Already on the backs of Future, Young Thug, and Ashanti, we meet its charismatic founder, Reiss Yeboah
“People just like me for some reason, I think it’s a spiritual thing,” responds Reiss Yeboah when asked how he’s managed to get his West London label, Saint London, on the backs of some of the world’s greatest rappers – with Future, Young Thug, and singer Ashanti all being snapped wearing it. But Saint’s magnetism goes beyond celebrity co-signs. Instead, these stars gravitate to the young designer’s drive. “They can see hunger in my actions, the pain in my eyes, and the persistence to succeed,” he adds. “Some have told me I’m a star in the making.”
Despite its offering of t-shirts, hoodies, and caps, Yeboah eschews the label of streetwear and describes Saint London as a contemporary menswear brand. “I hate when people instantly use the word ‘urban’ or ‘street’ just because of my background,” he says. “The vision I have is so much greater than hoodies and t-shirts.”
When Yeboah was just 11, he hit a turning point in his life. Having been sent to Ghana because his behaviour was too difficult for his mother to handle, he quickly realised he wasn’t coming back to London any time soon and began to switch his path. “I started to think carefully about where I wanted to be in the world and how I would make my mark,” he says, having stayed there for two years.
Influenced by early millennium hip-hop music, and brands such as Rocawear, Sean Jean, Iceberg, and Moschino, as well Pharrell Williams’s Billionaire Boys Club, Yeboah realised he wanted to start his own label, and in 2013, Saint London was born.
The name “Saint”, he reveals, was a reminder for himself to “stay on the straight and narrow”, having seen friends and family members fall into the criminal system. And in just a few short years, Yeboah single-handedly cemented his local following as well as one which reaches across the globe. “Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” he advises. “Your network is your net worth.”
In June 2017, though, Yeboah’s world was flipped upside down when Grenfell Tower caught fire. Losing friends to the tragedy, he was diagnosed with PTSD and had to quit his job working in retail: “I found it difficult to stare into the eyes of the building every day as I left home.” He promised himself that he would come back stronger than ever, and less than a year later, he met Selfridges menswear buyer, Jack Cassidy, and its buying and merchandising director, Sebastian Manes, who helped him put Saint London on the department store’s shelves as its exclusive UK retailer. His latest collection launches there today.
The new offering, “Spirit of the Night”, tackles the trauma that Grenfell left on him. “It’s very bright because of the happiness and confidence that I started to gain by channelling my pain into art,” he says. “The graphics came naturally, but at bizarre times in the night and early hours of the morning. I would just wake up and start designing fonts, graphics, and concepts.” Consumers can expect bright colours, metallic prints, and glow in the dark detailing, as well as motifs such as ghosts, demons, angels, and references to insomnia. While the collection has helped him to confront his own pain, he hopes that it will serve as a reminder to the public of what happened that night.
Refusing to be trapped in his past, Yeboah’s sights are already set on the next year, with plans to turn Saint London into a high-end brand by continuing to work with Selfridges as well as other “dope brands and celebrities”. He’s heading to the US and Asia as well as launching a womenswear brand. But he is also ensuring that the next generation has a helping hand, with an aim to set up a trust fund and offer mentoring to aspiring designers. His major piece of advice? “Ultimately, don’t do it for the money or the fame as you won’t last long if that’s your objective.”
Saint London is available in Selfridges London as well as on its website.