Adam Smarte, the 28-year-old Liberian-born founder of apparel and lifestyle company Modern Pharaoh, has gained a successful following as he continues to expand his brand. Founded in 2013, the US-based brand was conceived with a desire to challenge immediate perceptions of greatness (as seen in Modern Pharaoh’s logo which depicts a female pharaoh). Adam spent his childhood between Nigeria, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, and California. His diverse upbringing is evident in the sleek imagery of Modern Pharaoh, with its integration of African and Diasporan culture and aesthetics. Fufu & Soup Mag talked with Adam about the brand, current and upcoming releases, entrepreneurial challenges and more.
What inspired you to begin Modern Pharaoh?
The brand came together as a result of a transformation within culture that I’ve noticed and as a result of me not having the options to purchase items I wanted to wear. I think that this generation of Africans is the most important. With an ever-changing global social sphere, I believe this generation is the link to a broken continent.
There are more of us in the US and Europe trying to create companies and organizations to improve our home. There are students building models to help finance start-ups back home. It seems like there is a will to connect and as a whole, we are all finally learning who we are and constantly collaborating. With that being said, the world we now live in is a world of trends. People follow what’s cool, and it seems cool to be African now. Activism and tweeting are two different things. We have to be mindful of the real, and these things are not just trends. Every apparel I make has a message, and that message is, let’s be proud of who we are, let’s be great.
What would you say is the goal of the brand?
Modern Pharaoh seeks to create a network of artists, designers and crafters, who are confident in their power and purpose, and actively celebrating one another throughout countries and continents. All too often, we are made to forget that there is greatness inherent in each of us. From royalty we came, and royal we remain. This is a space to challenge perceptions of greatness, to trigger reflection and appreciation, and to reach new heights as a collective.
What are your most recent accomplishments pertaining to the brand?
In the last few years, we launched a campaign of tees and caps to commemorate Africa’s participation in the 2014 Fifa World Cup. Following that release, for the largest international rugby event in the United States, we released a Rugby Collection of classic snapbacks for Kenya and South Africa – the two African teams that competed at the Sevens World Series event. Most recently we released our “Always Africa” Snapbacks (Red and Black). It was important for us to make these because since we are a fairly new brand, we have not yet been able to make items for all of the African countries. So until we can do so, we decided to make something that all Africans can wear and be proud of.
In addition to the Snapbacks, we recently released our limited edition Mansa Musa jersey, the first in our jersey collection.
Do you have any upcoming releases that we should be look forward to?
In the next 6-8 weeks, the Modern Pharaoh brand plans to release beanies that will represent three East African countries. The beanies will compliment the recently released “Starting Lineup” jerseys from Mizizi. After speaking with Paakow Essandoh, the founder of Mizizi, and a friend of mine, we decided that this would be highly complimentary to his release and necessary and we plan to collaborate on a few more future releases.
What has been the most difficult part for you as you continue to build your brand?
Marketing is the hardest thing in the world. For me at least, because I want the buzz to be organic and I want the originality to be the reason people work with and purchase my brand. For the most part I’ve done that. Most of my models are my friends, the people that started supporting were friends and then others. Now I get purchases, inquiries, and brand consulting questions from everywhere. However, I believe it’s time to expand the brand and that include using influential and positive folks in the diaspora. I’ve started reaching out and I’ve speaking with various people. I intend for this next release to be my biggest one yet.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs setting out to establish their own brand?
Cliche cliche cliche, but my advice is just do what you love, and take advantage of the access to inf
ormation that we have. Nowadays you have access to every piece of information there is out there and use it to your advantage. Social media has given us the opportunity to network, meet people, listen to people, decide which information you don’t need and what you do need. Last, be original and work hard.