DRIP DROPS of HIP-HOP from CHATTANOOGA
By Ben Banks
Over the past month, I’ve seen several of my favorite artists such as Danny Polo, Yo Miestro and Swayyvo rocking the Stay Dry brand. I did some research into them, and not only is this a great looking brand, they’ve also got an amazing mission behind them. So, the only logical thing to do was to reach out for an interview to get a spotlight on them. I really respect Sean for doing his thing for the city but also truly putting his heart into something he believes in. Check out what he had to say below.
Where's Stay Dry based out of? What area do you feel like you best represent?
Sean: Stay Dry is based out of Chattanooga, TN which I believe is also where we best represent. At the same time we also have a growing following in other areas such as Philadelphia, PA and Albany, NY.
What/who got you first interested in art/design?
Sean: My sister is 10 years older then me and when I was little anything she was into (music, art, and sports) I was also into. I remember when I was younger I would sit next to her in my dad’s office just watching her draw. I was so intrigued! So without a doubt I would say she was the first one that got me into art/design!
What's the story behind Stay Dry?
Sean: You might be wondering; "What is STAY DRY?”
Stephen DeMoss, my brother, passed away on November 13, 2017. He spent a decade battling SUD and severe PTSD after serving in Iraq. Stephen’s death was due to his struggle with alcohol addiction. Turning to alcohol as a means to cope continues to be a serious problem for veterans and active military personnel across the United States. STAY DRY takes root in January 2018. Stephen’s passing became a huge motivator for Sean to help others like Stephen before it's too late. Sean had confidence that he could use his talents to make a positive impact on the lives of others. He put his artistic talent and his mind for marketing together to birth the STAY DRY brand. Stay Dry is a Clothing brand that has three goals in mind: Promoting a lifestyle of abstaining from addictive substances, bringing hope to those who are presently struggling with such vices, and showing people healthier options to deal with their pain!
Who are some music artists that you've worked with?
Sean: To name a few, we have worked with Qualls, Yo Miestro, Danny Polo, Lul Lion, Swayyvo and Jon Mero.
Briefly take me through your process for creating.
Sean: Internet surfing, video watching, podcast listening, and lots of sketching. Also talking to other artists is very important. Sometimes I come up with my best designs/ideas while just talking to people. I suggest surrounding yourself with people that inspire you!
Have you gone through phases in your career?
Sean: Yeah, for sure! Stay Dry was doing pretty well (sale wise) right before this past summer but I felt lead to move to New York. I decided to move on from Stay Dry and pursue Youth Ministry. I thought Stay Dry was over for sure! While working at this camp in NY, I was wearing my personal Stay Dry shirt. Over and over again I was asked where someone could get their hands on of those shirts. I started to sell the few I had left but the demand was too high. After quickly running out of shirts, I decided to order more merchandise. In two nights ,during free time alone, my friends and I sold $500 worth of hats and within the same week we sold $750 worth of shirts. I thought Stay Dry was no more but the Lord had a different plan. After only being in NY for 9 weeks I decided to move back to TN to keep pursuing Stay Dry.
How would you say that you are different now compared to the past?
Sean: We started off as a T-shirt brand that had one goal in mind: Sell T-shirts to raise money for our veterans who struggle with substance abuse! Although, supporting our veterans is still one of our main focuses, we have expanded on that. Along with our Veterans, our goal in 2019 is to also be working with our youth. According to a study by Columbia University, “underage drinkers account for 11.4% of all of the alcohol consumed in the U.S. The average age teen boys first try alcohol is age 11, for teen girls it's 13. Nearly 10 million young people, ages 12 to 20, reported that they've consumed alcohol in the past 30 days. Teens who start drinking before age 15 years are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after the legal age of 21.” We believe that if we can reach people at a younger age before it becomes an addiction that there would be a lot less people like my older brother. We have also moved on from T-shirts for the most part. We believe anyone could just make T-shirts so 2019 we want to be more creative with the merch and the designs we put out there!
How do you balance Stay Dry and other aspects of your life?
Sean: That’s actually a really good question! It’s honestly not easy and sometimes I can get really behind on a lot of things. Currently we either donate the proceeds or put the money back into Stay Dry so that in can grow. Since this is the case Stay Dry is not at a place where it can pay for my bills so I still work full time. Balancing a full time job, Stay Dry, time for friends and my girlfriend, and church life it can get pretty messy. I am sure most artists can relate to this problem. If you are reading this and actually really want to pursue a side hustle my advice to you is to stay organized as much as possible and most importantly be willing to sacrifice other things in you life (social life).
Have you traveled anywhere that’s really inspired you?
Sean: Yeah! I have had the opportunity to travel to multiple places outside of the country but I would say that Uganda, Africa and Italy were by far the two places that inspired me the most!
What are some of your goals that you hope to accomplish within the design/art industry?
Sean: I believe connections and meeting new people are very important. There are a lot of brands that one day I would love to do a collaboration with but the biggest two would be Billionaire Boy’s Club and Bape. These brands were the first two that got me into Streetwear. I remember thinking fashion was just for girls until I had a presentation on Bape in a fashion and design class that I took back in high-school. I believe the worst thing you can do is limit your dreams and hopes. I have no idea where life will take me so might as well dream big! I got one life and I’m not here to serve myself. My priorities are to put the Lord first and to serve those around me by using the gifts that He has given me. My hopes and goals are for Stay Dry to continue to grow so I can do just that!
What are some trends that you see happening in the local streetwear scene this year?
