Founded in 2018, ESCRO Market is a Chicago-based brand by Cornell “Nu” Green and Muizz Ogbara. Recently, you may have seen or stopped by their pop-up in our Chicago location, which ran for three days in February, alongside the release of their “Defunct Suits” collection. Learn more about the brand and the minds behind it below, and shop their recent collection online.
How did ESCRO come together initially?
NU: I feel like we were both posting little shit from both of our brands on Facebook, and I just DM’d him one day and was like ‘bro, let’s just link up together, and let’s both do this’.’ Because sometimes I’d see some designs that he’d make and I’m like ‘damn, I wish I could have made that, like damn, that would have made sense.’ And vice versa, so I’m like ‘look bro, let’s just start something fresh, me and you and we can make it work.’
MO: That’s really what it was, because at the time I was going through a crazy transitional period with living situations, so I was just kind of like, I don’t know, I wanted to give up on design. And I was like, nah, I’m definitely going for the kill because I knew how Nucci was gonna do it.
NU: And then I feel like sometimes you need those certain friends that motivate you, you know, like everybody goes through their little spurts where you feel unmotivated at times. I feel like I was always that spark. Like, bro, come on. What you doing? Let’s make this shit happen.
MO: The brand came together late 2018, early 2019. Me and Nu had already been knowing each other prior to that. It was kind of just like, a timing thing, so it started 2018-19. We linked up and the brand was called something else prior to this. It was a situation that put us in a bind to switch the name and one day, Nucci had something regarding the market already and I was trying to find another thing to add to make the name pop and I was reading some book and escrow popped up. It was some medieval italian book and I was like ‘oh, this is kind of nice’ because escrow means, if two parties, there’s a person that’s selling something and a person that’s buying something, there has to be the middle part where the money is being kept. I thought that was neat and I liked the play on the stock market and we also use this medium of textile and things to talk about socioeconomics and shit like that, so that’s really what ESCRO is about at this point.
What roles do you guys play within the brand?
MO: I would say I do most of the creative direction and design and Nucci does most of the business, but the thing is, when I do designs, we still have to go back and forth because sometimes, he’ll have an idea that makes sense that I was thinking too hard on. We both have our roles but we still intertwine both of the roles, it kind of has to be like that.
With the brand name and ethos in mind, where are you guys pulling references and inspiration from?
MO: For the brand, I pull off, like I said, we talk about socioeconomics, so I’m looking at particular events that happen through our history, and going from there and taking that time and era and figuring out the pieces I might see. You know, we might see a vintage ad or something, and see something that we might want to incorporate into clothing and translate it and put it out so it’s not directly in your face. We like a bit more nuance with how we put out shit like that.
NU: Like for the last collection, we did the jerseys, so we referenced the Paid in Full scene, like it was just a scene in a movie and a lot of people probably wouldn’t think that that’s where that came from but when you look back at it, you can see that’s where it came from. So, we just try to mix in things from the past that’s, you know, popular events.
MO: To add to that, ENRON, the company would take dirt bike trips to Mexico.
Individually, what’s your history with fashion/having a brand?
NU: I probably had like 4 or 5 brands by myself. *laughs* He had a brand as well, so like he was saying earlier, it was just perfect timing. I was just trying to start something new, he was trying to start something fresh and new, and we teamed together and made it happen.
MO: We’ve been cliqued up for years though, that’s the crazy part. I feel like we’ve always been linked up as far as the art, especially with the art and all of that stuff. I think it’s pretty crazy to see how it all came back full-circle. Because it was like 2013-
NU: Yeah, that was awhile. We actually met going to art school, coming from the south suburbs, catching the train. You know, just seeing each other fly, you know, flyness connects people lowkey, so we just ended up talking and mingling amd kept in contact over the years through social media and it’s just crazy, like he said, how it came full circle, now we both have a brand together. We always respected each other’s brands over the years, you know just hustling, trying to make it happen.
What does that evolution look like from those starting points to ESCRO?
