Have you ever wondered what happened to a particular famous person or iconic brand that seems to have disappeared? In a new monthly #Trending column, Bakae, Where They At? we travel down memory lane. Our first instalment sees Phumlani S Langa visit the streetwear brand that gave an era of sound a look.
Allow me to take you back to a time when cool kids rocked Amakipkip (AKK). We wore Kanye West stunna shades with poor visibility and our denim was covered in illustrations. You may have even had one of those fake Baby Milo hoodies, but AKK was the seal of street approval.
This brand was at the forefront of local streetwear around 2005 – a time when kids were dancing more than rapping and enjoying the wonders of Muthaland Crunk. Loxion Kulca and a few others had tested the waters, but none shut the block down more than AKK did.
Getting to the store was an adventure in itself as I was confronted with an unexpected obstacle in the form of municipal protesters who had cut off the main arteries to the city, including Church Street in Pretoria, from where it’s easiest to access the AKK store in Sammy Marks Square.
I ditch the car at the first parkade I find and head to the shop through the manic metropolitan of Tshwane. I find it near an entrance of a slightly peculiar mall.
The store keeps the boutique feel it had when YFM was at The Zone in Rosebank near the flagship store, which perished when that mall underwent renovations.
Nkosana Modise greets me from across the counter. The dreadlocked head designer and chief executive is rocking a yellow hoodie covered in the signature coloured popcorn.
“I was born in Soweto eBara [Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital] and got involved with clothing around 2006. I was at a hip-hop summit in Newtown and noticed the people around me weren’t wearing a local brand. This was a couple of years after Loxion Kulca,” he says.
It came to him almost as a dream, and so it was born. Finally, an era in local hip-hop had local drip to go with it. They had drops themed around the adored street delicacy as well as an iconic one that made use of the then widely used BlackBerry Messenger app, BBM.
SO, WHERE YOU AT?
A solemnness falls over the face of this brand’s head, who at first seemed almost reluctant to meet and wasn’t keen on any pictures of him being taken.
“After 2010, we had challenges. As an entrepreneur, you experience hidden pitfalls. We went dormant from 2012 to 2015 and had to rebuild from scratch. So now we’ve opened this shop, which is more like an urban mix brand store,” says Modise.
The store is bumping. Trendy-looking youngsters stroll in and out, lured by loud trap music.
The store has a few AKK pieces I haven’t seen, and brands including Off White and Thrasher, as well as a healthy selection of footwear and shiny accessories.
The black walls make the colours pop. It seems techwear (Korean hip-hop/anime attire) is creeping into the country. I spot colourful camo cargo pants with matching kneepads and chest plates.
“It’s a great time to be a part of the streetwear industry. When we started, we were still competing with Aca Joe, Billabong and all that surfwear. The rise of hip-hop has broken the market. It’s streetwear season all year around,” says Modise.
Rapper Da L.E.S sported some of this clothing back in his Jozi days. He was to AKK what 50 Cent was to Reebok. Speaking to us probably from somewhere in the north, the now lavish rapper says: “I wore a lot of AKK in the day. They were really authentic and they stood out. The colours they used resonated with the kind of mood I was in.”
And he still wears the brand: “Every AKK drop is my favourite.”
Modise reckons the brand cycle has an inevitable 10-year rotation and labels such as Fila and Kappa have been through it and made it back.
The brand still looks fresh. I even liked the Izikhothane range, which has track pants covered in prints of South African money.
Walking around the store felt good and I don’t see why I should be wearing more Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger than AKK – those cats don’t even like me.