I linked up with two gentlemen, in their own respects have been trailblazing and doing huge things for themselves and the community. Growing up in Hackney and going to secondary school in Hackney, I learned quite quickly that I was going to meet others like myself that will also help with this journey we call life. Meet Alvin Owusu and Will Stowe, we all went Hackney Free just at different points. I met them and had a great chat.
1. Hackney Free and Parochial Church of England School, describe your time there to me?
WS: So I’ll start with coming to Hackney free half way or towards the end of Year 7 fresh from Kingsland secondary school which closed and is now The Petchey Academy. Hackney Free was character building it was also the start of my road to confidence and the foundation for some of my best friendships. It was life lessons more than educational in some aspects and we were young so it’s mad when you consider people say University is where life lessons etc take place.
AO: Character building. It wasn’t the easiest school to navigate but I left with so much more than GCSEs. Hackney free was (and still is) a school where most students have to live a lot of life in a very short amount of time. You have no other choice but to mature quickly. We were exposed to so much and offered so little protection. Hackney Free forced me to build a thick skin, advocate loudly for myself and my brothers, and be resourceful enough to make a lot out of a little. It wasn’t all gloom and hustle though, I know the reason I’m funny is because I went to HF. In that school, if you didn’t laugh you will cry!
2. What made you feel that you were able to offer the world more?
WS: I would say my mind, perspective and experiences, the collaboration of the three just assured me a point of difference that I knew only I could give. We all may be in the same place having similar experiences how we process, digest, react and how we are defined by these experiences is then another thing entirely. I may find creativity where there’s lack or someone else may find incredible learning where I find pain.
AO: Most people believe they have something unique to offer the world but growing up in Hackney you quickly realise that not everyone gets the opportunity to do so. The talent and creativity I saw growing up was unmatched but for so many reasons, most people will never get the chance to showcase this on the main stage. Time and time again, I’ve been given this opportunity and I do not take that for granted. That’s why at any chance I get, I do what I can to make space on the stage for the people the world likes to forget.
3. What was your favourite meal at the local chicken shop?
WS: Lool I want to say it would have been a 6 wings and chips combo with burger sauce and sprite or that Pizza go go mini pizza, those were special mate!
AO: I stopped eating at chicken shops mad early because I knew that. So I never really graduated past 3 wings and chips (drowning in burger sauce) and a strawberry Mirinda when I was feeling expensive. Back then that would have cost maximum £1.50-£2.00. Cheap and cheerful after school munch.
4. At what point did you realise how influential you were with your peers?
WS: I can’t remember the exact moment but it was when people started listening and then I was being brought into conversations for my perspective on things, Like “You should speak to Will about that and see what he thinks” etc. If I were to put a number on it maybe when I was 26 maybe but It’s a weird thing knowing people listen lol because I’m very unserious and a joker behind closed doors. I certainly appreciate that the things I’ve learnt and still growing to learn is helpful for my community, friends and family.
AO: It took me a while to peep my influence. I don’t think I look, sound or think like the people who influenced me. For too long, I tried to fit into the mould of those that have come before me. I get that it’s super important to pay homage and acknowledge that I'm standing on the shoulders of so many, like Chris and Will. However I only realised my influence and my ability to influence when I started to create a new lane for myself. It’s super humbling to know that i’m seen as a positive influence by my peers but it’s a huge responsibility that i’m still figuring out how to manage.
5. Your favourite teacher at school?
WS: There were a few but I’m going to say Mr Howard, he was a very sharply dressed no nonsense guy but he was really dedicated. I got into an altercation outside of school with a group and he threw himself in front of me and I can’t ever forget that he really went above and beyond his role as a teacher.
AO: I won’t even lie, I don’t even have a favourite. During school all my teachers were my opps. I had a huge problem with authority growing up and I was always at war with my teachers. It’s very funny when I reflect but I went back to the school in 2019 to deliver some workshops and I blessed it with all my old teachers. I’m grateful for all of them and the role they’ve played in my life.
6. What does 1FIGURES mean to you?
WS: I’ll start with honesty and say what I initially understood it as and what it means to me now.
I’ve told Chris this before but I didn’t rate it I thought the brand was going to be here today and gone tomorrow, I don’t even know entirely why I was so dismissive. But I needed to be humbled and reminded of my own path, that happened! Now the brand to me means persistence it means growth it means change and a journey of learning to be better not just for today but for a legacy that the world will remember. Legacy doesn’t happen overnight and think the word that springs to mind in closing is triumphant.
AO: 1FIGURES is Hackney. 1FIGURES is local.
Community is core to the brands ethos and that’s why I love it. It’s not exclusionary, or weirdly cliquey. It’s for everyone. The delivery driver, the youth worker (me) and the high fashion kids can all feel comfortable and confident in a 1FIGURES drop. I’m so excited to see the brand continue to evolve and make waves for Hackney, Black British culture and British fashion.