Amplifying Black Voices: Akouyajohan Clothing – AJ Sopoye
Through his eponymous fashion brand (stylized Akouyajohan), local designer AJ Sopoye creates custom pieces that combine vintage cartoons, colorful patterns and contemporary fashion. His style could be described as eclectic streetwear meets ’90s grunge. “I like to show my personality through the clothes,” he says. “Some pieces are very loud and bold, and some pieces are quiet but confident. Every piece screams ‘AJ.’”
Although Akouyajohan began as a fashion endeavor, it has grown into so much more. “My ‘brand’ is more like an art gallery, in a sense,” he says. “I don’t like to categorize it because my interests extend far beyond clothing.” Showcasing talented artists from across the valley alongside his own work, Akouyajohan aims to uplift the community while inspiring individuals to step outside their comfort zone.
As a self-taught entrepreneur and designer of color, Akouyajohan’s artistic journey isn’t without its bumps and obstacles. When asked what advice he could give to other creatives of color, Johan says, “Never take ‘no’ for an answer, and know that there is no wrong in art. Stay consistent, and you’ll reap the benefits.” Regarding his own journey, he says, “The challenges I’ve come across … are mostly mental. You get in your head a lot and tend to get overwhelmed, but it helps to surround yourself with hardworking, solid and reassuring people.” In spite of these hurdles, Johan says it’s important to appreciate the small things, such as the proud moment he shipped his first package. Johan has also worked in larger arenas, such as collaborating on a pop-up show with local brands joshuathemvster and SLCRetrospect.
While collaborations and fashion shows have been put on hold by quarantine and social distancing, Johan is using the opportunity to flex his creative muscles. “I’ve used this time to master my craft even more and connect with the local creatives on an insane level,” he says. “We have a lot in the works. I’d say this quarantine was a blessing and a curse.”