Watching Trinidad James’ journey over the last decade has been intriguing. I was just starting my tenure at Complex when “All Gold Everything” was playing everywhere. I didn’t have any reason to believe TJ would expand his empire, adding actor, host, and sneaker designer to his repertoire. It makes sense now, but back then? I didn’t have the foresight. Trinidad’s seen it clearly, and has put his vision out into the world via Hommewrk, the brand he founded with Asha Paul that’s based around community and education...and fly kicks. Hommewrk is back again with their second Saucony Jazz 81, the Carnival Black, inspired by the Caribbean’s Carnival season, which kicks off on the last day of Black History Month in Trinidad and Tobago.
After releasing their hibiscus plant-inspired first shoe, the Carnival Black features a dope three-tone glow-in-the-dark outsole, steel pan stitching (referencing Trinidad and Tobago’s Panorama), and a number of lace options. To celebrate the release, Trinidad James is throwing a Pop Up during New York Fashion Week at Shopify Spaces. During a brief moment in his hectic special, James spoke on the Carnival Black release, partnering with Shopify, having different lace options, what you can expect from Hommewrk’s NYFW Pop Up, and more!
We spoke briefly at ComplexCon about you selling out with your debut. What’s it been like since the initial release?
I think for me, honestly, man it’s been a learning process. Learning is forever. It made me a new student. It gave me something for me really to do my homework on, because I feel like I really did every aspect of streetwear and sneakers, except for my own. So to finally be in that driving seat, I’m not going to tell you that it’s easy. The creative part, the business part, every aspect of it is still new things in mind, but even up to today, bro. It’s definitely one of those things where a lot of people think like, “Oh yeah you just use your clout, make a cool shirt, blah, blah, blah. Make a cool colorway, and it’s all good.” Nah, bro. It’s way more that goes into it than that. I’m just really happy to be able to be taking these lessons and stay into the end.
I didn’t realize you were working with Shopify on Hommewrk. Can you talk a little bit about what that partnership’s been like and being able to work with them to help bring Hommewrk to life?
Shopify’s been awesome, man. Shout out to everybody involved. They have allowed me to really learn faster when it comes to how business online is supposed to work. You know what I’m saying? I came up in the brick-and-mortar era. To be able to already kind of be in a decent place, when it comes to understanding the digital market, when it comes to selling items, I have to give a big shout-out to them for that. Always there to answer my calls for questions.
I read that Hommewrk is doing seasonal drops. How soon did you know, “I’m going go with these Carnival Blacks immediately after we get this thing popping”?
It’s already been something I’ve been devising and planning out since last summer. I had colorways in the can and it was just kind of like, “which ones to release first? Which matters most?” Paying attention to the market. An all-red shoe hadn’t really been in the market like that in a while, so hitting it for November, December, kind of like that Christmas or that fall Red October-type feel. That was the energy behind that first one. And then it’s to make sure that we keep the intensity on it, going on all-black. It felt not necessarily safest, but it felt like the best business move to do this in general because the colorway was dedicated to Carnival in the Caribbean, which is around the same as Black History Month. So to me, it was kind of a no-brainer. And then we have four different laces, and I was having a conversation, during a video shoot with some other brothers in Miami. We were talking about the shoe and it really had a lot of colors in Black history, with the green and the red and the black and the blue that it has on the shoe. It’s a lot to learn. Being able to drop the black shoe [during] Black History Month, to me, it just makes sense.
I was going to ask you about the laces. I’ve been checking people expressing their personal style with their choice of laces, so having options can be dope for buyers. Is this going to be a thing for the future Hommewrk releases, dropping multiple laces?
Yeah, definitely. The idea behind it, honestly with the laces man is, it is kind of what ties back to the brand where it’s a community-based brand. I wanted to give luxury options to communities that don’t get luxury options for affordable prices. Giving them quality materials, premium leather, butter suede, different lace options for a price that’s like, “wow,” you know what I’m saying? It’s different than me and you, we understand shoes and go through a lot of pairs. Some people, they buy a shoe and that’s the shoe they’re going to rock for six months. What I realized, especially with the red ones, is that people look at a shoe with different colored laces as, when they put a new lace in there, that’s a new shoe. So it’s like, yeah, you got it in all-black. But when you put a green lace in there, that’s a black and green shoe.
