For ages we’ve seen the lines where fashion and hip-hop intersect. Certain rappers have practically become synonymous with big-named labels like Alexander Wang, Versace, and Gucci. And here in Houston, a brand called Ryan Knew is catching the eye of megastars like Kodak Black, Wiz Khalifa, and Tyga, with plans for potential projects with more high-profile artists in the works, too.
There’s a certain mystery to Ryan Taylor, the designer behind the brand. For one, very few people know who he actually is. “I’m big on not posting myself or showing my face," Taylor says. "I’ve structured my brand that way, so people can’t identify the black kid." Taylor is an introverted guy, and he wants to let his work speak for itself. “I feel like if I stay out of the way, people can only focus on the brand,” he adds.
He started off designing T-shirts, but his brand grew into something much bigger. “It was a good start, and it helped me to grow into what I am now,” he says. “Now, I’m trying to do something different for Houston.”
Taylor puts a great deal of time and effort into his designs—"I'm very particular," he notes—and his personal style reflects in his work, too. Comfort and quality are imperative in everything he does. “Everything I wear and everything I make is slightly oversized," he says. "I like clothes to have space.”
He wants his work to stack up with other luxury brands that consumers regularly pay a pretty penny for. "I'm always thinking about quality. If someone will pay a certain amount for this," Taylor says, pointing to a Versace sweater, "then I know they'll pay for my stuff."
He also believes the power of clothes extends beyond looking good. “Clothes can really show emotion. You can put on a good outfit and you’ll look like you’re on top of the world,” he says. “A good garment—it might not change the way you feel, but it can change people’s perception of you.”
Stuck in what he calls a "weird phase" after high school, Taylor decided to join the military. "It was a blessing, though," he says. “The military taught me time management, discipline, and how to keep a schedule. All of that translates to being a designer now."
Going into his next collection, Taylor wants to give the public something they haven’t seen. “Every piece has to be something that hasn’t been done or something that people can’t do,” the designer says says. Eventually, he plans to venture out into other avenues, including womenswear.
"It's different; it's hard," he says of building a women's collection. “I had to bring in somebody to teach me so I know how women’s proportions fit. It’s a lot more than just shoulders and chest. Womenswear is a bigger experience.”
With his platform—particularly on social media— Taylor is aware how many young kids are watching him, and he wants to let them know that anything is possible. “I really want for kids in Houston to know that they can do it, too,” he says. “My end goal isn’t necessarily a store or anything like that, but I want kids out here to know that they don’t have to move out of the city to L.A. or New York to make it happen.”
Taylor has already styled a handful of high-profile names in the entertainment industry, and he has no plans to stop now. In fact, he has quite a few collaborations in the works—including with some celebrity athletes here in town known for their sartorial savvy—but, he says, it’s all about timing. We’ll just have to wait to see what he comes up with next.