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This Minnesota designer creates T-shirts celebrating hip-hop queens

Graphic designer Gerald Edwards Jr. specializes in shirts with thoughtful hip-hop and anime-influenced designs.

A Brooklyn Park-raised artist's latest T-shirt designs were an accidental success.

Gerald Edwards Jr., 24, is a clothing designer, graphic artist, photographer and painter, who also runs his own clothing company called NSOD (Never Stop On Dreams).

At age 15, the locally-based entrepreneur's first brand blossomed. Edwards Jr. used his self-taught design skills acquired from trial and error and YouTube tutorials to create his first T-shirt. Without a website and before receiving his business administration degree from University of Wisconsin-Stout, he sold his first products to his peers through word of mouth and social media.

Rich Anime, Gerald’s side project, was born from a single print of a shirt with manga cartoon series Dragon Ball’s Bulma wearing Gucci that friends kept asking him to reprint. 

“I honestly just did one for myself and it had a great response, so I just kept going with it with many different artists that I respect and whose music is timeless,” he said.

This first tee sparked a range of shirt designs that combine Gerald’s original photography with images of his favorite anime characters and R&B and hip-hop artists in attempt to create wearable art.

The other tees released on the Rich Anime site feature more Dragon Ball characters dripping in designer threads, while some of his most popular designs depict Sade and Lauryn Hill in fancy picture frames and decked out in flowers.

GoMN sat down with Edwards Jr. as he explained how he got into art and how quality, exclusivity and clouds are all important attributes in his designs.

When did you first get into design?

I started my first company at 15, but at 13 I came across some old designs that my father had. I was just being nosy, like looking through files and I’d seen an idea. It said NSOD and it was letters that were all connected and under it, it said Never Stop On Dreams. I felt like I could make that idea grow.

What inspired you to design T-shirts featuring hip-hop legends?

I spend a lot of time in museums and art galleries. And what inspired me the most on this specific project is that I feel like a lot of women of color are underrepresented in art galleries and many different media. I wanted to basically bring up music that I grew up around and individuals who’ve made a big impact on black culture, basically black queens. I wanted to put them in frames, because I would love to see something like this in an art gallery.

Why is it so important for you to put these iconic women on T-shirts?

I would like to make a statement that women rule the world. They make the world go round. I want them to be represented in a much better image. Hopefully, with just this idea alone and people seeing these T-shirts that people are attracted to it and will come up to people and have a conversation. I think that’s a powerful thing, because the root of anything I create is because of a woman, specifically, women of color.

It looks like anime is a big influence too. Why is that so?

I love anime. The first book that I decided to read on my own was in the fifth grade. It was Naruto. Ever since then, I fell in love with anime. I love how in Japan they create art. So, whether it be T-shirts, cartoons, fashion as a whole, or technology, I was very inspired by that and still am to this day. Anime has a big impact on my creation.

So is Rich Anime completely separate from the main brand?

This is more for me to creatively express myself and the ideals that I have in my mind. Also, designs that you see and the flowers are all pictures that I’ve taken. The only pictures that I didn’t take are of the artists, everything else has been taken by me.

How would you describe your core, NSOD brand?

I would describe that brand as a more of a specific vision. With the side project it’s like everywhere. But with NSOD, it’s a specific vision. It’s better constructed and better-quality products. You’re more connected with the brand in that sense. It’s something that you can grow with. These things are more trendy to me, but the NSOD stuff is more timeless. It’s a brand for longevity, like a luxury brand.

Clouds seem to be a common theme in both Rich Anime and NSOD designs. What do they mean to you?

I’ve always seen a lot of clouds in my dreams when I’d go to sleep, so I connected that to dreaming. And one time, I was on an airplane and I’d seen the most beautiful clouds I had ever seen in my whole entire life. From there I was like, "You know what? Clouds are my thing." It makes me feel at peace when I look at clouds.

Do you have more designs in mind?

I create a lot, so I have a lot more ideas. I have a lot more that I plan on coming out with. I love high fashion and I love streetwear, so I’m going to start mixing those two together. I want to be able to merge like BBC Ice Cream designs with Gucci, along with Takashi Murakami. I just want to play with ideas, stuff that I can do outside of NSOD, because the ideas are just kind of everywhere and I love it.

Most Rich Anime tees are sold out, do you plan to restock?

It’s a limited-time thing. Limited quantity. So when I release it, I don’t come out with it again. I love the exclusivity. I love making people feel special, because everyone is special.

To keep up with Gerald's limited Rich Anime and NSOD releases, be sure to follow his Twitter and Instagram.

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