NU: I feel like we both learned a lot of things having our own brands and going through similar struggles. Now we know what to do, what not to do, how much to order, you know, just trial and error. I just feel like through that time to now, we just got the hang of things.
MO: For me personally, that time period was figuring out what exactly I was trying to do. One of the first things I was trying to do was open a store, so I was trying to carry brands like KTZ and brands like that. This was a long time ago and I was like ‘alright, this is not really it,’ seeing how much this actually costs to produce and Nucci is on the other side seeing how much this shit costs to produce so it was like, ‘why am i even wasting my time doing this shit?’ And then it was just figuring out my design aesthetic, style aesthetic and then merging that shit together. Like, we know what to do now. It’s not like ‘oh, I don’t know how to do this,” nah, we got a operating machine between both of us right now.
How would you describe the brands’ creative process from start to finish?
MO: Usually, how we start is I’ll probably already have something to speak on or communicate with and then me and Nu connect and build on it and make it make sense and then we put it out. Nucci knows, we go through and we have so many things we’ve thrown away.
NU: We both just bounce ideas off each other and send each other references. Like he said, we go through so many ideas that don’t even make it to production. You know, it’s indecisive and we’re always changing our minds on things and so we just bounce ideas off each other all the time. He’s a demon at photoshop and illustrator so he definitely makes things come to life.
MO: We know what we’re gonna put it out. Most of the stuff you see that’s cut and sew, we know we’re probably gonna do a low-number amount just because of cost and cost-effectiveness and brand awareness right now, it’s more so just a timing thing. I think what we’re doing right now, what we’re doing is trying to have a showcase. Once it fully rolls here and fully steams up, then we can maneuver.
Does the process for the creation of your lookbooks/video material differ?
NU: I feel like we got a team full of creatives that are our friends, so we all work together and come with whatever plan or lookbook and roll it out.
MO: We do the decks, the photo treatments, video treatments, all that shit. Photographers, lights, models and all of that stuff.
NU: We got friends that do all of those things so we have a full production team. We’re kind of cheating but these are our friends at the same time so it works.
There’s been a lot of discussion around the fashion calendar and moving to something more efficient. Do you guys operate on the traditional schedule or your own?
NU: I would say we go at our own pace. We definitely tried to go with the calendar in the past and you know, sometimes it doesn’t work out because of production issues, shipping issues, you know, anything pops up. So now we make sure we have all of our stuff in a row.
MO: Between Nucci and the plans, picking out designs and all that shit, we kind of got it down but trying to follow that calendar is a lot, especially when it’s like timing things, and now with COVID, things are getting slowed down with shipping.
MO: And then I feel like sometimes the motivation isn’t there. So it’s just like we don’t want to rush anything. We don’t want to just put something out just because everybody else is putting stuff out. We want to make sure that you know, this is something that you know, it’s going to be a clean product they know you can give out to the public.
Was there anybody in specific that gave you the advice you needed along the way?
NU: No, not necessarily. I would say, when I saw certain people rocking the brand, that I know are really into fashion and that really knows what’s going on, and I saw them actually rocking it, that was that was the advice. Like, keep going, don’t stop. If he’s rocking it, then you know you’re doing something right. They didn’t have to say nothing. It was just off the strength, like ‘he got it on.’
What other brands are you guys looking at and buying right now?
MO: I personally have some people around that I fuck with, I know y’all fuck with Product, Najee and them, I fuck with their shit. One of my homies, Mars, has dorightdesigns, it’s pretty tight.
NU: Oh, Infinite Archives, I’m rocking Easy’s shit for sure. Ron Louis too.
What does the future look like for ESCRO at this point?
NU: We got a collection called Save Randy coming soon for Spring/Summer. It definitely ties in well with everything that’s going on right now. Especially post-COVID. We’re also getting together our fall collection, we’re getting together some actual leather jackets samples made up right now.
MO: Some more lifestyle pieces, rugs, stuff like that.
NU: Yeah we’re coming with some rugs, some homegoods, you know, just trying to tie-in with this whole quarantine and everything.