True repentance is an admission of wrong-doing and guilt. It is a confession that you have committed an act so abhorrent, you deem it necessary to plead forgiveness. But – what if the act is only a part representation of self? Must one be apologetic for their duality? To some, the answer is simple: Yes. To others, admission is an admonishment of one’s identity. In doing so, you deny traits that embody your individuality. You betray your essence. This week, I introduce a brand that not only embodies the empowerment of self, but also champions the duality that resides within.
From fashion, to fiction, to music, the archives of history are littered with iconic duos that resonate betwixt the recesses of remembrance. Though relatively ‘recent’ in the sense of world history, Messrs Dolce & Gabbana, Barksdale and Bell, Lennon and McCartney should trigger a notion of familiarity. In their chosen fields, each partnership rose to the summit. In their chosen fields, each partnership built a legacy that will withstand time. They will never be forgotten. In their quest to find an epochal name befitting of their brand and to be “sat with the greats”, the duo behind this week’s brand ventured to the annals of biblical text and extracted arguably the most iconic duo of all time: Abel & Cain.
Here’s what’s interesting. How many can say with utmost sincerity they were aware the biblical brothers are usually introduced as Cain and Abel? From toddler to adolescent, Christian texts played a pivotal role in my nurturing. It was the stories that had me hooked. In the most simplistic description, the brothers are the aforementioned archetypal embodiment of the duality within. Abel, the more reserved, walked within the parameters laid out by God. A humble servant. Cain, who committed the first act of fratricide, was daring. He pushed the boundaries to the point of punishment and expulsion. But, you cannot have one without the other. They are flip sides of the same coin. By process of constant engagement, throughout this collaborative journey my subconscious underwent a systematic shift. Abel and Cain now rolls off the tongue with satisfying ease. That’s the power of branding. That’s the power of subliminal influence. By opting to remain anonymous, the men behind the brand intend for their apparel to begin a dialogue with the consumer without interference. So, for the purpose of the this feature, I shall refer to them simply as Abel and Cain.
Fashion isn’t a straight and narrow line – you can go anywhere you want.
Abel, who handles the legal and financial side of the company views their mission statement: “never repent for what you wear” in the literal sense. “It’s an expression tool isn’t it”, he begins “Look your best”, he continues. “That first impression is what matters. When you wear somethin’, you know you’re lookin’ the best”. On the other hand, Cain, the creative director sees it more figuratively. “It’s not just clothin’. It’s your personality. It’s your attitude. You should never be scared of representin’ you. You shouldn’t be scared of who you are. We want you to use that Abel & Cain mentality throughout life. If you wanna do somethin’, you do you – let fate worry about itself. Just take that step and never worry about anythin'”. And I agree. Why should you repent for who you are? In their journey thus far, the men confessed to times when many didn’t believe in their venture, but through sheer “perseverance” and the notion “we want it how we want it”, they have pushed through until they reached the denouement of doubt.
Admitting they have stylistic differences, when asked: “Why fashion”, Abel answered: “Fashion fits everyone – any walk of life. We feel we can create a brand where everyone feels comfortable in what we make – We wanted to make somethin’ for the market which was accessible to everyone”. Cain asserts: “There is no right or wrong answer in fashion is there? It’s imperfectly perfect. Everyone has their own interpretation. It’s somethin’ I love. In fashion, you can always go into the past to interpret the future as well. You’re creatin’ a story for somebody – You’re creatin’ empowerment”. A self-taught designer, Cain states that as well as friends and family that are fashion and marketing orientated, he garners influence from a myriad of sources. “I love old school D&G. I love the Italian houses – I like Supreme. I like All Saints – the dark edginess to it. There’s no particular school of fashion I follow. I like bits from everywhere – Versace, Chanel, Louboutin. Everyone has their own story and analogy. I like darkness, he likes light – I bring the darkness, he brings the light”. As the interview progressed, what I initially viewed as contrary entities gave way to an interconnected union of minds. Their subtle differences typified the fabled brothers. In Abel’s words: “we work together – we combine our ideas. We are Abel & Cain“.