I really wanted to give options to the consumer and people that really rocking with us. Back in the day, the all-black shoes that came were the only affordable shoes in communities like black Air Force 1 or black Reeboks, the all-black Classics. It was no lace options with that. You put on the shoe and that’s that. So I wanted my all-black shoe to be a moment. I feel like this is my opportunity to do it right for the community and really just trying my best to execute. Hopefully the people appreciate.
How far are you into the future of Hommewrk? Are you working on fall 2024 right now? Where you at?
In reality, I’m in 2023 with it. Aiming for, at least all the way to spring-summer, almost fall 2023. I don’t want to get too far out, just in general. But since we’re a new brand, I really want to make sure that what’s in front of me is on point.
Are we going to see different colorways for the t-shirts and more apparel for this coming release as well as for future drops?
Yes, sir. So every shoe will have its own small capsule. That’s one of the things I’m working on right now. Like even as we speak, finishing up the black capsule for the all-black shoe. Getting the clothes across to the consumer, I think that is going to be my biggest challenge. And I say that because of the simple fact that it is my biggest challenge right now, as we speak. Shoes are an easier sell to a certain extent but the clothes that people choose to wear with shoes is not ideally what we always want them to do. You know what I’m saying? Everybody’s not big on rocking Off-White clothes with Off-White shoes, and then you got people who do that. So the idea behind the brand was to give you the option to obviously buy whatever you want, a la carte. But if you wanted to wear it together, then is definitely worth it.
You’re in New York for New York Fashion Week, with the Carnival Blacks launching at Shopify Spaces in Soho. What can people expect at the launch event?
Man. 131 Greene Street, here we come. SoHo. Once again, Shopify opened the doors to allow a new company like myself to have that thing that I love, which is store representation. The east coast has always shown me love, in so many different aspects, so I wanted show love back, honestly. So given a chance to, I reached out to Shopify and they [are] pulling strings to make it happen for me. I appreciate it as an independent businessman, things like that, you can’t take for granted, if I’m being honest with you. It’s a nice space. We’re doing giveaways of free shoes to some of our first customers and other raffles throughout the event. It’s 12-4 on Tuesday, the day after Valentine’s. Have a little love on Monday, then buy some shoes on Tuesday. That’s one of the ideas behind it.
Really, I want more people to come and see what the brand is about. Come have a conversation with me so that they can see what I stand for with the brand. Because I think that what I’ve learned in my career, is that the more people could understand what I stand for, it allows them to be able to stand with you. Once you know what that person stands for, you feel better about standing with them or for them. So on the 15th, 12 to four, 131 Green Street, that’s our goal. Inviting everybody out to come. We are going to have a limited run early for people.
What’s popping with the DAD Socks, man?
I’m wearing them right now, as we speak. [Ed note: Trinidad wasn’t gassing, either; he flipped his screen around and proved it.] I’m an avid believer in the sock brand and then what they stand for. We got to rock them. This year, we going to stores and that’s going to be new for us. [It's] still going to be online, dadsocks.shop, but going to stores and really just scaling the businesses. Scaling my businesses is where my head is at. Gradual. It’s a process, but I won’t sit here and lie to any entrepreneur that is starting a business already or just started a business, it takes time, bro. It take time. Things don’t just always fall out of the sky.
Now I know it may be early, but is there any word on Full Size Run Season 12?
I’m in New York for a lot of good reasons and Full Size Run is one of those. So to all the fans, look forward to awesome episodes on the way man. We coming strong Season 12 and bringing great fits, bringing great energy and most importantly, bringing our perspective of sneakers, keeping up authentic with the people that we’ve talk to man. So we coming, Season 12.
For more information on Trinidad James’ Hommewrk NYFW Pop-Up at Shopify NYC, click this link. For more images of the Hommewrk x Saucony Jazz 81 “Carnival Black,” check below.