DearStephan x Shelflife

03 May 2024, 11:00
DearStephan x Shelflife

One of the amazing things about streetwear and design is its ever-changing nature. Amongst all this change, something that will always be a constant is collaboration and community, and will always be a part of Shelflife's DNA. Working with likeminded people and incredible artists is a massive way in which we built and continue to build connections with our people, and so we bring you the first SL collab of 2024- DearStephan.

Born in Cape Town and now hailing from the Big Apple, designer and illustrator DearStephan is a cut above the rest. From creating caricatures for each person in his grade 11 class to doing a series with Complex and working with Versace, DearStephan’s work should be a part of anyone’s art/streetwear collection. In anticipation of his collab with Shelflife, we sat down with Stephan to find out about his affinity for creativity since he was young, his journey to New York and how he stays true to himself as an artist.

SL: Who are you and where are you from?

DS: Hi there! I'm Stephen Minyi, also known as Dearstephan. I'm a illustrator and graphic designer hailing from Cape Town, South Africa.

SL: How did you get into illustration? Tell us about your journey ?

DS: During my final year at university, I was introduced to the world of illustration by one of my lecturers. Inspired by their suggestion, I decided to pursue it further. After graduating, I began sharing my work, primarily focusing on editorial illustrations, particularly in the fashion industry. Initially, I offered my services for free for a few months, which allowed me to establish connections with numerous brand owners in New York and Los Angeles. As a result, Complex magazine noticed my work and approached me to create a 12-page editorial illustration for the celebration of Kanye West's sneaker designs. This opportunity prompted me to leave Cape Town and relocate to New York, as most of the brands I collaborated with were based there. Since then, I have been actively involved in fashion editorial illustration and design for the past five years.

SL: Name 3 of your favourite influences at the moment.

DS: Daniel Arsham
Ronnie Fieg

SL: Why did you choose the name ʻDear Stephanʼ?

DS: The inspiration behind the name came from the decline in letter writing, symbolizing the beginning of a letter, a project, and a journey. The subsequent content represents the concept.

SL: If you could work with any designer/brand in the world who would it be and why?

DS: Ronnie Fieg (Kith) is the designer I admire and aspire to collaborate with. I have closely observed the brand's evolution from being solely focused on apparel to embodying a unique lifestyle for creative individuals. Additionally, my visit to the Kith store in Manhattan has provided me with valuable insights from a design standpoint, particularly in terms of its layout and presentation.

SL: Talk us through your concept for this Shelflife collection :

DS: The concept was actually inspired by a phrase I used many years ago, and it was further influenced by my experiences at the store over the years and my acquaintance with Jake and Nick, which sparked an idea. The concept revolves around the idea of living in the present and not worrying about the future. Additionally, it embraces the diversity of creative individuals and artists, rather than focusing on just one genre.

SL: Tell us a little bit about your work history and what you are currently up to at present.

DS: Throughout my career, I have been blessed and fortunate enough to collaborate with numerous renowned personalities and esteemed brands. Some of the notable names I have had the privilege to work with include : Complex, Langston Galloway (NBA player), Bodega, New York Poster Museum, Emmy winner Adam Blackstone, and Urban Outfitters, among others. However, I am currently shifting my focus towards a directorial role and will be less involved as an illustrator.

SL: What do you do in your spare time, what keeps you motivated?.

DS: I find inspiration in my daily life, whether it's observing people, visiting museums, taking bike rides, or getting lost in hymns. I also stay motivated by keeping up with various projects from different artists. In my free time, I enjoy drinking coffee, watching The Cleveland Show, praying, going for a simple walk, and doing some reading.

SL: One piece of advice for anyone starting in your field today?

DS: My top recommendation for individuals today is to let go of the notion of a strict blueprint or a definitive right or wrong approach when entering the industry. Your childhood inspirations and unique creative style will set you apart from other artists, making you stand out. Avoid comparing your progress with that of other artists; instead, connect with fellow creatives who likely share similar struggles. Be prepared for challenges, especially if you are not following a traditional 9-5 work schedule. Understand that the journey will be tough initially, but it will eventually find a balance. Even after overcoming initial obstacles, new challenges will emerge, so keep creating and focus on the present without worrying about the future, trusting that Jesus has already paved the way for you to follow.

DearStephan x Shelflife Collection

Featuring three unique characters, imagined and  brought to life by Stephan, this collection is inspired by living in the present moment and embracing the diversity of creatives as individuals. 

The drop includes three collab tees and a special edition tote bag. 

Dropping May 2024. Stay tuned for more!