When he started the brand, “I was taking my paints, basically, and putting them on clothes,” he said. Through the ACC incubator, he developed a deeper brand identity, a story that existed outside of himself.

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He thinks “truly unique people” are the target demographic for his updated line, so he created iconography around a spotted zebra. The zebra itself is a standout looking creature in the animal kingdom. Spotting on a zebra is a genetic mutation that occurs occasionally. “Once in a while a spotted zebra will come to this planet, but that’s rare,” Mahone said.

Embracing the uniqueness of the animal, “bringing it really front and center,” evokes an energy that he believes will reflect and resonate with his customers, he said.

As he works to develop the range, he emphasizes sustainability and ethical production.

“I want to do a hemp-based line,” he said. “I don’t want it to be fast fashion.”

His friend Iba Thaim, a chef and actor who lived in Austin, told Mahone he was wearing a NefrFreshr shirt in New York when he met another man in Mahone’s gear.

“They just got together and had this connection and this feeling towards each other that was like they knew they were already friends,” Mahone said.

This experience illustrates his end goal for the brand.

“It’s not about maximizing profit in a quick way,” he said. “It’s about what is the potential of this brand to really bring people together?”

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