What a Chicago Fashion Designer Taught Me About Advertising

The inspiring example of Joe Freshgoods

Don't Be Mad. A simple yet powerful message. If you know me, you've seen me wear a lot of "DBM." It's a brand designed by one of my favorite creatives, Joe Freshgoods.

Who's Joe Freshgoods? Good question.

Joe "Freshgoods" Robinson, aka T-Shirt Papi, has no shortage of titles. At any given moment, Joe is a designer, dad, DJ, entrepreneur and consultant. Most of the time, he's all of these things.

Hailing from the west side of Chicago, Joe has worked with some of your favorite brands: Nike, Adidas, McDonald's, AT&T, Mastercard and Facebook, just to name a few. 

So, how did this up-and-coming streetwear designer from Chicago end up as one of my biggest creative inspirations? Well, it goes all the way back to 2014. 

I first came across Mr. Freshgoods via Twitter. I started to notice his name pop up everywhere. He was in all of the conversations, exchanging banter with all my favorite rappers. Intrigued, I hit that follow bottom. 

The first collection I saw Joe drop was a few months later. It was DBM's spring/summer collection, titled "The Winner's Circle." The collection was inspired by racing. Think NASCAR logos meet street racing meets streetwear.

To debut the line, Joe orchestrated an outdoor pop-up fashion show in a closed-off alley near a blue line train station. The address to the event was not put on social media, but instead was sent out to fans through RSVPs and word of mouth one hour before. Over 200 people showed up and watched the 12-minute show.

I saw the pictures and videos start to hit the internet and thought to myself, "Holy shit ... this is incredible." From that moment on, I was hooked. I literally bought as many pieces from that collection as I could afford. I still have and wear those pieces to this day. 

Since then, Joe's flown to Paris to shoot a lookbook for another collection. 

He's converted his store into many pop-up experiences, from recreating his version of a beauty supply store to an interactive experience for the movie Rampage. 

He paid homage to the Obama family and their tenure as the 44th First Family with his "Thank you Obama" collection, which got coverage from GQ, Refinery29, Esquire, etc. 

He's held pop-ups all over the world, from New York to Tokyo, and Los Angeles to Detroit, and every city in between, creating custom merchandise for each city.

Asked why he prefers pop-up shops versus wholesale, Joe said, "Pop-up shops are my life. I decided against doing wholesale a couple of years ago and shifted my focus to connecting with consumers on the ground, face to face, across the world. It's been working, makes my brand more personal than a lot of my peers." The man just gets it.

I'm obsessed with people who go against the grain. Who do things their way and on their terms. And most important, who stay true to themselves. Whether he knows it or not, Joe embodies all of these qualities and it comes out in his work.

As creatives, we have two jobs. Our first job is simple—to do our job. We're fortunate to be in a profession that pays us to think, to be bold and innovative. Our second job is to communicate that our job is done.

Joe does both extremely well. 

Often we think our job is done once the job is done. But that's half the battle. Is the greatest ad in the world still the greatest ad in the world if 10 people see it? 

Your ideas are only as good as your execution. Joe's execution is perfect. He's also his biggest fan. Watching his growth throughout the years has been nothing short of inspiring. 

Ultimately, good creative work elicits emotion. It makes you feel something. Joe's been able to do that through clothing. His brand radiates positivity, which is something I can get behind and the reason why I'll always support him. Salute JFG. 

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Phil Pirkovic
Phil Pirkovic is senior media designer at independent media agency Noble People.