^ Words + Photos by Antonio Hernandez.
Daft! is a Baltimore-based clothing line, specializing in streetwear, unconventional one-off pieces, as well as styling and design for anyone needing a slick visual upgrade. Notable for the elephant and “streetwave” insignia, the brand is the brain child of friends-turned-business partners Ben Danklin (CEO and Creative Director), Bink Backwoods (Designer) and Noah Majinnasola (PR and Design). Their highschool friendships blossomed into a fledging business and creative outlet for the past five years.
Daft! has a heavy presence in the emerging arts scene in and around D.C. and Baltimore. At events such as Art Undiscovered and #ArtforSummer, they often pull double-duty: tabling and showcasing their brand, while supporting Noah, who has been steadily releasing his own music.
Noah, Ben and Bink discuss the founding of Daft!, growing up in Baltimore, and their plans for success.
Q: What’s the concept behind Daft! Clothing?
NOAH: We make clothes and music, do shows and all of that. Our main focus is on the clothing line, we’re just three wise young men, that put together a plan and we’ve been at it since 2010.
Q: How did you all meet?
BINK: We all went to high school together. I met Ben and Noah in the ninth grade.
^ Ben Danklin from Art Undiscovered.
Q: What was it like growing up in Baltimore?
NOAH: You would think that it’s crazy, but that’s what all people talk about it. Honestly, Baltimore is a place that teaches you that if you can’t grind, then you won’t make it. By “won’t make it,” you’ll get caught up inside the environment itself. If you don’t get caught up, your eyes and mind will be open to do many things in this world.
“Baltimore teaches you how to be a hustler”
Baltimore teaches you how to be a hustler. Growing up, all we did was hustle, hustle, hustle. We learned how to hustle in a much more intelligent way. We do what we love – which is clothes, first and foremost – but then we learned to maneuver with many other aspects in art, music and fashion. It’s something we really loved doing ever since we were younger.
^ Noah Majinnasola from Art Undiscovered.
Q: When did you decide to start doing art and music together?
BEN: It’s always been intertwined since the beginning of Daft. We just accepted all forms of art, because everyone around us were rappers, or painters, or any kind of musicians, really. Our clothing was a reflection of them, and their art as well. We’re a reflection of them and they’re a reflection of us.
“We just accepted all forms of art, because everyone around us were rappers, or painters, or any kind of musicians, really. Our clothing was a reflection of them”
Q: Who came up with the concept?
BEN: I had a few other names, different logos and things I wanted to try in elementary and middle school. Once I got to high school, is when I decided to take on the name Daft and put meaning behind it and build it to something together.
^ Bink Backwoods from Art Undiscovered.
Q: Did the elephant mascot and “streetwave” ideas come out at that time or was that later on?
BEN: Early on it was pretty much establishing our brand and what we are. It found us, in a sense. The elephant itself, being a majestic animal, having wisdom, being knowledgable, having a good memory and things like that, are just things that depicted us as people. We have some of the same qualities.
Q: How do you separate yourself from all the clothing brands out there?
BINK: Making stuff harder than everybody else, and to keep that mindset.
BEN: It’s always been about being true to yourself and knowing who you are first.
NOAH: We’re ourselves, and people end up fucking with us because we’re ourselves. Everything happens for a reason, but it was bound to happen regardless.
Q: What keeps you together as a unit for so long?
BEN: It’s knowing everyone we’re doing this for, the reasons why we’re doing this. It’s all coming back to us having the common dream: not to be rich and famous, but just to be wealthy enough where our family can be sustained.
NOAH: We’ve been doing this for so long, there’s no reason to give up now. Why not keep pushing with what you love? That’s the main focus that I have, and that these two have. It’s never hate or bad blood; we want to see everyone else succeed. Eventually, everything else will follow.
“It’s all coming back to us having the common dream: not to be rich and famous, but just to be wealthy enough where our family can be sustained”
Q: What are your thoughts on the music and arts community in Baltimore?
BINK: It’s pretty cool. I feel like Baltimore doesn’t have someone that the whole city can get behind though. I feel like you’re going to see a drastic change once you see that one artist steps out the comfort zone and put Baltimore on the map.
NOAH: That artist is going to be me. I’m all positivity. I love every other artist from Baltimore because everybody’s grindin’. Sometimes, a lot of them can get misled or lose focus, and that’s just a problem. You gotta support everybody that supports you.
We’re at all these functions, all these events, you don’t leave until it’s over. That’s the first step. The type of energy you’ll be getting off of things like that, people will constantly love what you’re doing. We’re not people that do this for ourselves. We want to be wealthy, but why not take everybody with you? I believe we can take Baltimore with us and put ourselves on the map.
Q: Where will you be in 5 days, 5 months and 5 years?
BINK: In five days, will probably be in the dungeon. In five months, probably in the dungeon.
Q: What’s the dungeon?
BINK: That’s the lab, where we keep working. That’s all we do.
NOAH: In five days, I’ll be working. In five months, I’ll still be working. It’s no point in asking us where we’ll be in five days, five months and five years because the work doesn’t stop. We just want to keep progressing and keep getting better at what we do. We’re still not going to quit, we’re not going to let up.
BEN: In five days, we’ll be preparing for a pool party. In five months, we’ll be preparing to drop so many flames for 2016. 2016 is going to be crazy for our collections and everything.