By: Allie Antonevich
Unaliketype is a fashion/art brand based in Los Angeles. Started by Justin Barlow and Maurice Williams (known as Mo), two current USC students, they aim to pair art together with luxury streetwear. Collections are organized as “episodes,” with each set capturing a different theme. Episode One, released spring of this year, sold out, and Episode Two is set to release at the end of the summer. I had the opportunity to speak with artist and designer Mo to discuss his creative process, inspirations, and future projects for the brand.
Photo Courtesy of Unaliketype
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Can you spell your name for me?
Maurice. A lot of people call me Mo.
And you go to USC?
Yeah, I’m going to be a senior now.
What are you studying?
I’m a real estate development major. It’s very different for an artist. It’s pretty funny… I went to USC as an anthropology major and I have a published ethnography from Stanford and stuff because I did that before I went to college. I’m all over the place. I just like people. So, anthropology, real estate… it all makes sense. I want to be a provider.
You started this with Justin, right?
We started the beginning of the semester. It’s been about 6-7 months now.
What does Justin do?
Justin is the finance lord. He is the behind-the-scenes, he is everything a company needs to be and how it needs to be run that isn’t creative-related. I like to claim I’m the creative end and take care of most of that stuff, and Justin takes care of the logistics and business things. He makes things happen.
Is it just run between you two?
We have a CMO, her name is Larsen. She’s also a good friend. Really good at marketing -- she’s great at what she does. It’s us three right now.
Did you meet through USC?
Basically. Justin is from New York, and my roommate, at the time before he went abroad, is also from New York, so he knew Justin and he introduced me. The first thing Justin said to me when he saw my art on the wall was, “Yo, we can do something with this,” and the rest is history. It’s crazy how that happened, thinking about it now.
The process of that – he saw your art, and he said, “we should do this”?
He was like, “My dad does this printing… we should definitely find a way to get your art out there.” And I was like, “I agree, I’ve been trying to for a while to get my art out there.” But it’s really hard to find a balance with school and be an artist and also be a boss at the same time. I wanted to ease that load, and with a partnership, I understood that it was the best way to make that vision feasible and turn it into a reality.
You call your collections episodes, right? Do you mind running me through the creative process of what that looks like?
Unaliketype is an art-based, high-end fashion brand. I say that because it’s the root of the inspiration of the clothing line. I say “episodes” because they’re more like collections. I wanted to bring that into the fashion world. I’m trying to blend original, organic high-end art, with fashion. The thing is, I’m glad you asked that question, I’m leaving [episode one] pretty vague because I want people to think about it. As I’m trying to add more and more collections -- you’ll see it holistically and see the vision pan out when you have episodes 1-10, and then you’ll have the end of the season. It’s kind of like a TV show. This is bigger than clothing, this is more than a cultural thing. I’m trying to shift how people see art. Right now, the way [art is] portrayed – it’s not for kids our age. It’s not for the younger generation. I’m trying to pull both aspects together, and bring that high-end art, that gallery art, and attract the younger generation to it. The clothing line is going to help that, and we’re going to grow into other branches of other things…[by] incorporating the youth. I’m trying to create that bridge.
I know you mentioned the word “cultural” – is there anything right now that’s particularly inspiring to you?
That’s the anthropology in me right now. I’ve been around a lot of people in many states, and I have a very diverse group of friends. When I do work, I try to express love. That’s why you’ll see a lot of hearts in my work. It’s a lot of love and togetherness type of feeling. And when I say “cultural” – I’m trying to bring everyone together. It’s more of an intuitive thing for me, and I’m doing what my soul is telling me to do. When I paint, it’s just my arm and my wrist, flowing, and it’s all the expression coming out of me.
I saw on the brand’s Instagram that you have paintings and then the streetwear itself. So, do you do both the paintings and clothing?
I also do the clothing as well. I’m a fashion designer too; I’m trying to be both. If I feel like I want to paint, I just go do it. I have a good eye for things and when it’s finished, I determine whether it should be on clothes or be on someone’s wall, or part of a gallery.
Do you have a mentor?
Honestly… no. I don’t have a mentor. I’m just a college student trying to start a business and a career and get a degree. I don’t really have time for a mentor with all of the classes going on. I’m very strong-minded and independent. I don’t want to sound arrogant and say I don’t need one, but I’m at a point in my life mentally where I can go where I want to go without a mentor. I know what I want. I have a goal in mind, and I’m going to continue to chase it until I get there.
In a few sentences, can you talk a bit about what designing means to you?
Designing is an existential part of me. It’s just me, expressing everything I’ve been through and [I’m currently] going through. My passion… and everything I see and experience from my world and people and places. Designing is my escape. I love creating new things, and turning nothing into something. I look at everything like a canvas because that’s how my mind is wired.
Going off of that, is there a particular brand, or person, that inspires you?
I’m from Chicago, so I’m inspired by Don C and Kanye West. Honestly? I’m inspired by all Chicago artists. I’m very prideful of my hometown. I get a lot of my creativity from growing up there. That’s who I look up to when I need inspiration because I feel like we’re like-minded, creative geniuses. When it comes to art, I don’t really have anyone because like I said, it comes from within me. I don’t try to look at any other thing or anyone else’s work, because I try to do what feels right.
What colors, if any, are you drawn to use?
I’m fond of warmer colors in my paintings. I just started using cooler colors, it looks pretty dope. I prefer the warmer colors, the navy blue, I love the mustard yellow. A really, warm sunset type color.
I’m not sure if this is the case for you, but whenever I’m creating things I have a certain playlist I listen to. Would you say the same?
I literally cannot work without music. I talk to my friends about this all the time. My favorite artist, who I would listen to all the time, I actually can’t start work without him. His name is LUCKI. I know every single song of his… and trust me, there’s a lot. I know every song, word for word. I can go 16 hours straight listening to his music. I say this because I’ve done this before, multiple times, maybe longer. It’s a weird obsession… I’m not a fan of too many people. This is the one person I’m a superfan of. His music touches me. He’s from the same area where I'm from, and I can understand and it connects with me when I’m painting, because we’re both expressing ourselves in a similar way. The “Chicago State of Mind”… I can relate, as an artist.
Did anyone teach you how to paint, or is this all self-taught?
This is all self-taught. It started my junior year of high school. I was in an art class, I think just AP art. I was really close with the teachers, because I took digital media since freshman year. One day, a teacher came to the class with paint markers and he gave me four of them for the day. I had on white Vans, and in class, I just started drawing stuff on my shoes with the paint markers. Everyone thought it was cool, so he let me borrow the paint markers, and that just grew into drawing onto more shoes, clothes, and grew to that. Then I got to college. I realized I could probably do more. Last summer, I just started painting on canvases. This is all relatively new… and I wouldn’t say it’s self-taught, it’s just very intuitive. I’m still in the process of doing what I feel.
I saw that Episode One sold out. You’re selling Episode Two in August?
We have some big things coming. We’re going to be in a couple boutiques across the country. The vision is expanding. Look forward to summer vibes and warm weather with this next episode.
What would you say to other students who are also pursuing creative passions on the side?
Follow your dreams. Honestly. If you really want it, you go get it and don’t let anything stop you, no excuses. I’m trying to follow my dreams, and you can take control of your destiny and do the right things to get there. It’s going to be hard, but you have to be strong mentally. That’s how you go from Point A to Point B, Point B to Point C, and so on until you get to Z, because you need goals to get to your end destination.