Walmart Taps Into Streetwear With Darryl Brown’s Midwest Kids Capsule Collection

For its Black & Unlimited initiative, Walmart has partnered with NTWRK and Darryl Brown to produce a collection inspired by planting seeds and giving flowers.


Darryl Brown has always wanted his brands to be accessible to everyone.

Because of that, the designer, who runs his eponymous workwear label Darryl Brown and streetwear brand Midwest Kids, thought partnering with Walmart for its Black & Unlimited initiative, which supports Black-owned brands, made a lot of sense.

“For me, it's like a dream come true in a lot of ways,” says Brown of the partnership. “Walmart is a huge heritage brand. It's a huge conglomerate. It’s not even a household name brand. It is a way of life brand. So many people go to Walmart. Walmart is like air almost.”

Brown has worked with his partner Destanie Rodriguez to design a Midwest Kids capsule collection for Walmart and NTWRK centered around planting seeds and giving flowers. Brown, who previously styled Kanye West, says the folks at NTWRK helped develop the concept, which is about honoring people while they are here. Brown gave flowers to men in his life who supported him, including DJ Steph Floss, a well-known DJ from Cleveland, Yohannan “Yogi” Terrell, founder of the Columbus Fashion Alliance, and Jeron Ellis, an Army vet and Brown’s childhood friend.

“It seems weird to be getting flowers,” says Brown, who moved from Los Angeles back to Ohio, his hometown, a couple of years ago. “A lot of the guys never even had flowers given to them. Most people want to give you flowers after you die and say, 'We need to lift him up and he’s amazing.' But we wanted to take it a step further. While people are alive, let's give them flowers. And then at the same time, we're also planting seeds.”

Starting today, the collection will be available on and in 700 Walmart stores. It includes a Midwest Kids logo T-shirt ($9.98), a graphic T-shirt featuring florals designed by Rodriguez with a “Planting Seeds and Giving Flowers Daily” graphic on the chest ($9.98), and a Midwest Kids graphic hoodie and matching joggers with floral details ($19.98). A varsity jacket and bucket hat will be available on NTWRK via a $1 drawing.

Here, Brown talks about his partnership with Walmart, how he navigates the ups and downs of running a brand, and what it feels like when LeBron James wears his clothes.

If you grew up in the U.S., you more than likely have a history with Walmart. Why was that a brand or retailer that you felt made sense to partner with?
For me, it's like a dream come true in a lot of ways. Like you said, Walmart is a huge heritage brand. It's a huge conglomerate. It’s not even like a household name brand. It is like a way of life brand. So many people go to Walmart. Walmart is like air almost, you know what I mean? Both of my brands [Darryl Brown and the Midwest Kids] turned five years old. So to be able to align myself with such a historic brand is amazing in itself. And then also to just shine the light for kids growing up in middle America. When they see somebody like me it is inspiring. And not just middle America, kids all over. I feel like it’s a win for us all. It’s like, "Oh, look at the Midwest Kids. That’s super cool what they are doing." And this is the first time [Walmart has] ever done something like this…collaborated with a Black-owned clothing brand and launched a collection. It’s not just in a couple of stores, but 700. So this was a no-brainer in a lot of ways. 

That is crazy when you think about how it scales your distribution in such a huge way. So what was your approach to creating the capsule for Walmart? 
I wanted to make sure that any time I get in a position to be blessed to have these different partnerships with brands, I try to use their platform to make sure our voice is heard and we're doing something impactful. And I feel like that's where NTWRK really came in and spearheaded this with the capsule concept of planting seeds and giving flowers. I’ll give them credit for that. 

What is the story exactly?
The theme is planting seeds and giving flowers. You can kind of run with that meaning. Like when you hear your favorite rapper’s song, he might mean one thing but it inspires you in a different way. Throughout the years, three of the gentlemen who are involved in the campaign have opened up a door for me and thrown me a lifeline or just words of encouragement, whether directly or indirectly. And so I wanted to give flowers to those who helped me. 

It seems weird to be getting flowers. A lot of the guys never even had flowers given to them, you know what I mean? Most people want to give you flowers after you die and say, "We need to lift him up and he’s amazing." But we wanted to take it a step further. While people are alive, let's give them flowers. And then at the same time, we're also planting seeds. I say that every year. I’m like, "I can’t wait to see what God blesses me with this year because we planted so many seeds this past year." Planting seeds means growth. 

And that translates to design, right? Have you played with florals?
We used a lot of florals. Actually my lady, my kid’s mother, she designed all of the artwork for this collaboration. Our son just turned four months and she did the designs and the revisions while she was pregnant with him. There’s a lot of beautiful colors and puff print. The quality is there and it’s a solid price point., like $9 T-shirts and $20 hoodies. It’s the perfect time for this because people are recovering from the New Year and Christmas and just recovering in life, period. No one really is looking to shop in January, so I feel like we've hit a comfortable price point.