When it comes to their brand, both men share a sense of legacy. They believe they are in the infancy of an ideal that will become historic. Referencing the legendary René Lacoste and how he was “baptised “The Alligator” in reference to a bet between him and his coach over a crocodile suitcase”, Abel’s vision for success is crystal. The logo is global. “You now see it worldwide. We wanted to create somethin’ that would not just be for this era, but for 100 plus years to come. Whatever walk of life you come from, you can associate the name”. Citing the greats of Versace, Gucci, Louis Vitton and modern brands like Supreme and Bape, Cain feels: “Everyone wants their stamp on somethin’ – every brand has created their own story. I feel like Abel & Cain can create its own story and stand with the greats if not be the greatest – but it takes time obviously”. And I agree. By reversing the iconic duo that has stood for multiple millennia, as Cain proclaims: “It’s gonna stand the test of time”. Sharing his ‘brother’s’ perception, he expands. “I believe you will see us in the massive superstores like Selfridges, Harrods etc. We thought more psychologically. It’s for you to choose between Abel & Cain – it’s always the analogy of am I good or bad? We like to think everyone is initially good. I think it’s unfair that it’s Cain and Abel – Abel is the good guy. We give you the platform to stand on your own. We want you to use your imagination. Do what you want with it. Wear it how you want”.
With fashion, there’s no limitations.
Empowerment is what Abel loves most about fashion. By harnessing the ability to help one construct their own identity with their apparel, for him that’s an incredible achievement. “I think as well it’s when you sit there there and sketch that drawin’ and you send it over. You see your product developin’ from that idea in your head and then you get the sample, you try that sample, you mix things up, then you get the final product – you sold it to someone. Then you see them two weeks later and you see them rock your jumper and they think wow – I’m gonna be the bees knees”. And I agree. True empowerment stems from comfort and total self-belief. It’s all about energy. From a designer standpoint, Cain complies. “I think it’s the feedback more than anythin’ else”. On a personal level, he conceives there to be “no right or wrong answer in fashion”. Continuing he suggests: “I can say anythin’ I want in fashion and it can be seen as art – you can do what you want and everyone sees it different. It’s extravagant. You don’t feel socially awkward. You can express yourself however you want. It’s all wild as you wanna go. With other fields, there are limitations – there is only so far you can go. With fashion, you can push the boundaries”.
By viewing “the world as a sketchbook”, Abel pulls from his surroundings to stay up to date with current trends – inspirations which he then shares with Cain who affirms: “Everythin’ is art. Inspiration is everywhere”. And he means that. He confides he was looking at a construction site recently and ideas started formulating for a jumper design. I’ll be interested to see how that manifests. In essence, Cain is a student of the game. He’s eager to learn from those that came before and those that are current to carve his own niche. “There’s a lot of research. Lookin’ at fashion catwalks; lookin’ at London, Paris, Milan, reading magazines – I read a lot of Vogue, lookin’ at bloggers, going down high streets, takin’ inspiration from everything and everyone. It’s a bit like a mad scientist. You’re addin’ concoctions here, there and everywhere and you make a monster – but it’s a beautiful monster”. Unbeknownst to Cain, before this revelation, I was already gettin’ ‘Frankenstein‘ vibes, so to hear him confess, there was a trio of laughter after the fact when I communicated this.
Since registration last year, the brand officially launched this year with their ‘Capsule One‘ collection consisting of five statement pieces; The Convict, The Prize, The Divergent, The Storm, and The Exhibitionist. All intricate parts that make a cohesive whole. They are bold. They are reticent. They are distinct. They are cryptic. They are Abel & Cain. For me, when it comes to colour-ways in my apparel, I’m a man of simple taste. Black. White. Grey. It’s tried. It’s tested. If as they say “there’s no school like the old school”, Capsule One is the chosen Headmaster. Top marks indeed. But, as we’ve already established, they are not afraid to flout the rules. “We’re goin’ into the Spring/Summer collection now”, Abel attests. “We wanna bring a few colours out for Capsule Two“. Agreeing that colours are essential in current/future trends, Cain establishes: “your colours have got to bang”. With the Spring/Summer fast approaching, they assure me there will be even more detail and “a couple new things” for us all to enjoy.
The attention to detail is what we think is most important to our brand.
Whilst transcribing our conversation, after a while, I noticed a particular word that was mentioned numerous times: detail. And I assure you, this was no accident. For me, this is what sets them apart from existing brands. And that should not be taken as a slight. It’s all dependent on what one sets out to achieve. After all, there can only be one Headmaster. Effervescing with pride at every level from design, to creation to consumption, the ‘new school’ is theirs – and rightly so. As Abel contends: “from the box, to the clothin’, the content, everythin’ is clean. We don’t want our product in a high street shop. We want someone to have that full customer experience. If you buy Abel & Cain from Harrods or Selfridges, you’re gonna go in there and have that bag. From the second they receive our box, you see our little wax stamp seal. We didn’t wanna just put it in a plastic bag”. Furthering this notion, Cain inputs: “there’s so many stories we hear when people say they love the box and it’s just sat in their room. It’s advertisement for us. You go to your friend’s house and say “that’s a nice box”. We’ve thought about every single step”.
