Going Knowhere Fast: Knormul University
If You Only Have 60 Seconds…
- Knormul University is a clothing brand that recently opened their storefront in the Taylors mill
- KnormulU specializes in innovative streetwear, perfect for an effortless look
- Aaron Johnson, the owner, derives inspiration from the world around him to create pieces unlike anything you’ve seen
My photographer knows the code to get me into the abandoned mill. Well, it isn’t completely abandoned. Strides have been made in renovating the Taylors Mill into a haven for creatives. Where am I going? Knowhere. Knowhere USA. I’m not just being clever, I am visiting Aaron Johnson the manager and one of the creators of Knowhere USA. The other members of Knowhere are Hasan, George, Shermont, and Jerome. Other than managing the collective, Aaron also spearheads the design house dubbed Knormul University (sometimes stylized as KnormulU). After my initial correspondence with Aaron, I was instantly enamored with his designs. It was time to see if being Knormul was all it is cracked up to be.
Knowhere isn’t just a place, it is a feeling. Let me try to explain. As I entered the space, electronic music mingled with the talking head on the television creating Knowhere’s own unique mixtape. Visually, the space is all about creativity. Clothes and garment racks line the walls, and shelves house a colorful array of sneakers. A large poster is framed over the TV with the logo for Knowhere as the Hollywood sign. As I sit at a desk in the middle of the room, I am even more eager to delve into Aaron’s story.
The Birth of a Brand
How does one even start their own business, let alone a fashion line? “ I’ve been into graphic design for a while now. I had to drop out of college for financial reasons. I was on the Dean’s List, but I ended up moving back home.” Aaron goes on to say, “You know, I always wanted to own my own clothing brand. I was working at the Grainger warehouse (in Fountain Inn) for 7 years, and I just quit earlier this year. I was working 10-hour shifts, I would sleep for a few hours and then press shirts.” Quitting his warehouse job freed Aaron up to follow his passion.
“I would shop out the printing of my designs, but the quality wasn’t good enough. Over the years, I bought a heat press, I learned everything through YouTube.” This was the foundation for Aaron’s brand. The rest of the pieces would soon fall into place.
“I had been designing for Hasan for years. Once Shermont and I came together as business partners, we talked to Carrie [of Taylors Mill] and they had a space open.” Knowhere was originally in a smaller space, but fate had different plans. The lady that was in the space that they had originally wanted was moving, and so they jumped at the chance. They moved into the space in September and had their grand opening on October 19th.
By now, you’ve no doubt noticed the unconventional spelling associated with Knormul University. “The idea stemmed from, I was really trying to find myself, I was doing music I wanted to separate myself and be different. I am kind of quirky and nerdy. The philosophy behind it is embracing who you really are. The university aspect, I dropped out of college, but I want to lead by example, to show people I am living what I preach.” And the spelling? “I was trying to find a different way to spell ‘normal’ that still looked right. I searched that spelling and nothing popped up, so it stuck.”
KnormulU specializes in street style or street wear. This is a style of clothing that is based on ease and layering. That being said, there is a lot of effort into looking so effortless. “Honestly man, I do it so much now, I take inspiration from anything it can be nature a conversation, a mistake. Me opening up my design for other people it really helped me hone my skills.” He points out a neon yellow piece, “We have a whole hazmat themed hoodie. I feed off of people to find inspirations. I pay attention to if I am out, if I see someone is dressed similar to what I want to put out. I try to recreate things in my head. Finding my brands is a way of finding myself.”
What will you find if you shop Knormul University? The brand offers t-shirts and hoodies in various materials and styles. They are also trying to set themselves apart by using unique materials. One shirt is made with hypercolor fabric that changes color with your body heat. Other details are done in 3M material that has an iridescent sheen when exposed to certain light. No one can claim that Aaron doesn’t do his research. He is constantly studying other brands and other fashion lines to see how he can push himself. “Complexcon was an eye-opening experience. I was able to rebrand myself after that trip. Just seeing what was out there, what was possible. It opened my mind to different possibilities. It helped me stray away from the stigma of ‘this is a t-shirt, you need something right here, here, and here’. I am keeping in mind the region I am in. For example, I don’t have tags on the inside of the shirts. Most shirts have the time and date they were created on them. Every shirt has a one of one feel.” Speaking of location, what DOES Aaron think of Greenville’s fashion potential? It isn’t necessarily known for street wear. “Greenville is a goldmine that people don’t realize. The construction, the interstate being expanded. I will talk to people from out of town, and they always say ‘we love visiting Greenville.’ In the next five years, there will be massive growth. Why move somewhere oversaturated?”
The comparison between the current styles and original styles gets a laugh from Aaron. “The first design, it was literally, it was a green beanie on top of the word Knormul, and then two fangs under it.” Why fangs, you might ask, “It was based off of when I was making music. I would wear fangs, and people would think they were real. It was so interesting. It was like trolling at the time. People would recognize me as the kid with the green hat and fangs. It was so funny and cool.”
Going Super Saiyan
From my time with Aaron, it is clear that he is very cognizant of his brand and how he wants to evolve said brand. Aaron is working to expand his brand by working with other companies. He offers printing services. “My brand right now… the main focus is on the printing and the service part. I am trying to compartmentalize my brand. I want to continue to work on my catalog. I have a couple of opportunities that are up in the air. I just want it to spread the Knormul University brand around locally. Having people know that we exist. Finding ways to separate the ways I print and how I work with my clients. I treat every brand I work with like it is my own. When you order something from me, when you get it, it is packaged and size-tagged. It is ready for resale.” Which brand would be Aaron’s dream collaboration? “Dragon Ball Z, that would be like my absolute favorite. Or Naruto. I would say One Punch Man, but they haven’t really collaborated before. I told you I was a nerd.”
Seeing Aaron follow his dreams, doing something he is really passionate about, one can’t help but get inspired. I asked Aaron what he would say to those who think that starting their own business is beyond them. “You won’t know until you try. Most of the time, I am just shooting in the dark. You realize when you take a chance, you have so much more time to achieve your dreams than you think you do. Last October, I was one man, I was printing hoodies and hoping I could just sell them to my coworkers. Now I have a storefront, it isn’t your typical storefront but it has a vibe.
I would wholeheartedly agree. KnormulU does have a vibe. I mentioned it earlier, actually. There is something effortless about Knormul University, that at the same time feels like a lot of effort has been put into making a quality product. Streetwear isn’t a new concept, but Aaron and his coworkers are looking to innovate the fashion movement. “Our goal is to put technology in t-shirts, how can we do things that people haven’t seen before?”
One of the last things Aaron said during our interview really stuck with me. “I’m humble 9 times out of 10, but when it comes to my brand, I feel like it is hard for other people to keep up.” Given Aaron’s passion, aesthetic, and work ethic, I’d have to agree.
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