by Jayna Dias, PERSONALITY EDITOR
12 April 2019
Sitting leaned back against the black leather couch, he lazily plays with the white, hand sewn stitches along the patches of his pants. Andre squints at the small monitor in front himself which, just above, a ‘Kingdom Hearts’ video game poster hangs, matching the tattoo design along the inside of his left forearm. He squints and shakes his head, pink and purple braids swaying slightly. “Flip it first,” he instructs, nodding with a gesture that doesn’t quite reach a full-on point, to the drop down menu on the screen. Keyboard clicks pound. Andre sniffs, rubbing his finger across the silver septum that hangs from his nose, which is aligned with skull heads that match the color of the silver chain around his neck and the cross dangling from his right ear. The teenager soon nods in approval, brows with clearly shaved slits along the arches creasing at the glow of the screen. Andre’s focus was trained on assisting his friend and work partner through preparing visuals for printmaking through Adobe Photoshop for some upcoming clothes. The pair sat in his room, which also serves as a studio. “Image. Image rotation—No, right there. Flip canvas horizontal. Do that for every single one.”
Andre Dixon has been constructing his own clothing for three years, drawing inspiration from scrolling through Instagram and having the works of designers and clothing brands at his disposal. His love for art and drawing easily melded into the form of fashion and clothing design, resulting in the creation of his own line of original works.
From pants to jackets, Andre spends his time working in his room to try and produce ‘One on One’s’ every week—a unique piece that does not get replicated— as well as clothing drops, which consists of 10 smalls, 10 mediums, and 10 larges of a particular design. He sells his work through the app, Depop, through his brand “Sexual Content.”
“I know,” Andre laughs and rubs his hands against the patched patterns of the jeans that he had designed himself. He explains the reasoning for the profane title of the clothing line as his business partner, Josh, chuckles in the back, continuing to work on some upcoming prints. “A lot of my stuff I make for kids [because]… I have an issue with adults” he pauses to laugh again, adjusting against the couch. “[Adults] kill creativity. When kids want to do stuff, they can’t because … they’ll be looked at a certain way. So it’s like going against adults. The title ‘Sexual Content’ … it pushes [adults] away from it … it’s just the idea of pushing away from normal, mature things.”
Constructing an identity — The making of a brand
And Andre is no stranger to pushing away from ‘normal’ things. Just as he puts devotion into the uniqueness of every piece of clothing, it took time to embrace himself in his full capacity to the rest of the world. Andre’s sports long, curly hair, self-dyed with half pink and the other purple. He pairs his self-made clothing with accessories like a bullet proof vest, rings with skulls and pharaohs, even a plastic baby doll as a necklace. The teenager—quite literally—walks to his own beat, swaying to the tunes of his own recorded music through the hallways of high school, cluttered with judging peers and adolescents that either haven’t found themselves, or have lost their identity in the pool of the other students around them. But unlike others, Andre has already found a way to pride himself in the solidification of his own identity. A message, in which he hopes to share through his clothing.
“I’m doing my own thing. Being different is cool, and I feel like I inspire a lot of people—I’ve had people come up to me and told me that I inspire them,” Andre says, a small grin tugging at the corners of his lips. “I try to wear stuff that’s not normal for a male, or … a person at school I guess, so that more people will see that it’s okay to wear whatever you want … Be influenced by people more than copy people. Just go with whatever comes to your mind more than double thinking about what other people will think.” He adjusts his clear rimmed glasses, eyes shifting over to the Tyler the Creator drawing in the taped against the corner of his wall, among the others. The artist served as a big inspiration for him, fashion wise, with the uniqueness of his style. Tyler’s use of colors, stripes and patterns were intriguing to Andre’s artistic eye.
However, even Andre had a time where conformity came knocking at his door, the idea that everyone has to be confined to a specific niche. It’s not foreign to most teenagers and young adults, the feeling for everything one’s identity to remain neat and uniform in order to avoid attention or speculation among peers. Andre discovered the way in which to draw his own lines, breaking free through his own creations of artwork, in order to become less forced on the outside as well.