And here’s how. By wading through initial barriers such as supplier information not being shared (one of their biggest challenges to date), they persevered by calling on favourable contacts who placed them in great stead to deliver outstanding products measured to the millimeter. And we haven’t even gotten to the apparel itself. (Side note: That isn’t an exaggeration. I’ll leave you to guess which ‘brother’s’ eye is that attentive). When one receives an item (after you remove the outer packaging), you’re greeted with a sleek white and black box (company logo central), in which your apparel is carefully encased. Fun fact: as well as collaborating with Adidas, the box supplier also services Victoria Beckham. Masterful. Opening the box, there’s a black card on which there is a personalised thank you, a simple but incredible gesture to the customer. Additionally, there is a white folded paper (wait until you feel the quality), bearing their logo as a black wax-stamp seal. Breaking the seal reveals a letter (which underwent numerous revisions) that I’m assured they “couldn’t just leave on the website”. Black sugar paper (of the highest quality) adds an extra layer of protection to the apparel, and beneath lies a beige drawstring dust-bag also emboldened with their logo. Detail.
Proper preparation prevents poor performance. It’s about enlisting the right individuals to materialise your vision. “We wanted someone that took pride in what they do”, Abel insists. “Their input in our business was very important to us”. And I agree. Your collaborators are an extension of self. “We looked for people like us that are perfectionists”, Cain relays. “We can go to them anytime. We look for that spark”. In a time where brand saturation has reached a plateau, markers of precision and detail should not be viewed as hubris. They aid one’s attempt to carve a niche in the vacuum of noise. Rather than sending design specs online to the far east, they sourced a northern supplier, conversed via telephone, met in person and thus the relationship began. “He’s understandin’ and patient”, Abel vouches. “He understands our attention to detail is the most important thing to us – we won’t settle for anythin’ less”. Referencing a 7am miscommunication last winter between himself and the lorry driver wherein he called the supplier who answered and sorted the issue within 45 minutes, one can appreciate the magnitude of two-fold correspondence. In the early days, there were moments of going back and forth regarding inaccurate box sizes, incorrect placement of logos and imprecise materials. But, as Cain resolutely puts it: “It’s the little things that adds up and make Abel & Cain. Lookin’ after the little details help create the brand. We don’t just say Abel & Cain, put it on a jumper – every other brand does that. We wanted to stand out above the rest”. These are the strategies that puts one in the upper echelon to claim a seat at the table of immortality.
We’re not tryna sell a brand – we’re selling a story. The best way to sell a story is with yourself.
When you work in unison with all those associated to your brand, the products are a true reflection of harmony. The chance of discord will be minimal. From there, a genuine belief manifests into a force that is undeniable: positive vibrations. “Our supplier sees our vision as well”, Abel maintains. “He’s brought into the story. He’s brought into the concept. We wanna be on the same ground as our supplier and marketin’. It’s a journey for us all together”. Expanding, Cain conceives: “everybody sells a brand – but no one sells a story. You’ve been brought up on stories. You’re made to believe in stories. We want you to believe in Abel & Cain. I want you to think of the brand with this name, not the biblical story”. They believe the association will be achieved. And I agree. Stories of success through adversity are the cornerstone of any culture. Tales of triumph resonate within the human psyche because we choose to believe. Visionaries such as Virgil Abloh, Elon Musk and Kanye West are examples held in high regard because they dared to “speak their mind”, seeking a way to leave their mark on this earth. They all started somewhere.
Considering both men hail from families that have been close for generations, it’s impossible for their genuine camaraderie to go unnoticed. It’s relaxed. It’s honest. It’s refreshing. But do not be fooled. This is a shared mutual passion and friendship that has transcended to a respectful professionalism. Business is business. Being an Accounting and Finance graduate affords Abel license to head the finance and legal division, allowing Cain free creative reign. “In the company, we have another stakeholder”, Abel relays. “Though we tap into each other’s from time to time, I like havin’ those lines. I don’t let him worry about the finances. I don’t wanna cloud his creativity. I let him come to me with an idea and if we have done our market research and we are both happy, then I will try my best to accommodate for that design. No idea is too crazy – we will figure it out”. Cain, currently in his third year studying Bio-Medical Science weighs in: “as long as it’s in the green, I’m alright. Our real strength is that we are mutually agreeable. We find the middle ground”. And that is where real power resides in a joint venture. “Understandin’ each other is a strength”, Abel avows. “We have different tastes. He’s on one side, me on the other, and we produce a product applicable to everyone”.
