Student Designer Jerrell Chalmers: The Qilo Story
When School of Arts and Sciences junior Jerrell Chalmers went to a Thursday night hip-hop concert, his evening began innocuously enough. That was until performing artist Joey Badass and collective group Pro Era walked on stage wearing his Qilo hats.
“In the middle of the show they come out with my hat on,” Chalmers said. “It was the most surreal moment at Rutgers that I ever had.”
Recording hip-hop artists Joey Badass and Pro Era are just a few who are seen sporting Qilo hats. Throughout campus and during football games, students have been wearing Chalmers’ infamous hats with a pineapple design.
The Brooklyn born and Jersey raised designer started making designs on his computer and creating shirts at the age of 18. His first line, “Thousand Miles”, was based off the ancient proverb of Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu’s – “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
That summer, Chalmers’ designs generated online buzz, especially on Tumblr. He eventually received over 2,000 notes from followers worldwide, who were asking where they could find his shirts.
“Towards the end of the summer, I felt like I had realized my own potential,” he said.
The determined Political Science and Journalism and Media Studies student started developing new terminologies for his line and eventually came up with Qilo, a reminder of the former brand name.
“To implement the fun and universality that I had envisioned when I changed the name, I used pineapples,” Chalmers said. “What most people don’t know is that pineapples are the universal sign for hospitality.”
Qilo’s other hat designs feature fern leaves and Asian characters. “Growing up, I watched a lot of Anime so I drew a lot of inspiration from it for my designs,” he explained.
Businessman Elon Musk and fashion designers Rembrandt Duran of Adeen and Ralph Lauren are also huge inspirations to Chalmers.
“When I got the chance to meet [Duran] at Fashion Week, it felt like Christmas and I was meeting Santa Clause,” he said.
The Qilo team has worked with notable photographers and models such as Osvaldo Ponton and Wilhelmina Models, respectively. They have also met many influential people, like Fashion Director of Tumblr Valentine Uhovski.
“Uhovski has helped us so much,” Chalmers said. “He has brought us to Glamour Magazine mixers, Lincoln Center and even Milk Studios during Fashion Week.”
Although he is thankful for Uhovski’s connections, Chalmers owes Qilo’s success to his co-founder and initial investor, Michael Stein.
“Without him, none of this would have been able to happen,” he said.
Qilo hats are found online for $32 or around campus for $20. You can find his hats in New Brunswick at NJ Skateshop on Easton Ave. and Syndicated Lifestyle Boutique on George St. Shaded Vision in Lavallette also sells a selection of Qilo hats.
“Fashion has become saturated with lots of leather and black,” Chalmers said of the fashion industry. “I am here to change that.”
Ways to reach Qilo: