From YouTube To High Fashion’s Front Row, Icy Kof Is The Man To Know

Born Kofi McCalla in East London, the content creator-turned-entrepreneur first burst onto the scene via YouTube in 2016. Here, he tells us all about his rise.

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icy kof bonne nuit interview icy kof bonne nuit interview

For some years now, 25-year-old Icy Kof has been setting the style world ablaze with his YouTube channel, The Unknown Vlogs, in which he stops random people on the streets of London, Milan, Paris, NYC and more to find out what they are wearing, and the cost of said ‘fit. 

Born Kofi McCalla in East London, the content creator-turned-entrepreneur first burst onto the scene via YouTube in 2016, under the name The Unknown Blasian, during his first trip to Paris Fashion Week. “It was my first ever time going,” he tells me on Zoom in the early hours of a Friday morning. “I was around all these cool celebrities, like Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston, and everyone was taking selfies of them and uploading it to Instagram. Instead of doing that, I just thought I’d go up to them, press record on my iPhone, and say: ‘Hey, what’s up! What are you wearing right now?’ rather than taking a selfie. That’s how it began.”

It didn’t take long for the video series to take off, and with numbers raking in, Kofi honed his skills and dropped out of his law degree at Westminster. Armed with nothing but the camera on his iPhone, Kofi soon amassed a following in the hundreds of thousands of fashion enthusiasts around the world (quite literally), thanks to his infectious persona, unmatched eye for pioneering new trends, and innovative editing skills. A stark contrast to his humble beginnings, where he would save up his pennies for train tickets and Vlog his trips to Supreme’s flagship store, Kofi has since captured a long list of heavy-hitters in fashion, music and film—Anna Wintour, Tyler, The Creator, William Defoe, you name it—all of whom are posed with one simple question: “How much is your outfit?”

Icy Kof’s rise to fame also coincides with the development of streetwear culture and the term “hypebeast” itself. The Unknown Vlogs channel details a love for all things style and culture: from the latest Supreme drops and tours around high-end designer stores, to behind-the-scenes looks at exclusive events such as fashion’s Front Row. At the top of the year, Kofi launched his very own label, Bonne Nuit, which he’s focusing all of his energies on right now. We caught up with him to discuss his goals for the brand, how he built an empire straight from his iPhone, working with Drake via a DM he first thought was fake, and much more.

“My content is at a point now where it’s heavily influencing people around the world. I’ve seen news outlets, like the BBC, and media organisations in New Zealand running around asking, ‘How much is your outfit?’ It’s crazy to see.”

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COMPLEX: You’re a man of many talents but most will recognise you as the man behind The Unknown Vlogs, your youTube channel, where you stop people on the street and talk about their sense of style. What was the motivation behind starting the platform? 

Icy Kof:
It originally took off in 2016 during Paris Fashion Week. It was my first ever time going and I was around all these cool celebrities, like Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston, and everyone was taking selfies of them and uploading it to Instagram. But I didn’t want just a photo. I had a very small YouTube presence from the Supreme drops I was documenting online, and from that I thought I would just go up to them and say: “Hey, what’s up! What are you wearing right now?” rather than taking a selfie. So yeah, that’s how it began and it really stemmed from my interest in fashion. I had a Tumblr page once, and before that, I did have a YouTube channel but it was for a variety of different things, like gaming.

How has your content changed compared to when you first started out?

In terms of my personal preference and interests, my content has definitely matured a lot since 2016. But the content I produced back then was still five or ten years ahead of its time. It was a time where having an interest in fashion and streetwear was still considered quite niche, and even though it was picking up, it still wasn’t seen as “mainstream” as much as it is today. My content is at a point now where it’s heavily influencing people around the world. I’ve seen news outlets, like the BBC, and media organisations in New Zealand running around asking, “How much is your outfit?” It’s crazy to see. Now, my interests have changed, as hype has changed. I have a better understanding of how social media and hype works, and I’m able to obtain an audience and keep them interested over a long duration of time. 

The whole idea just came from asking how much people’s outfits were worth and capturing those who were interested in values and money. I mean, I come from YouTube, which requires clickbait titles to progress within the algorithm. So I understood, from quite early on, that it was all about title formats and from that, I would add price tags within the title and that would then evolve into “What are people wearing?” as mainly a question for the audience to click the video. I understood how to progressively change formats and maintain a following in a way which allowed me to stay relevant.

When did you realise that this was something you could profit from and really take to the next level?

I don’t come from money, so when I was making money from YouTube, I was paying back my ex at the time who lent me money to make videos. So when cash was coming in, it was never from a perspective of, “Oh, money’s coming it”, it was more like: “What’s next?” Even then, fashion was fast paced and there were events all over the world, people were throwing parties in New York and LA, and I realised that I needed to be there, leave London, and be one of the first kids to document these events. So when I was making money, I was still spending it on tickets and hotels to get to the next thing and capture content. I started marking serious money during lockdown, and that’s when I got more into the business side of things.

Do you remember the very first video you made?

My very first video was me walking to Saint Laurent and all these shows, and talking about my goals in life while showcasing London. I didn’t understand anything about fashion or streetwear, but I came from a small village so I was keen to get away from that lifestyle and see something different. I just immersed myself as much as I could, in the whole Palace and Supreme culture, and started making friends and jobs from there. The second video was based on a Supreme drop and it just blew up! It got 80,000 views in a month and, back then, I think the most viewed streetwear-type video had about 1.2k views. I was number one from the very start.

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What has been your most memorable Vlog to date?

It was Louis Vuitton’s last show where they paid homage to Virgil Abloh. The video was very heart-warming; I was able to just express how I felt and speak to people. It’s one that I will always remember. Apart from that, it has to be connecting with Drake and meeting Kendrick Lamar.

On the subject of Drake, you did a How Much Is Your Outfit? video with him—how was that? 

I’m very into the universe and how things work. One day, Drake just DM’d me out of the blue with the title for a video—How Much Is Your Outfit: OVO Edition—and that was it. But I didn’t realise his Instagram name was Champagne Papi—I’m so used to seeing fan accounts and messages—so I was like, “Yeah, whatever!” I laughed and went back to sleep. Five minutes later, I woke my girl and showed her the DM. We didn’t notice the blue tick and were like: “This would be funny if it was Drake! It would make such a great video.” When I clicked the name and realised he had all these followers, I was like: “Whoa! This is Drake.” So I followed him back and replied to him. He gave me one month’s head-up and, in that time, I couldn’t tell anyone. It was so hard not to tell anyone; like, you want to tell your friends and your close family, and you want to celebrate, but I had to keep it on the low. He ended up being one of the soundest guys I’ve ever met. Me, my girl and one of my close friends hung out with him backstage at one of his shows, where we filmed the video, and he offered us drinks and we laughed. He also took us to his after-party with Future and made sure we were comfortable. Such a sound guy, honestly. 

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What does a day in the life of Kofi look like?

So, since January, I made the decision to travel a lot more. I gave up my apartment in London last year, so I have no home to go back to, and have been living in hotels all around the world with the focus of building my brand, Bonne Nuit. At the moment, I wake up, get back to all those who have emailed, look at the capsule I’m creating and then go to my factories to ensure everything is being perfectly done. I’d say half the day is focusing on the brand and the other half is music curation, talking with venues, and content creation. I’m really big on furniture right now; it’s a shift that my channel is heading towards, so I’ve been working with furniture and been introducing it very slowly for the last few months– especially through Instagram reels. I’m moving to Antwerp and leaving London soon to focus on my brand and YouTube. I’ll be showcasing furniture and a lifestyle version of fashion, basically.

So, Bonne Nuit, your new brand—when did you launch it, and what would say is your favourite piece from it so far?

It launched at the end of February this year, and included a beautiful leather jacket which I had developed for two years. It’s made from beautiful leather on the outside and has been designed to take the shape of your body over time. Bonne Nuit is influenced by techno music, and the fast energy behind it, as well as the work of Helmut Lang and Demna Gvasalia.

How would you describe your personal style?

I would say my style is very uniform-based. It’s very relaxed, timeless and comfortable. I love fabrics and like to know about them and how they complement the body, but I’m only really wearing my own stuff currently.

You’ve been attending Fashion Week for a few years now—are there any designers that have been catching your attention more than others?

I’ve kind of reached the point where I’m now focusing on specific designers from the past. Like I mentioned before, I’m a massive fan, and heavily influenced by, Helmut Lang. I’m more into originals. Right now, we’re at a point where it’s all being repeated, and it’s kind of hard to find designers that are bringing something new every time. I would say Rick [Owens] is doing it right now, but even he’s become more commercial, and I always have love for Samuel Ross and his ability to push the boundaries of London and architecture.

Who do you look up to in terms of inspiration within the creative industry?

So many! It goes without saying: the late Riky Rick from South Africa, Virgil Abloh, and Jamal Edwards. These three were the pioneers for their content and have done so much for the community.

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