Ouigi Theodore saw a need for refinement among the urban sartorial community. Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, during the ‘90s, at the height of Hip-Hop, exposed the young Theodore to experiences that became counterproductive to his existence in the community. He would travel, and open up his world, as a problem solver finding solutions to his survival. He was raised and inspired by his aunt Maude Nicolas, and grandmother, who took him at the age of 15 years old after his mother passed away. Maude Nicolas had been a classy and well-traveled person herself, encouraging the best of Theodore.
Theodore, a graphic designer by trade and multidisciplinary designer at heart, would find himself in Brooklyn and on the offensive, with a solution that would distinguish the men of his community. Travel opened up Theodore’s ability to problem-solve, “trying to survive – to become a genius problem solver – creating a counter-culture to what I grew up [with] in Brooklyn.”
The Brooklyn Circus retail space has occupied a quiet street in Brooklyn for 15 years now. The staple ‘BKc’ has been an unwavering distinction as a house-of-prep for the inner city. The discipline, community, and the initiative to travel, would become the pillars of Theodore’s design aesthetic. He notes, “as much as we are trying to change – change how you present yourself,” pointing to the stark sartorial language of The Brooklyn Circus to other streetwear brands at the time.
Ironically, the entertainment suggested in the ‘Circus’ portion of the name is evidence of discipline, community, and traveling. The circus embraces people living on the fringe of society, more relatable to youth culture. Those who are different in this society are susceptible to its entrapping nature, similarly reflecting the Hip-Hop music Ouigi Theodore gravitated toward along with his peers at an early age. “[There are] aspects of Hip-Hop we have to encounter” to refine the community, he notes. And as he founded the Brooklyn Circus, Theodore would fight for his place within the world.
The “gangster rap from the ‘90s, has [now] evolved into the drill” rap of today, noted by the Haitian-American designer, and Brooklyn native. In hindsight, The Brooklyn Circus is the counter to the negative connotations of that, built through a legacy that comes from the exploration of the world.
Theodore spent his early adulthood traveling to places in Europe and Asia, to find himself back in Brooklyn constructing the cosmopolitan “Circus” at the age of 27. He would open the store through the pillars he established for his community to “grow through fashion and culture, sharing and embracing” differences. He continues, “we are different and that’s ok. Like Hip-Hop, [it’s] odd selves fighting for a place. The ‘Circus’ makes it ok, as long as it’s disciplined, [and involves] community.”
Theodore’s intentions were clear then and ever-present today. Bringing in a customer base to Brooklyn from around New York City, involved catering to urban youth, and hip-hop culture while serving those who contrasted the hip-hop scene. As coastal as the rap scene was in the ‘90s it evolved to become a localized medium for broader audiences, the essence of opening its first location on Nevins Avenue in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Circus has been an evolution of streetwear, contributing to the urban narrative. “I have influence, so there is more to do,” Theodore expresses. He wants to “find different ways to collaborate in other art forms. Furniture, homes, cars, hotels, interiors – continue to create better products and experiences. Designers thrive to design,” connecting his current success to his future.
Theodore found a voice in the elevation in education in black communities, fraternity, and collegiate culture. Notably, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 opened all university doors to Black students around the U.S., not just HBCUs. Then, education became attainable for Black people in America, but under the guise of white supremacy, societal restrictions, and boundaries, all based on indifference. Ouigi Theodore created The Brooklyn Circus with intentions to elevate the urban community through sartorial storytelling and presentation. Design is his tool of communication and his tool in telling his story as a first-generation Haitian-American, and African-American.
He has crafted a varsity jacket after his guardian and loving aunt who took him with no children of her own and inspired his first adventure into his family’s home country of Haiti, eleven years ago. The Cranberry ‘Maude’ Varsity Jacket made in Melton wool and naked leather, leather sleeves, dipped in a red wine color that is warm and inviting like Ms. Nicolas was to a young Theodore. His trip to Haiti would also inspire Theodore’s pilgrimage of the land and country, finding his place of comfort and creativity.
Early in 2021, Theodore would spend a lot of his time on the island Hispaniola, where Haiti is located, and was inspired to create the Sun+Stone collaborative capsule with MACY’s in honor of his mom, a former fashion buyer. The year 1945 on the chest of a tee shirt and a pocket of a pair of shorts represents his mother’s birth year.
The influence family members had over him has inspired Theodore’s 100-year plan – for his work, as Black people have all along. He is building the place for all people to do work and enjoy the experience of elevating through fashion, that is inherently Theodore’s plan, 15 years in the making. Making room for him to “worry less of who and where I am.”