Ilya Mazurkevich, currently twenty-one years old, was born and raised in Belarus. He made his way DC seven years ago and now resides in Richmond, VA as CEO, head designer, and co-founder of Active Soul Design. I noticed Ilya one day on campus and happened to compliment his sweatshirt (the one he’s wearing in the interview), and it turned out to be one of his own designs. He continued to tell me about Active Soul and I immediately got a sense of the passion behind his company and his dream of being a business owner. Here is the story of Active Soul…
Tell me about what made you start Active Soul.
“I started this whole clothing thing in high school. My senior year I was taking entrepreneurship, and I was always interesting in clothing and designing clothing..and providing people with quality materials and high quality designs…or just expressing myself artistically through clothing. I just choose that as my canvas. I started in high school, did a few t-shirts, made a few hundred dollars in a couple days, just walking around my high school with a box of t-shirts over my shoulder just selling them. That was my very first experience with that and from that point on I definitely knew that I wanted to have my clothing company because that’s been my dream since I was a little kid, just having something on my own. I do not want to find a job, I want to make myself a job.”
From then on, Ilya discussed how things really started to pick up when he got to college (Virginia Commonwealth University). His roommate, Deonte Samuel, was also into fashion and Ilya wanted him to be a part of Active Soul. One day they sat down and started talking about their ideas on street-wear and bringing back fashion that doesn’t occur anymore. They decided they were going to make it happen.
Along with Ilya and Deonte, the core Active Soul Design team includes Quan Bao and Jack McKain. Quan was one of Ilya’s friend from high school and acts as the logistics and financial man behind the company. Jack deals with mostly the creative advertisement aspects. Thomas Rhee and Zack White also contribute to Active Soul, acting as “historians and promoters”. Thomas does most of the photography and videography and Zach (as a BMX rider) promotes the brand. Along with these main contributors, many of the team’s friends help out and spread the word.
Ilya said that he has a strong team. He called them a “growing brotherhood” that will one day be a “successful partnership…a four-way partnership”. Ilya remarked, “Active Soul went from being my dream to our dream.”
What is Active Soul working on currently?
“Well, right now we printed over 800 pieces of merchandise…our very first official batch. It’s still under wraps; we only have a few things released online (picture-wise) for people to see because we still have that buzz going. I like teasing people but then again I don’t because I want to get rid of everything as soon as possible from a business aspect. I want to release it when everything is ready. You know, I don’t want to put out a half-ass website. I want us to be completely, fully ready so then we can push it. Anyways, now we’re working on getting more word out there…throwing ideas around for our next batch.”
Ilya stressed the high-quality characteristic of Active Soul clothing, from the material to the designs. Everything is affordable, especially because the customer is paying for quality as well as artwork. Ilya stated, “at the same time I’m trying to cater something new, unique like style-wise but at the same time with an affordable price.”
Active Soul is working with Logic, an on-the-rise rapper from Maryland. Ever since Ilya discovered Logic, he’s had a lot of respect for him, for his music, style, and simply his “realness”. He started to come up with different t-shirt ideas and posting them on Logic’s facebook page. Logic messaged him..basically telling him to stop because he was stealing all of their merchandising ideas. They then made a deal; Ilya would design for Logic’s merchandising line and in return, Logic would promote Active Soul.
Active Soul, and Ilya as an independent artist, have also been asked by producer/DJ B. Dolla and rapper/manager Henny to design their logos.
Ideally, in the future, do you have a specific vision; do you want Active Soul to grow into something or is it just what you’re working on at the moment and you have a separate dream/plan/project that you want to create in the future?
“Active Soul is my dream. We are shooting to open up a store within the next 3-5 years.”
Do you know where you want the stores to be?
“Well, we’re thinking about two locations right now. We’re either gonna have two stores or we’re gonna pick one. Definitely LA or New York.”
“Hopefully one day Active Soul will be a household name, because we’re trying to get on the level where different clothing brands are right now…we just want to be a true clothing company that also conveys positive messages. I’m sick and tired of seeing t-shirts that promote garbage. I saw a t-shirt the other day that said “money over bitches” or “money over hoes” or something along those lines, and I was just thinking to myself.. that’s kinda wrong.”
How would you sum up Active Soul, if you could only use a few words to a sentence; when someone hears “Active Soul”, what do you want them to think?
“I want people to activate their souls, I want people to just be themselves and not what others want them to be. That’s why we try to cater something for everybody. We want people to be positive, realize there’s other ways of thinking than just one…I think of Active Soul as a positive movement, discovering something about yourself that you haven’t discovered just yet.”
Here’s a video of the final question I asked Ilya:
In his closing remarks, Ilya said that, “Active Soul is all about what you as a customer want to see on a shirt. That’s why we interact with our fans about what they like and don’t like and we always take suggestions. And you never know, pretty soon we might start accepting fan artwork and putting it on clothes.”
Active Soul Design’s website should be up and running within the next two weeks but in the meantime check them out on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ActiveSoulDesign