“Consume Information, Gain Knowledge, Find Truth.”
This is the philosophy of student-run street-wear line STROKE. The mantra reflects style as a mode of confident personal expression.
“To keep it simple in life, you have to be able to enter a situation, whether familiar or unfamiliar, learn from that experience, and in turn develop your own ideas to improve yourself or your work,” said Business sophomore Michael Sulaka, co-founder of STROKE. “In regards to STROKE, we try to form our own distinct identity and create our own path to success.”
This identity is heavily influenced by current popular media and trends. Hip hop is the primary source of inspiration, and the creative businesses of music and fashion have never been more interwoven than they are now. Kanye West’s line of Louis Vuitton shoes, for example, is almost as highly publicized as his album releases.
Though music personalities are launching fashion labels more quickly than remixes, Sulaka and his partner, Art & Design sophomore Justin Finkelman, believe they have tapped into a unique market in the Midwest through their line of culture-conscious T-shirts.
Rather than imitating musicians, the STROKE team pays tribute to the music that inspires them through clothes. Their shirts sport bold block lyrics of rap icons like Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z, juxtaposed with funky and colorful graphic design. Sulaka and Finkelman view hip hop as having the power to transcend and blur conventional labels.
“People are looking for something different,” Sulaka said. “Kids who used to wear Abercrombie and Fitch are now wearing fitted hats and graphic tees. We’re all trying to be unique. There’s only so much that Polo can say — that’s boring.”
The duo seeks to make STROKE a community — they keep a blog on their website, which they use for sharing art, music and fashion links. By keeping the brand locally based, STROKE has a personal connection with its customers.
According to Sulaka, STROKE aims to be “not just a label — more like a movement.”