Designer Curran J. Swint is a self-made trendsetter. Two.One.Five talks to the Philly-based entrepreneur here about his designs, his concept, and the stereotype-busting social consciousness behind Kings Rule Together.
Two.One.Five Magazine: Where does the name come from?
Curran J. Swint: The name came from me working with different individuals. I consider myself a king. King is a word of endearment I like to use to refer to my fellow males, something that’s more uplifting, something that has a better meaning and better quality. When you refer to somebody, you give someone [a boost] of self-esteem. So I started working with other like-minded individuals – being that I’m a king, on my own – me working with other people made me even stronger, so, that’s “Kings Ruling Together.” So I can be a King by myself, but collaborating with other like-minded individuals who had the same goal, together, the unity between us showed a bigger impact, and that’s where I came up with “Kings Rule Together.”
215: How long have you been designing?
CJS: Only for about a year, really. I started my clothing line in July of 2011, so it’ll be a year in a month. I started my blog in November 2010. But I always was into fashion, I’ve always had a lot of ideas, I just never had an outlet to put it on. So once I started my blog, that’s when it opened up a lot of doors for a lot of different things, and that’s when I started my clothing line, from that.
215: What was the substance of the blog?
CJS: KingsRuleTogether.com was about fashion, lifestyle, showcasing my talents for being a fashion stylist, me working as a photographer – I do a little bit of street style photography – but it was really to highlight myself and the work that I was doing with other people and to shine some light on other people that were doing stuff in the city as well.
215: Who were you working with, were you a part of the fashion shows, or FBH?
CJS: Actually, when I started off, I was interning for the FBH agency, and I helped style the  Banana Republic Fashion Show , and I just did a video with Pharrell [Williams] -- he has a new company called “I Am Other,” a new media project he has, getting together a bunch of talented people who march at their own beat, and I was part of that promo video that he did, and it’s being viewed all over the world. I just had a cameo in the video. It’s kind of like a YouTube channel for creative individuals.
215: Are these the first iterations of your line, the “King” and “Queen” sweatshirts?
CJS: My signature designs are the “Kings Inspire Kings” and the “Queens Inspire Kings.” Greatness begets greatness. I’m inspired by people who are like me or people who I’m motivated by, I’m inspired by one man, or I’m inspired by my mother initially. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for women, so, that’s why I came up with the design “Queens Inspire Kings.” From that, the line is pretty much based on living a King or Queen mindset, having high standards for yourself, and not only dressing the part, but acting the part. When you’re a King, you have a lot of responsibilities. And I feel like a lot of people look up to me, so that’s why, when I consider myself a King, it’s not just for myself, it’s for people watching me, so I have to be a role model. And I’m also representing my city of Philadelphia. People look at Philadelphia, they may look at Two.One.Five Mag, they may look at The Roots, they may look at Liberty, they may also look at me. But, back the line, it’s pretty much just based around peace and unity, it’s breaking the stereotypes of a lot of different things, like, my King shirts are bright colors Usually you think of the word, “King,” you think of like, strong men, masculine. This hoodie had fruity colors on it, with flowers, but it said, “King” on it. It’s really about not being scared to be yourself and being able to be different.
215: Touching on the themes of social consciousness you’ve got here – you’ve got a hoodie, which these days has connotations with Trayvon Martin now, you’ve got the pink color, which obviously has gay rights in mind – was that stuff that you had planned?
CJS: Yeah! I mean, it was just pretty much to break the stereotypes of a lot of different things. I mean, the Trayvon Martin stuff was just stuff that had been going around for years – stuff like that always happens. When you look at a guy with a hoodie on his head, you might think of violence, or you might be scared to walk next to this guy, but it might not necessarily mean that. I know a lot of people who aren’t into that lifestyle who wear those types of things. And it’s about breaking the stereotype of guys who might not be comfortable wearing the color pink, or they might think fruity colors are for girls, or straight men might not be comfortable with it, but you know, I’m a straight man, and I’m wearing colors that you might not think that a straight man might wear, but I’m letting you know, that, you know, that’s not the way to go, you can do whatever you want to do, as long as you’re comfortable with your own skin. And that’s pretty much what my line represents: being comfortable in your own skin, still being the same person you want to be, and just having peace and unity while you’re doing it.
215: What’s your background in, graphic design, fashion?
CJS: My background is really just in fashion. I didn’t go to school for fashion, it’s kind of like my upbringing. My father was into fashion for over 20 years, he had a few different clothing lines, and my mother pretty much the one who told me to be myself, you know, she would allow me to wear certain things as I was growing up, so that allowed me to just be myself, and not look like anybody else, and made me want to venture out and buy other things.
215: Your father had clothing lines in Philadelphia?
CJS: Yeah he had a clothing line, he was one of the original owners of Miskeen Originals, that was real popular in the 2000s, it was hand-painted t-shirts.
