Reagan Paulsen, one half of Youth 95, has the type of energy and vibrancy that exudes and spreads like wildfire to everyone around him. Only 21 years old, he often dreams of owning a store where he is free to express his interpretation of what fashion is to him and build Youth 95 to what it should be.
Originally from Athlone, Reagan was reared by a family driven by sport. His grandfather was involved in the SA rugby 95′ World Cup and his parents are runners so naturally, he was an athletic kid who loved soccer. He played for a local club until the age of 13 and is embarrassed to say that he hasn’t been as active recently. He’s been exposed to different cultural and social backgrounds, attending many private and public schools, ending his schooling years at Groote Schuur high.
“They know what we do, they don’t know us or where we come from” – Reagan on the public’s views on Youth 95
What were you into as a kid?
I used to skate. I woke up one Christmas and my brother and I received skateboards as gifts. We went to Boogaloos and didn’t know what we were doing and that was just the beginning. I played rugby in high school and quit after I matriculated; I knew I was going to do something way different to sports.
Before you guys even thought about Youth 95, what were you dreaming of?
I didn’t think that far but I always knew I’d be good at something one day; I know if I put my mind to it, I always do it full force. With motivation and inspiration, a lot can be done.
The older people always told me, ‘don’t give up; if this is what you want to do, then do it and give your everything’. That’s why when I played soccer, I used to play hard. When I stopped playing, it was by decision.
My brother was into drawing and showed me a few things from Twobop and introduced me to Cheap as Chips. When I went for the first time, I went with very little and managed to cop a sample Twobop coach jacket for R80. Seeing all those local brands and what they were doing, I knew that was where I wanted to be. That’s when I fell in love with local street wear.
I browsed through Tumblr, creating mood boards for things that sparked my interest; the aesthetics of the photos, the people wearing the clothes and how different it was to what I wore. I wanted cool things and could not afford it so I hustled to do odd jobs and got a part time job at Jack Lemkus. I managed to buy my first pair of Air Force 1s in grade 7 with money I had earned and it was a good feeling. I think sneaker culture started before my interest in fashion.
What was your initial vision for Youth 95?
My vision was to create a brand that stood out a tremendous amount to what other people were doing. I wanted it super limited as people like things that aren’t widely available.
My dream is for us to have our own studio space, create our own clothing and eventually, own a store. It sounds far fetched, I know. It’s what I dream about, what I need; it’s what keeps me sane.
I’ve saved up and finally bought a sewing machine and plan to get someone to do the sewing for me. I much prefer to do the designs and pitch ideas, go to the shops and do research as patterns would take up too much time. I would like to teach someone young to create our patterns and do the sewing; our main progression and market is the youth. They learn things much faster than before and I have the biggest respect for that.
What is the point of studying when you are in the fashion industry?
It’s basically for the brand. I can get a job anywhere doing what I’m doing now at some commercial place, but that’s not what I want to do. I want to show everyone that I am using the skills and knowledge that I have, to learn more so that when it comes to someone doing my work, I know the processes involved. I always want to be ahead of everything.
As cliche as it sounds, Reagan would love to become a buyer and still pursue his personal goals of building a successful brand. He doesn’t mind working in the corporate sector as this gives him the opportunity to gain valuable experience and ultimately, lead him toward his end goal. He doesn’t have a set long term plan but envisions the future brand clearly and will do whatever it takes to get it to that level.
“I always keep coming back to the moment, because we are living in the moment”.
Do you ever think about family and settling down, owning a home, travelling?
My parents have a lot to do with my mindset and being open to new things.They constantly told me that I would get better opportunities outside of South Africa. I see myself living overseas for a few years but Cape Town is home; this is where I want to progress. I picture mastering my craft in another country, manufacturing the clothes and sell it in Cape Town.
Is there an invisible pressure on the youth to have a short term mindset?
It’s not an invisible pressure, it’s what we want as individuals. If you have long term goals, it’s still going to be at the back of your mind but it’s always good to do things in between. Since I’ve been on this grind, I want things to happen fast and I realise that the more work you do, the better it is and the more experience you get.
Reagan’s parents are both educators and inherited his business orientated mind from them. His grandmother worked at an Adidas factory and always gifted him with apparel, items which he still has today. One can see that he has a close-knit family that supports him and has unknowingly given him inspiration.
“Everyone is energetic; we’re not a bland family” – Reagan on his family being active
How does music inspire you?
All these young rappers coming onto the scene all have a certain look about them where you don’t need to have good lyrics, just the vibes you put out. I get inspiration from these people and interpret it in my own way. Everything today is street wear related, mixing high end fashion with tracksuits. There are no boundaries.
“I don’t think street wear and high fashion is even a thing anymore. It’s just clothing that people mess with. Things are changing rapidly”
How do you de-stress?
I recently rediscovered that running opens up your mind; coming back to routine now feels better, it feels like I’m back to myself. It’s nice cos I also want to keep active, keeping my mind healthy and flowing. I train with SL Run, the Shelf Life crew and they’re motivating me to push myself harder because they’re all really fit and fast.