Sean: One of the biggest things I see currently trending is lots and lots of camo which a good thing for Stay Dry because that fits right into the whole “Support Our Veterans” thing. Something els that I am starting to notice is a lot of people are starting to get into the whole custom/revamping of clothing. They take thrift store finds, add their own style to it, and sell it for a pretty penny. Don’t be surprised if you see Stay Dry doing something similar in the future!
What things are you trying to change in the streetwear scene this year?
Sean: I think there is a lack of thought with a lot of art/music/design that is currently being put out there. It almost feels like the industry is getting lazy. I honestly think there’s very few people out there that are truly doing them and being intentional with everything they do. Today’s “just doing me” is really just doing what the people want to see… and yes this drives sales but I believe there should be more to it than just the money aspect (call me crazy if you want to haha). One of the many artists that I look up to is Qualls. I find that he is down to earth (real), has his own style, super hard worker, creative, and just someone that I just enjoy being around. As creatives we were blessed with thought and creative minds so why not use them? We want to be as intentional as possible and to put thought behind everything we do! Stay Dry is here to make a difference in the community around us, while hopefully inspiring others to do the same!
What are some themes that you really focus on in your designs?
Sean: One of the hard parts for designing for Stay Dry is that we are not just designing a cool T-shirt or sweatshirt. There is a cause behind Stay Dry so I’m trying to get that out there but I find that a lot of the original designs were too “wordy”. Also by focusing so much on the cause aspect with the design I find myself creating something that is not really me and something that I truly can say I love/approve of. Moving forward I want to be more creative and more outside of the box with the designs!
Who’s your main audience that you’re trying to reach?
Sean: This is interesting because about 50% of our audience on instagram are white females ages 14-24 which honestly isn’t where our main focus is. Our goal is to be more diverse, to reach all groups of people, to bring people together, and make the world we all live in a better place! If what we are putting out there isn’t getting that message across then maybe it’s time to change some things around.
What message are you trying to send to that audience?
Sean: You can enjoy life to the full without being on an addictive substance. Society tells you that these things will help you feel better and take away your pain but over time they only lead to more pain and destruction. We are here to tell you that there are healthier ways to deal with this pain, loneliness, and depression. I lost my own brother to the “Party Lifestyle” and the last thing I want is to watch anyone else go through what he and my family had to go through. I also want to mention that abusing alcohol and using drugs is no longer the “cool” or the “edgy” thing to do. You are just doing what everyone else is doing. I challenge you to try being completely sober and telling your friends. Hard right? Some might even say it’s weird! To me that’s being edgy.
Which artist would you love to collaborate with?
Sean: I kinda already answered this earlier but there is one artist here in Chatt that I would love to work with! His Name is Jack but goes by Oualms. His work is absolutely insane! If you have not heard of him you should for sure check out his instagram @Oualms . At the end of the day honestly if you are a creative, will represent Stay Dry well (AKA won’t bring Stay Dry down), and are down to work hard with us we are always down for a collab!
Have there been any obstacles that you’ve overcome to pursue your design/art?
Sean: Oh for sure! I could go on and on about all the problems we have come across! One of my biggest problems personally is that I am not computer savvy. I encourage you if you want to get into this industry do as much research as possible and learn as much as you can before jumping right in. I suggest using Youtube and Podcasts to your advantage. It will save you a lot of time and money down the road!
What advice would you give to someone starting in design?
Sean: Let the world around you inspire you but always stay true to yourself. It is great idea to slow down and take a step back before jumping onto a design. Think to yourself how can I make this better and also don’t be afraid to ask other creatives for their opinions as well!
What are some victories that you had with your design/art?
Sean: We have had a couple people who are famous or getting up there rep Stay Dry including Gary Vee (Entrepreneur with 5M followers), Joey Vantes (rapper, verified Instagram, and 14.2k followers), and the Instagram account @thehiddenbiscuit (18.4k followers)
How would you best describe your brand/style?
Sean: Streetwear inspired mixed in with my personal style!
What are some other forms of media that inspire you? (Movies, art, TV, etc) Banksy, who if you don’t know is a famous street artist, has been very inspirational for me, even before Stay Dry. He or she (no one really knows Banksy’s true identity) always thinks outside of the box and attempts what others would consider near impossible. I strive to be more like him and hopefully you will be seeing more of that in our events and designs soon!
What would be a major success for you in your design?
Sean: Seeing real change in our community through Stay Dry. At the end of the day I’m not here to make a name for myself and become rich. I started Stay Dry to help and give back to those that gave their all to serve and protect our country. If people are getting the help they need to me that would be a success.
Tell me about one of your favorite projects so far.
Sean: We have jumped into event planning (putting on shows) which has been by far the most stressful but at the same time most rewarding to date for Stay Dry. There is so much that goes into putting on an event but that is best way to build connections, bring people together, raise money for the cause, and a great way to get your brand out there. Our first show, Stay Qualls, was put on by Qualls and Stay Dry back in December. This event went so well that we decided to have another one which is coming up on March 17th!
Anything that you want to promote? Shows, projects or shoutouts?
Sean: We have a show coming up on March 17th called the 423 Fest! This show will include Jon Mero (Who was on the Voice), Danny Polo, Elizha Sanders, and Ally Burgess!
Where can people keep up with you on social media?
Sean: Instagram: @Staydry.co
Tha Milk Drop is a site focused on highlighting the hip-hop culture in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but also taps into hip-hop worldwide. Each week we drop exclusive and new content from artists. Also catch the profiles and interviews of hip-hop artists and creatives.
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