215: Were you professionally trained in anything?
CJS: Actually, I didn’t go to school. I mean I went to Community College of Philly for a semester. I graduated from Germantown High School. But lately I’ve been talking to a lot of schools, talking to schools about my story, what I’ve done, how I got to this position thus far, and telling them you know, education is key. If I didn’t have a strong determination of being who I wanted to be, I would be doing something else that I didn’t want to do. I was undecided when I went to school, but I always had a passion for what I wanted to do. So I just networked a lot, I have a quote: “dress how you want to be addressed.” So I would dress accordingly to wherever I was going -- I was very fashionable. People came up because they liked how I looked, and it would open up the conversation. So that kind of started me in my path, and I took advantage of a lot of things -- being from Philadelphia, being looked at as being weird because of the way I dressed – well I took advantage of everything that I had done, I exploited it, I started styling different people in the city, I started taking pictures of different people, you know I just went hard with it. I had a passion for it. And I knew I didn’t have an educational background, so I knew that I had to do something, and I had to go hard with it, or I knew that I was gonna be going back to being a janitor.
215: A lot of people have a passion for something, but are working a job they don’t like. How did you snowball to the point where you were feeling like you can quit your job and do what you love, or how do you even get started doing what you love without the capital for it?
CJS: Well, actually, I started my blog at the same time I had my job. I started my blog in November, and I got laid off of my job in December of 2010. That next week I got on Fox 29 News. I would never have been on there if I had had my job, because I’d have had to be at work at that time. I got on Fox29 news with Rakia Reynolds, who’s been kind of like a mentor at the beginning. Then that January, I got into GQ’s website for street style, #15 out of 100 or something.
215: So this is the story of hard work and opportunities you found, basically by hustling, meeting people..
CJS: Hustling, meeting people, being in the right place at the right time. I think, by March, I got into the Philadelphia Inquirer front page and I had a big style section inside the magazine. And then in April, I styled Andre Iguodala from the 76ers for The Source magazine, that was through Rakia Reynolds.
215: It’s good to have good PR!
CJS: Yeah yeah. It’s good to have people. I met her at an event, she liked the way I was dressed, and she [invited me] onto Fox29. I was like sure, who wouldn’t!? So that’s how that started. But my job called me back in like July, and I didn’t want to go back to work, but I wasn’t making no money like that, so I had to go back to work. So when I got back to work, I made up some money to start up my clothing line. And once I started my clothing line, it started moving, I started making some capital. So when they laid me off again, I was waiting for them to lay me off this time! Like, I’m not coming back. They laid me off this December. It’s seasonal, they would new lay people off, but they always call you back. But now, I’m to the point where I don’t have to go back when they call me, because I’m making some money, but that’s because I have a product to sell. Before, I didn’t have a product, and I was just like doing photography at different events, I was styling a little bit, but that money wasn’t adding up to the money that I needed. So, now, the clothing line is all over the world. So that’s my motivation, and I can do what I love.
215: Do you get to travel with the clothing line, to sell it?
CJS: I traveled a few times, I don’t travel as much as I want to because I do a lot of stuff in the city. But eventually I do want to travel a lot more, I want to go out of the country. My clothes are [currently] only sold exclusively on my online store, but you can catch me at different events, and I sell throughout the city, or I’ll mainly be in DC, New York, wherever they have something. I like to have that more personal approach with my brand, so when people see my shirt around the city or wherever, they feel the connection. They can say, “he either got it from two places, he either got it from KingsRuleTogether.com, or from Curran J himself. So when you see somebody, you look at them like, “they know what I know. They know about the Movement. They know about Kings Rule Together.”
215: What’s the vision for it? Franchises?
CJS: I want it to be more sort of an outlet, for people to come where we offer services. A little bit of everything from photography to styling to PR, so when you come to KingsRuleTogether, if you need any type of thing I have a list of connections in my database, and we can send out somebody for you if you need some type of help. Kind of like an agency. That’s one vision. Right now it’s still just a blog, I’m just building it up. I also want to do like a mentor group in the future where I’ll be teaching kids how to tie a tie, proper etiquette for a job interview, maybe on a date. Maybe doing [business] contests. So that’s one thing I want to do.
I just want to continue to create, man, create and just be a staple of Philadelphia. So people look at Philadelphia they think of Curran J, they think of Kings Rule Together. And when they come to Philadelphia, they don’t just buy a cheesesteak, they buy a KRT shirt to take home with them!
Images for this article were shot at the studio of Meredith Communications, with editorial direction and makeup generously contributed by Meredith Lindemon. Meredith can be reached via meredithcomm.com. Check out Curran J's designs at KingsRuleTogether.com. Check out Philly singer Nikki Jean at NikkiJeanMusic.com.