Everyone’s got something to say but far fewer can actually back it up. This feeling is one that Nicko Bruno, founder of Adidem Asterisks, a Toronto based upscale brand that aims to connect music and fashion through elevated products and events, thinks about constantly. As someone who grew up addicted to fashion and its surrounding cultures, Nicko was quick to develop tastes and opinions but understood the importance of educating himself of what goes on behind the scenes to ensure that he could both develop a stronger appreciation for the works of others and also be able to speak his mind without being hypocritical. We got the chance to catch up with Nicko after the first of AA’s many pop-ups lined up for the season and talk about how he developed his always-curious mentality, how that helps him foster a strong team, what goes on behind the scenes at Adidem Asterisks and what they have in the works for 2022.
Hey Nicko! Things are booming for you right now with all of the events and upcoming drops. How are you feeling?
Oh man [laughs]. I’m not chilling as much as I thought I’d be able to. Things are really busy right now but it’s great. With each event, there’s always prep and post work we need to do and then it’s on to the next thing. I was doing a ton of follow ups and thanking sponsors and everything this morning and then I’m heading to a design meeting afterwards.
Love to hear that there’s so much happening. What are the design meetings looking like right now?
So before each meeting we decide what type of item we want to make and we all pull references so that we can go into the meeting ready to brainstorm. Miguel who runs our design team then helps coordinate the conversations and design planning. We’ll get into technical drawing and thinking about patterns, cuts, etc. What’s dope is that everyone is on Adobe illustrator sharing designs and stuff right there and we’re all going back and forth with ideas. The goal is for everyone to make five unique designs and then we all bring them together and vote.
Adidem Asterisks F/W '22 Preview
How do you choose which products to work on?
We have a set of questions that we always ask ourselves before diving into any product like what purpose does the product serve and is it consumer facing or a brand building product? For example, a basic vest might be consumer facing and a more wild experimental piece is meant to build the brand up since it might be more memorable. We’ll also go deeper into things like “what song does the product sound like?” and thinking about the kind of vibe that the product evokes.
Speaking of vibes, this is one thing that AA is not short on within its products. In addition to music which we know is a big inspiration, where do the design inspirations and ethos for the brand come from?
I came into all of this as a consumer first. I’ve spent my whole life really putting a lot of thought into my outfits and understanding what looks nice. Hip-hop, basketball and street and pop culture all obviously play a big part in my inspirations but it’s really always evolving as I grow. The designs will change over time based on what we’re feeling and learning about but no matter what, the main focus is always to create great products that add value to our customers and the brand.
Blog: Adidem Asterisks
We heard that you have a pretty wild story about starting the brand. Can you share how that all started with your partner, X?
Before I got started with X I was always super into this stuff. I remember doing an exchange program outside of Paris for school and that’s what really showed me how many opportunities and possibilities there were in this industry if you go and find them. I ended up failing out of my program because I skipped so much class to go into Paris to go to events. I remember when my mom called me and said I was going to get kicked out if I skipped more class and I literally booked a ticket right in front of her. It was my birthday and Paris fashion week. I didn’t care about school then at all I had to go [laughs] to the shows. I was doing anything I could to be a part of things, learn and build relationships. I was super driven and still am.
After that, X, who I’ve been friends with forever, designed some tees for a project of his. I was going to China and he asked me to take the shirts out there and shoot them. I didn’t know anyone out there but was on a mission to get it done. I found two people at a nightclub, got them to shoot with me and it turned out pretty well. The experience was dope and I told X like “yo, let’s do this for real.”
After these experiences, I knew this is what I needed to be doing and that drive hasn’t stopped.
And besides shooting, you’ve learned how to do everything now like pattern making and tech packs for the brand, right?
One hundred percent. I’m a firm believer that you can’t have strong opinions on stuff if you don’t know how to do it yourself. Sure, I can think things are nice or not but I can’t talk s**t or criticize if I don’t know what goes into it and haven’t done it myself. If I want to make a brand that is better than all of the others, I can’t just have ideas. I need to know how to execute. Even if I’m not making the tech packs all the time or if I’m bringing in a team to help, knowing how to do it, pump out designs and speak that language goes a long way with everyone. It allows us to do so much better work.
So true! How big is the team now?
It’s pretty big now which is crazy. A lot of these people were some of my oldest friends and they are all so hopeful. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this. These people keep me motivated and help me get stuff done. When there are times I’m not feeling into things, these guys bring me back up. We have also recently brought on some interns too which is a dope opportunity because it allows us to create opportunities for these super creative young people. It also helps me learn a ton about running a team which I am really appreciative of.
That’s awesome. Not a lot of brands at your level are bringing in interns or opening that door for young creatives. What do you look for when hiring an intern?
The biggest thing is I want them to show interest in us and take initiative. If they work hard and show that they want it, we’re going to give them every opportunity that we can. I also want to find people who know things that I don’t. Overtime, I’ll hopefully learn it because I want to know everything if I’m leading the team but that doesn’t mean I can do this alone. I heard a quote once that was “A CEO should know how to do everyone’s job, even the janitor” and I think that really resonated with me.
That’s a great line. Before we let you go, what is on the roadmap for the brand and at the top of the list for things you want to accomplish?
Right now nobody is getting paid and all of the money is going back into the brand so my number one goal is to pay everyone soon. Even if it’s just a little, everyone deserves it and I want to make that happen soon. I also want to hit one million in sales in 2022. I think we can do it.
From a creative standpoint, I want to give the whole brand a facelift. Summer ‘22 is going to be nuts. It’s the first time we have the full team designing the collection and the storytelling is really strong so I’m pumped for that. Our brand next year is going to be insane and we’re going to keep pushing it because we’re all obsessed with new stuff. I almost get tired of things by the time they’re out but I know this new season coming up is going to be wild and will be the setting off point for the brand. Stay tuned for that!
If you’re in Toronto, make sure to check out the Adidem Asterisks pop-up at Nomad until December 16th and follow the AA Instagram for more news on upcoming releases. Keep it locked to Pier Five for more interviews and stories with the coolest entrepreneurs, designers, artists, activists and more.