Design & Me: A look at the CooYah brand

I know I’ve been kinda quiet lately. Disorganisation and a fair amount of things to do keeps a chick busy. My mind was attempting to fire on all cylinders in multiple directions and I’m not entirely sure that it was working. Anyway, time to jump right back into talking about design.

For a few days now I’ve been wondering if I’ve been over-thinking the design process that I’m subjecting myself to…I mean, how much cultural understanding does one need to make clothes that look nice? Then I remember that it’s not just about looking nice but also about a message, one which doesn’t come naturally to me and so research is needed. Le sigh.

At any rate, I started looking at one of the brands that first inspired me and piqued my interest in the VoN concept: CooYah. I was hoping to get a clearer understanding of their philosophy (design wise and in general) and this is what I found:


“The Evolution of Life” Bringing out the spiritual side of all of us, self-expression, and a sense of bliss, harmony, goodwill & peace.
Company Overview
CY Clothing Inc. is inspired by the faces, races, shapes and sizes of all humanity. Born out of Jamaican, Jewish Reggae, Rasta, & Caribbean culture we feature a unique line of custom shirts, couture & accessories, many designs which are Hand Drawn. Recently, we have expanded our line to include organic & sustainable fabrics. CY, “See Why” we are evolving.”
(source: ; accessed May 19th 2012)
It’s pretty obvious why the brand resonated with me. I’m all for evolution and spiritual sides! And empowerment and the revival of Love. Their older work (to me) had a lot more presence and impact for some reason. Shirts like this: Image
spoke to me. And there’s also another shirt I own which says JAH (Justice And Humanity) Army. Ironically, I owned both of these shirts long before I really started to expand my consciousness but that is beside the point.
Their inspiration is highly visible in their work. I’m sure they had other sources that they drew inspiration from but their main inspiration comes from Rastafarian culture and Reggae music. It’s in their iconography,  (in this shirt alone we have a Che Guevara reference and the Lion of Judah, the latter being a recurring image) and often in their colour choice. In this shirt for instance we get the sense of sobriety and gravity. Black, white, grey. No messing around. Other times they use earth tones for a down-to-earth, sensible vibe. Sometimes you have just bright splashes of colour that leap right off the shirt and catch your attention. What I find interesting is that some of these references are most powerful when you know the context…sort of like an inside joke. The lion, for instance would just be a random lion with a flag unless you are aware of the links between the Rasta and the Lion of Judah.
It’s also apparent in their newer work:
(Source: ; accessed May 19th 2012)
though in my eyes it doesn’t speak as much. I suppose that is due to a mixture of brand evolution and making  the brand more commercial. I still enjoy the brand visually but the presence it had that drew me in initially seems to be gone. Or maybe it hasn’t and I’m just incapable of evolving along with them. Who knows. Even now, their core inspirations are still there (Lion? Check. Ites, Gold & Green? Check. Full Rasta forward!), just expressed in different ways. I guess that is something I should also think about…how the brand will evolve when (positive thinking folks!) it becomes more popular. As far as I’m aware, you can only work a niche for so long before there becomes a market glut. Longevity and flexibility are to be considered after all.
Their designs are clearly thought out and their inspiration/philosophy breathes out of every piece. I can see that before I sit down to design I have to really think what my main inspiration is to be, and what are the symbols I want to use. Colour schemes are also very important (and already I can see my brain over-analysing all of these things!) as well as the brand’s future. Where do I see this going? And how do I intend to arrive there? At first I thought I was over-thinking this design process but now I see that maybe I am taking steps in the right direction…I just need to speed the process up.
I’ll be blogging about some more of my random thoughts later. And more design thoughts. I have an idea for a sketch or two, so I might upload those whenever I get around to doing them 🙂
Peace and love family,
P.S. S|O to all my readers, especially the new ones in the US. I appreciate you stopping by 🙂

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