Andre discussed how originally, when he first took up drawing, his style used to more realistic, and attempt to capture things the way in which they appear blatantly, the way they should be. He used pencil, which resulted in constant erasing to get the perfect line. The perfect shape. The perfect stroke. He discovered soon that there was no joy in the basic construction of simply replicating something on paper, and switched out his dull pencils for ink pens. Something permanent. Soon, a style emerged. One with harsh, jagged lines that were bold and confident. Unmistakable identity marked on the pages.
Just as Andre’s art style became more liberating and personal, so did his mental state and outward appearance. He recalled that back than, before when he was constantly erasing his persona, he was quiet and found it difficult to express himself–a self that was not developed.
“[I stopped] setting a standard to where you can’t really fix anything, and … just do whatever,” Andre says slowly, searching for the words to describe the internal transformation. “So, later on, learning to not care what people think made me move more into fashion and … showing what I am through what I wear.”
The overwhelming sense of creativity trickled into the production of “Sexual Content,” the desire to continue to construct clothing from Andre’s newfound passion drew itself seamlessly.
VIEWER WARNING: Some explicit content
Clothing lines — The voice of a generation
However, the clothes that are produced through the brand, belong to whichever specific line Andre and his team are working on. Lines have a certain theme or message conveyed through the clothing, displayed in their visuals and construction; reflecting Andre’s state of mind during the time.
The first one he created was ‘The Lost Boys’ line. Andre wishes to re-purpose it and rekindle the inspiration he drew from his sophomore year when it was created. The Lost Boys was an emulation of the time in his life in which he, and his friends, didn’t have a clear direction in which path in life they wanted to go. The pressure of identity and the concept of growing up and having to make decisions turned out to be unanimous among his peers. And Andre wanted to make that into clothing.
‘The Lost Boys’ line consists of garments with images to recapture childlike spirit and feelings. Andre rifled through the shelf to the right of his computer to reveal a black sketchbook, filled with designs for the clothing line. The icon for the line covered the pages, a character in which Andre created with black and white stripes and a spinning top hat to emulate himself. As he flips through the pages and discussed the inspiration behind every design, the nostalgia from the phases were evident. “This is so long ago…” Andre whispers to himself, eyes roaming around the pages as he trailed off and slowly flipped along. “I would love to go back to this … but the stuff I’m making right now doesn’t really go towards that.”
A sketch of ‘Baba,’ the mascot for the ‘Lost Boys’ line. “It’s another version of me. He’s striped white and black because I’m black and white which is the idea of it, so he’s mixed and he has green eyes which makes him stand out more, and then the spin hat is just like the whole kid idea behind it,” Andre stated. Photo by Jayna Dias.
Currently, the brand is going through their ‘KIDS’ line, an acronym that stands for “Killers in Disguise.” KIDS clothing items that reflect the idea that teenagers in groups together are often predisposed and labeled as being dangerous or behaving badly. Andre’s vision for the line is an ironic outlook from an adult’s perspective on said teenagers, relating back to his disdain for their judgement and killing of creativity.
The designs for the KIDS line have been one of the most successful for ‘Sexual Content’ economically, due to how the buyers can relate with the message. The original KIDS shirt, a black tee with a printed drawing of the KIDS mascot in the center, sold so well that they purchased new material paper to up to quality. Soon, the shirts appeared in different colors rather than the standard black and white, and the logo went under some revisions as well.
What makes the brand so unique, is that Andre puts to use all of his artistic talents in the construction of the garments. For some shirts, he’ll sketch out the design on paper, which than has to be scanned through the printer and uploaded to Photoshop. The images are than manipulated–the process that Josh was struggling through– and printed onto transfer paper, which can be heat pressed onto shirts.
For some clothes, specifically shirts, Andre crush bleaches them, meaning the jeans are balled up and soaked in a solution of water and bleach for a few hours to draw out patches of color. The bleached jeans are then dyed whichever color he desires. It give the clothes an appearance that is both spontaneous and edgy.
A pair of Andre’s red, crush bleached jeans with silhouette of a child on the left thigh. “Recently, ever since I’ve started doing the one on ones every week, I’ve been selling a lot more. I feel like it’s because they’re unique pieces,” Dixon reflected. Photo by Jayna Dias.
