Since its founding over a decade ago, Montreal’s Atelier New Regime – helmed by Creative Director Koku Awuye – has become a leader in exemplifying the potential in statement-making streetwear. The brand’s collections boast graphic-laden garments and accessories that explore concepts of identity and strength through considered and conscientious design. And this aspiration continues to grow; for example, the Fall 2020 line was its first to be produced in Portugal – which is renowned for maintaining a proud heritage of craft techniques.
Attention to detail is of utmost importance to Awuye, a graphic and web designer whose foray into fashion started with creating a selection of slogan t-shirts. He now oversees a globally-recognized brand with a boutique in one of Montreal’s busiest shopping districts. “It was a platform for self-expression,” he says of why he started with such apparel. “[The pieces] had messages that we thought were important to share. It grew into a brand, and then a lifestyle.”
While he notes that his aim wasn’t always to manifest a destiny of being able to create something of meaning every day within the fashion space, Awuye says he’s grateful for the opportunity to uplift and inspire others through the brand’s pieces. And what a point in history to do so.
In fact, the timing of Atelier New Regime’s Championship collection, set to launch tomorrow, couldn’t be more relevant. The offering, which encompasses the elevated athleisurewear the brand’s fans covet – in addition to a standout item, a logoed 14kt yellow gold “Championship Ring” – was meant to launch early last year as a testament to making it through the trials of 2019. However, the COVID crisis quickly took over, and plans to introduce the collection were delayed.
Now, the pieces memorialize one of the toughest years in human history. “Everything is a matter of timing,” Awuye notes. “We’ve just managed to go through a lot of troubled waters [but] we’re still here to win. Everything we went through last year motivated me to go into 2021 fearless and ready to take on new challenges.”
However, as confident as his outlook is, Awuye still confronts a burden felt by Black people around the world; and he recounts an experience that came with an especially unique sting.
On a morning in 2018, while driving to work, Awuye was stopped by police for a traffic infraction right in front of the Atelier New Regime shop. Realizing he’d left his ID in the store, Awuye pled with the officers – who harassed and accused him of being under the influence – to allow him to enter it so they could see his license and registration.
“I shed tears in my shop,” he recalls. “I’m just trying to live my life and get by.” He adds that racial injustice is just another motivating factor in his eagerness to succeed, as well as inspiration for messaging found on the brand’s designs.
“It’s the best feeling to be able to show that it’s possible to overcome adversities,” he says. “The feedback that we get is that we inspire people. That’s what keeps me motivated. As long as I know I’m able to spark something in someone else’s mind and maybe open new doors for them, that makes it worth it for me.”
And Awuye shows no signs of slowing down as we enter 2021; in addition to the Championship collection launch, Atelier New Regime will introduce new additions to its Havana Club collaboration in the coming months. Awuye is also working on a community-focused project with the City of Montreal; and an art exhibition is also in progress.
“I’m super excited to take on this new year,” he says. “I had a mentality switch in mid-2020, which was, don’t underestimate your value. Know your worth when you’re going into situations – you have what it takes.” No arguments here.