Friendship CLB puts inclusivity first with collaborative fashion
Friendship CLB, as a brand and a collective, is rooted in a sense of inclusivity and giving back to the community to inspire others to create whatever their heart or imagination desires. Founded by head designer Nigel Holt, along with a small but tight-knit and hardworking group of collaborators, Friendship CLB is a multifaceted high-fashion brand with roots in the streetwear community that creates exceptionally designed garments, leather goods and shoes. The CLB also throws warm, inviting events, parties and installations where everyone is welcome.
For Holt, who first rose to prominence with his musical projects Hollywood Holt and now HXLT, the idea of friendship is his driving force and ideology behind everything he creates. Fed up with the lack of positive clothing brands, exclusivity, gatekeepers and unnecessary barriers of entry for fashion and social events, Holt and his team want to show the world that you too can have your own successful business and shape culture if you put your mind to it. After all, if people from all walks of life can come together, it can form community and further a positive society.
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Before you started releasing items to the general public, I understand that this venture started by you creating stuff and simply giving it away to your friends. Was that the initial impetus to make Friendship CLB a brand?
To an extent, yeah. The reason that we started Friendship CLB was that I was looking at the culture, streetwear and high-fashion industries and seeing a lot of fake, tough clothing or exclusive clothing. It was either something you could never get because it was too expensive or too rare and also stuff with brass knuckles and knives all over the clothing, and, as usual, a lot of those people wearing those clothes were misrepresenting it because they weren’t tough.
I didn’t like that there was no positivity surrounding the clothing, and when we started Friendship CLB, it was about my belief in connecting everyone and working together. The streetwear world came together because we were running across cities and making everyone work with each other. We knew that if we were all together, it could be a community and not a single entity.
It feels like Friendship CLB is inclusive and the opposite of, “You can’t sit with us.” In many ways, you’re breaking down the walls of fashion and within society.
Exactly, our whole premise is inclusion. Growing up, the bullshit stigma was that the cool kids would not let anyone into the cool kid area, and I always thought that was dumb as fuck. If you’re solid, the No. 1 thing you want to do is to help people become more solid. I like to make it popular to include normal people and to empower them to be as great as they can be. Once these people get the confidence, they can make the most amazing things. If somebody inspires you, then that’s also amazing.
With Friendship CLB, instead of gatekeeping, I want to give it to everyone and see what they do with it and turn it into a rainbow of different versions. When we first started Friendship CLB, we wanted to make this the party that everyone can get into. Holding knowledge back from kids based on their status is a major problem in our culture. It’s not about money — it’s about information, and if somebody knows that they can start a business, then they will go do it. I want to give it all away for free and give the information to the kids.
Obviously, you’re well known for creating your own music as well, but who would you say are your top three favorite musical artists right now?
I’m big on [Baltimore-based hardcore group] Turnstile, of course. They’re just killing the game. I’m so proud of them, and obviously, we are friends, but I am a genuine fan. Key Glock is also going crazy. He’s raw as hell, and I haven’t heard a single song from him that wasn’t hot as fuck. Another one is Amyl And The Sniffers, an Australian punk band that are just fire as fuck. I can’t stop listening to them. Their vocalist [Amy Taylor] has one of the most dynamic voices.
As a successful business owner who’s also a person of color, I imagine your heritage plays a pivotal role in everything you do, and there are so many other incredible brands that are Black-owned or POC-owned that create these amazing communities in fashion and culture. What does it all mean to you?
We are getting to the point finally where it’s becoming the norm. That’s the great thing about hip-hop and streetwear and fashion in that this is something that was built by us. High fashion is high fashion, and initially, it was set in stone as a white thing, but streetwear from its inception was always inclusive. All of my friends and their brands, like 10.Deep and The Hundreds, were created by [people of color], and there was never a question about it, and that’s what I like about it.
Being a Black-owned business and being able to maneuver in this space without the restraints of people wondering or assuming if I’m legitimized because of my color is the best feeling in the world. Virgil Abloh [influential fashion designer and artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection, who tragically passed away in 2021 after a battle with cancer] changed everything for all of us. It wasn’t that he was Black and at Louis Vuitton — it was the fact that he was the best motherfucker ever at Louis Vuitton, and just happened to be Black. He really was that great, and now I can reach out to Prada and have an audience, where I didn’t have that before Virgil. I can now go to these fashion houses like Fendi and at least have a meeting because of what he did.
Is there anyone from the team at Friendship CLB who you want to highlight for what they bring to the table?
Yes, that’s exactly what I want to do. There are five key people in the brand. There’s me, who is the head designer and creative, but our creative director who designs all of the installations, events, concepts behind photo shoots and of the visual direction that is not clothing is Kolby Woods. He is instrumental in creating the universe behind each collection. We have two designers Alex Swain and Alexandria Wills, who are all about construction and the layers of clothing. They create all of the products we make, from leather bags to shoes and clothing to all of the stitching and patterns. Without them, I basically have nothing. We also have Chelsea Lombardo, who has been with the team longer than anyone, and she is our logistics and design person. She’s the one who executes all the visions that Kolby and I have.
Anyone else you want to shout out?
Shout out to Nick Diamond, Hebru Brantley, Dilone and people who have supported the brand since its inception.
This story appeared in issue #403 with cover star Dominic Fike, available here.