A musical muse
But before the clothing took off, and when drawing varying versions of himself and mindset doesn’t suffice, Andre has another artistic outlet to pride himself on. Music. Although his raps only started off as a joke, Andre fell in love with it and took songwriting and performing more seriously.
Andre’s music can be found on SoundCloud, under the name PR7DE. He links his mindset to the nature of his songs, where the overlap between his music and fashion is clear. Andre even has an EP out called ‘Lost Boys,’ to relate back to the brand.
But Andre recalls his best experience in the sea of all his artistic endeavors, which was his first time performing live. Andre debuted at Coast 2 Coast Live, a competition hosted in varying states for performers. Artists compete and are judged on their originality, production, quality of audio, and the selling of their music. Andre was able to snag 4th place in the competition, against 40 other competitors.
“That was my first time performing … I was nervous to get on stage but than it was normal, it just felt right,” Andre reflects. “It went from me being in my own space recording, to performing and having people jump and give me energy while you know, putting what I wrote, my lyrics and everything, out in front of them. Being able to express myself in front of a lot of people and than to have them bring energy back with it.”
But there was one member in the audience, who gave the most love and energy back his way. Andre’s mother Jennifer Chmielewski supports her son through all of his exploits of his talents. She exhales and grins widely at just the mention of Coast 2 Coast, recalling how “awesome it was to be a part of it.” Jennifer was nothing but proud to see him working the camera, and performing his heart out on stage with energy and sheer support.
“You know, the cool thing about AJ, which I thought was the most beautiful, was that he…,” Jennifer runs her fingers through her dark hair as her eyes well for a moment with tears. She lowers her voice to a whisper and grins before continuing, “even though he was there for himself obviously, to promote himself and win, he was very supportive. Even jamming to other people’s music and getting his friends to … all participate which is like … it was just a lot of support for others even though he wanted the first place.”
The first place that, she shook her head and stated was “taken from him,” looking to the ceiling at the mention of her son’s fourth place finish. However, Jennifer doesn’t shy away from her sons talents and the recognition he deserves from them. A drawing that Andre had done hung in his room with a first place ribbon that Jennifer added herself after he had received second place in actuality. She laughed at the mention of the incident, but her belief stands strong.
Drawing Andre created as a reflection of himself and his alter-ego, contrasting the two with color and use of space. He received second place in an art show for East students, but Jennifer added a first place ribbon instead. She laughed as she recalled the incident, “I thought that one should have won first place and he also felt the same, and so he was … a little upset about that so I put that on there.” Photo by Jayna Dias.
But one thing’s for sure, Andre would not have the outlet for his creativity had it not been for his mother. The apartment they live in his surrounded in his artwork, from sculptures to drawing made out of construction paper, and projects dating back to years, Jennifer keeps the home vibrant with his creation (even the ones Andre complained weren’t even good, in which she was quick to interject).
“I have his stuff everywhere so its pretty awesome to see him putting to work all of his talents,” Jennifer marvels, gently bobbing her head. “All I can do is just love and support him … he’s very motivated and he’s very talented so I encourage him to do what he wants to do and what makes him happy–because he has to live with himself, you know?” Jennifer pauses and took the time to lace her fingers through her hair before continuing with a hushed voice. “You know as a mother, I wish that he’d keep it cleaner, but I think that stuff like that will happen in time, as he matures more. But, yeah, other than that like I said … I try not to sweat the small things … He’s not doing anything bad, everything that he’s doing is wonderful, its beautiful, its awesome. You can’t be anything but supportive.”
Andre and his mother Jennifer sit together under her original painting. “When I was pregnant [with Andre] … I created most of my art,” she stated. Various works of her pieces and Andre’s can be found in their apartment. Photo by Jayna Dias.
And that unwavering support system is what gives Andre the assurance and confidence to pursue his artistic desires. Whether it be in fashion, music, or drawing Andre has a solid foundation behind him and free will to make things happen.
“[I’m] going as far as I can go. I want to make it big.”
Andre Dixon can be found online at:
“Sexual Content” Instagram: @sexualc0ntent
“Sexual Content” Depop account: @sexualcontent
Andre on SoundCloud: @PR7DE
Jayna Dias is the Personality Editor for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl.