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.”
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.