Though they have other responsibilities (work and studies), when asked: “how do you balance fashion and your personal life?”, in near precision, in unison they answer: “we don’t”. This is their brand. “It’s our baby”, Abel says with laughter filled with a serious undertone. “We enjoy doin’ it so it fits in perfectly with our work. It doesn’t feel like we have to make time”. And that is commendable. “We want to make time”, Cain adds. Irrelevant of the time, place or activity, as aforementioned, inspiration strikes at any moment which translates to numerous phone calls between the two throughout the day. An act both parties find humorous. “We talk a dozen times a day”, Abel admits. “When I look at my phone, I think now what?”. To which Cain chimes: “I look at my phone and think oh god”. There’s a trio of heckling at this point. I may have stirred the pot a bit in total honesty. But it was funny. Yes, they have had help where it has been feasible, but that does not detract from their accomplishments. By standing as stoic individuals, they have achieved more as a partnership.
Even though you’re your own critic, you’re always fighting against yourself. That’s why I think the brand is perfect. It relates to everyone.
Similar to everyone featured thus far, they view themselves as their biggest critics. By this stage of running ‘I Be The Cool‘, I somewhat view that response as a given. But everyone deals with this internal struggle in ways constructive to them. Both men agree having a support structure is essential. As well as “relaxin’ with friends”, Abel asserts their family are continually supportive, given them that extra boost when morale may deplete. “You’ve embarked on this journey”, they relate. “You’re passionate about it. Just keep on goin'”. Cain insists “you learn to live with it – it’s a constant battle with myself”. And that is fine. As long as you have a routine to alleviate the melee of the mind. For him, family walks, reading and music shifts the clouds that formulate within. Moreover, I regard this internal struggle as the mind’s way of reminding one what’s at stake. I regard their eye for detail and the sense of achievement as crucial to these men. Ideally, they “wanna see Abel & Cain on everythin'”. And this derives from “countless decisions” such as choosing the brand name, to “continually bouncing ideas off each other more than anythin’ else”. As with any partnerships, there will be disagreements. Again, that’s a given. But, Abel assures me: “there’s no sleep lost over it” – which is important. “Business is business”, Cain elaborates. “Whether we like it or not, we are here to success. We love this brand – that’s why we have our disagreements”.
Furthermore, it is the distinct roles they have which has enabled them to create a unique experience. By profession, Abel contends he’s “more structured” – which Cain agrees citing “he brings the steady foundation”. At this point, I made an analogy to the construction of a house which Abel expands upon. “I do all the brickwork for the house, he goes inside and makes it home. Even with the brickwork, it depends on the bricks you use, how you want that buildin’ to be. He will come in and be like I wanna knock down that wall”. I stir once again declaring Cain has knocked down a few walls in his time. A trio of laughter ensues again. But, there is power in awareness. “Without the finance or accountin’ team”, Abel states, “any business wouldn’t run – it’s as simple as that. You can come out with the most whacky idea, if someone doesn’t finance it, it won’t work”. A point which Cain certifies declaring: “though the fashion industry is crazy, you gotta stick to the fundamental rules and you gotta have a steady head. That’s where he comes into place – keepin’ that balance”. Abel is the grounded individual holding the kite on the infinite string that is Cain. Though he soars to great heights exploring new terrains, he is never truly apart from his ‘brother’. Mutual respect.
Self-confessed ‘perfection-artists’, the creative space they are currently in leaves no room for error. Irrelevant of how long it takes, Abel confides: “nothin’ is set until we are happy – it has to be perfect”. A notion Cain corroborates exclaiming: “I achieve for the best in what I do. I wanna be the best”. And I respect that. From a consumer perspective, I wholeheartedly agree. When you make that purchase and you see the attention that goes into everything from the packaging to the apparel itself, you acknowledge true craftsmanship. Abel & Cain serve to initiate an identity of empowerment and confidence. For those hoping to succeed in life, they advise: “If you wanna achieve somethin’, there’s no limit. Set yourself a goal and work backwards”. Be confident in who you are, and work hard for who you want to become.
You shouldn’t be scared of representin’ you. You shouldn’t be scared of who you are.
So, I pose the question again: “Must one be apologetic for their duality?” A different answer lays within each individual. And even then, due to circumstance and experience, that answer may change. That is the power of the internal struggle. We are all commingled with good and bad. It is the part you act on that truly defines your essence. As Cain concludes:
“To reference our story, we toe the line between good and bad. How you interpret it is how the clothes will look. It’s a blank sheet and you can do what you want with it. We want you to experiment. You are Abel & Cain now. You are the brand. You are the story. Create your own story. In fashion, you’re given somethin’ to wear. I don’t wanna do that. I want them to add stuff to it – let them feel comfortable with it. You’re not a customer. You are now Abel & Cain. We wanna give you that little boost when you wear our clothes. That’s why fashion is important. You wear our apparel and think you can take on the world today. You’re feelin’ like a King or Queen. You do you and you will become successful. Your imagination is your limitation”.
All images by jsphotos_91