[NEPENTHES PEOPLE] JAMES DRAKEFORD
I’m from Dayton, Ohio. Growing up there, my dad was always the guy taking pictures at events. I never really thought about getting into photography for a living, but I was kind of tired of the routines of life at that point: Go to class, come home and repeat. I decided to tap into my interests and in my junior year of college I saved up and bought a camera - a little Canon PowerShot. After graduating from Ohio State University, I got involved in retail, working as a photographer and social media strategist. Once again, I started to feel like I hit a plateau and began to look for the next step.
I had visited New York a few times growing up and remembered being struck by the different buildings and landscapes here in the city. I still feel that way. I like to be around people and watch and learn from them, so going to New York made sense to me. There’s so much culture and lots of opportunity. It’s a place to learn. Every day I'm learning about other people and about myself, and this journey.
Right after I moved to New York my good friend asked me if I had stopped by Atmos. I didn’t even know Atmos was in Harlem. But being a photographer and having experience with marketing and storytelling I felt confident that I had something to bring to the table. I told them I was new to town and talked about what I felt like I could contribute. They offered me the position and the rest is history.
Where did you choose for your local place?
I found the park itself to be lively. There's always someone here, working out, hanging out, walking their dogs or bringing their kids to play. There’s a real sense of connection with the neighborhood itself. Between the pool, baseball field, performance pavilion, and the firemen's watchtower up top it forms the center of a little community - a small escape that brings people together. When the weather is nice you can always count on finding cookouts and barbecues and birthday parties.
For me, moving to Harlem was kind of a lucky choice. I didn’t have a deep understanding of neighborhoods when I moved to New York. Of course, I was familiar with Harlem from a historical perspective, but I didn't know what it would be like on a day to day basis. But since moving here I have definitely felt comfortable. It feels very homely. It feels like I belong.
For my second look I have on a South2 West8 Tenkara Parka. I love the practicality of it. Even if it's snowing or raining, I'm not bothered. Or if it’s hotter than expected, I can take the sleeves off and put them in the back pocket. I can even fit one of my point and shoot cameras in there. Then there’s the Needles Track Pants, my first pair of them. These spoke to my love of colors and patterns. The paisley is amazing, and the center seam going down the leg gives them a refined look.
The shoes for both looks are Engineered Garments x Danner Mountain Light boots - both in haircalf. I love these boots. They’re heavy enough that it feels like I'm wearing something, while keeping my feet warm and comfortable. I might need to pick up the leopard ones next.
The shoes I brought today are some pairs I’ve been wearing a lot, and I like different things about each, from looks to functionality. A friend of mine designed the Bodega Saucony’s, so I had to bring those. Besides that, I'm a big suede fan. These Vans were designed by one of my favorite sneaker designers, Taka Hayashi, and have good nappy, hairy suede. The color is versatile, and can go with anything.
I've always been into shoes. I started out buying Jordans and Air Max. But from Nike I got into Vans. That's a testament to the store that I worked at in Columbus, Sole Classics. They had the only Vans Vault account in Ohio for a long time. Those rare and thoughtful designs really spoke to me and opened up my eyes to other brands that maybe we didn't grow up wearing in our neighborhood. Lately, I've come to appreciate Saucony. They’re super comfortable and use good materials - just a well made shoe, plus their price points are pretty good. For me, a good shoe comes from a mix between the design element and comfort.
I like all of them. They each offer something different. Needles gives you colors, patterns, and textures. Engineered Garments brings that dependability with some tech aspects woven in. South2 West8 does a great job making this sort of elevated outdoor functional apparel. Honestly, they all fit my style.
The last thing I got was a South2 West8 Carmel Jacket in Lavender and Olive Uneven Dye. I don't wear it as much as the more technical jackets, but I love the way it looks.
I’m one of those people with a million ideas. I have maybe five ongoing projects right now and I’m planning on using this year to get those done. I have a streetwear event that I organize back home in Ohio, a flea market. It’s like Smorgasbord, but for sneakers and apparel. The next one is coming on March 6th and I’m working on expanding that event into other cities this year.
Also, I've produced clothing over the past few years. I’ve been designing with my friends and should have something coming out soon. My website, jamesdrakeford.com, has a good archive of things that I've done and gives a sense for my body of work. But, the easiest way to keep up with me is through my Instagram, @mrkingjd.