“I’m nervous!” Latabia Woodward, dressed in a neon pink crewneck sweater and white denim, tells me. “But I’m so, so proud of him.” Her son—Kiari Kendrell Cephus, also known as Offset, one-third of the Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling rap groupMigos—is about to debut his first clothing line,Laundered Works Corp, in a cavernous Gothic Revival church in the heart of Paris’s 8th arrondissement. Cephus, on the other hand, insists that he’s not nervous. He never gets nervous, he adds.
Backstage before the show, models, friends, members of the Laundered Works team—including Cephus’s codesigner,Chaz A. Jordan—bustle around him. “I call this cultural drip,” he explains of his debut line. “It’s for the youth, but it’s still got some luxury and class to it.” It’s important to him that the collection of sweatsuits, tees, denim, and leather pieces be accessible to his fans. “I wanted to keep my designs within an affordable price range so that all my fans could enjoy them with me. I didn’t want them to be something they’d put on their wish list for Christmas.”
The church is respectfully silent in the 10-minute time frame between people getting seated and the show’s beginning. The only sound is the train of a faux-fur coat sweeping along the floor as it follows its owner backstage.Cardi B, Grammy-winning, multi-platinum-selling rapper and Offset’s wife, has arrived to support her husband’s new venture. Dressed in a customMah-Jing Wongsheer catsuit,Adrienne Landaufaux-fur coat, and a glittering, jewel-encrusted balaclava byCouture Mask, she looks like a cross between Catwoman and Cruella de Vil. After she joins Cephus’s group members,QuavoandTakeoff, in the front row, the show can officially begin.
Laden with bold, collaged graphics, the looks—17 of them in total—are a mix of approachable and high end, featuring custom Nike Jordans paired with supple leather tailoring and outerwear. “Never forget where you came from” and “Survival of the fittest” are just a few of the lines scrawled on the more casual looks. Cephus explains that the flaming skull is one of the collection’s key motifs. “The skull is one of my things,” he says. “I’m kind of running with it. Like on my leather pants, on the hems, they’ve got skull heads.” He turns to Jordan for additional perspective.
“We made custom buttons and rivets with skull heads too,” Jordan adds. While Jordan and Cephus have been friends for three years, 2019 finally felt like the right time to work together on these designs. “I was doing a lot of touring with my group, but this year, we had a lot of time to sit down and go through the designs. We just made it happen.” It’s important to Cephus that the pair work collaboratively. “We’re two black men just trying to keep things positive,” he adds.
The show closes to applause from the crowd and enthusiastic cheers from Cardi, and people start to filter out. At the door of the cathedral, an episcopal priest dressed in floor-grazing vestments says goodbye to the night’s visitors. “Thanks for your church,” one responds. While the night may be ending, for Cephus this is just the beginning. “We’re going to make it annual,” he says of his line. “In the future, we’re going to do womenswear. And me and Kulture’s mom, we’re trying to get her her own kids’ line. That’s what we’re working on next.”