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I’ve talked to Black designers and they’ve said that there’s been some fatigue with pushing Black-owned brands since the George Floyd murder in 2020. I’m curious from your perspective, how have things been?
I have a saying amongst the team: it's all a blessing. The good days. The bad days. It's all a blessing. I feel like I'm living a dream. I'm able to pay my bills and take care of my family. And this is off T-shirts. We have our ups and downs. We have our slow months. We are in the middle of a recession that no one is being honest about. People are holding on to the dollar more. But the journey makes the story better. You just got to keep going. I use sports analogies for a lot of things. So a baseball analogy is we're not playing home run ball. I never signed up or got into this business to hit a home run ball. Meaning, if everything doesn't sell out, that's totally fine with me. If I do hit a home run, cool. But for the most part, I'm just trying to get on base. 

You go on Instagram and you just automatically feel like a loser. Everyone's winning. They’re on jet skis and it’s a Tuesday. It’s been a lot of growing pains but we are still standing, growing, and elevating. And like you said, a lot of the brands have pulled back on Black inclusion. But we've been blessed to keep going. But I feel like that's a testament to being Black and unlimited and then actually putting in the work. I don't need any quote-unquote white sympathy.

I want people to recognize what me and my team do, and our hard work that we are really putting in. And I feel like the doors keep opening and the blessings keep coming because we really are putting out good products and working hard.

What’s your goal for the brand in 2024? Have you prepared for the increased brand recognition this Walmart capsule will bring?  
I'm actually excited for all the unknown. I have this fire in my belly. I always say every step on the ladder matters but the Hollister thing happened, then theTransformers [screening] happened. But if those things didn’t happen, then this Walmart collab wouldn’t have happened. People see the work and they get in touch. So I'm super excited. It's like a stage that my brand gets to play on. I thank God for somebody like Walmart. They're going to let me come into their arena and do my thing.

I’m curious how this capsule will show up in Walmart stores.
This past week, they accidentally put it out in a few stores and it sold out instantly. It was the first time people had heard about it, so they were DMing me and tagging me asking if it was real. Some people thought I was backdooring in TJ Maxx or something. Like maybe this is a bad batch so he gave it to Walmart trying to be low. But I was like, "No, it's real." It just came out early but it sold out and it got a great response. In certain stores in my hometown, Walmart is going to do a build-out around it so it looks cute or whatever. But I’m excited. I can't wait to just experience it and share the campaign with the world. 

I know you recently had a drop with Adidas. What’s your relationship with them now?
I still have a relationship with Adidas. They totally made that situation right although it was unfortunate how it had to come about. I feel like it was a blessing in disguise because it put more attention on things. We live in a world where people love drama so that put more eyes and attention on things. My deal was like four years. I did two shoes. I felt like it was this iconic moment and something I'll never forget. But on the sneaker side, I'm a free agent now. My contract is up and I'm able to finally work with other brands, which is refreshing. I was with Kanye before my deal, so I've kind of been under the Adidas embargo for like 10 years. All I really wore was Adidas. But it’s refreshing to be able to wear different sneakers and stuff like that. So I'm happy about that. For my Darryl Brown line, I just released my own boots that we produced in-house. 

Where do you want the Midwest Kids brand to be in the next three to five years? 
I feel like Midwest Kids is a legacy brand. It's a heritage brand in itself. I feel like working with a brand like Hollister, working with a brand like Adidas, working with a brand like Walmart, I use these partnerships to show people, and even myself and my team, the possibilities of what we can and what we are going to be.

Sam Walton created Walmart for his family, for his legacy, for his kids. I created Midwest Kids for my family, for my legacy, for my kids. I want to keep continuing to grow the brand, our in-line collections, our partnerships, our community initiatives, just everything that we stand for. It’s pretty cool because the brand is bigger than me. It's not relying on my face, or my image, or what Darryl is up to. As long as Middle America is still going, I would like to keep the brand going. The five-year plan is to be in every airport in the Midwest and gift shops on college campuses. 

And last question. LeBron wears your stuff a lot. How does that feel? 
He's been like the poster child for the brand since day one. He was the second person to ever wear a hoodie. The first hoodie I made was just for me. I was wearing it around and telling people I was about to launch a brand. And then I sent one to LeBron and he wore it. I’m cool with LeBron’s camp, but I built the relationship through Brennan Rabb, his stylist. We were at Paris Fashion Week sitting at this restaurant and we were the only two Black guys there, so we sparked up a conversation. He told me he styled LeBron and I told him I was styling Kanye.

So, Brennan will hit me when he sees stuff he likes and I’ll send it over. [LeBron James] is the greatest basketball player of our era wearing our stuff. It’s like if we were around in the ‘90s and Michael Jordan was wearing our stuff. So that’s the feeling I get for sure. 

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