Founder, Emay Enemokwu gets candid about his rise to the top of the fashion game and the industry that he is operating in.
While the clothes that fill out any streetwear label must be hype-worthy in nature and effortlessly cool when worn, the thing that sets a brand on a path to industry domination is a designer of maverick status, sure to lend their unfiltered fashion lense and mesmerising story to each garment they craft. Enter Emay Enemokwu, founder of the luxury streetwear brand currently changing the face of British fashion with Jehucal.
Ensuring that the empire he had built is as personal as it is stylish, shoppers are treated to seamless streetwear cuts boasting coveted luxury sensibilities synonymous with beloved high-fashion houses, courtesy of the 25-year-old designer’s focus on pristine tailoring and sharp branding, all of which are washed over in references to his own personal style. Naturally, these are attributes that have seen the brand on the rise gain widespread praise and collect famous fans, including the likes of Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Arsenal first-team player Emile Smith Rowe and Aluna (AlunaGeorge).
When describing Jehucal, Emay explains, “it’s the lovechild of streetwear and luxury. But, when the brand started, it was very much streetwear. It was just graphic tees, hoodies – real basic stuff. The thing is, I’ve grown up and so has my style and taste, which means that Jehucal had to follow. When I first started Jehucal, I was wearing dirty vans that had rips in them so I was making garms to match that style.”
But, whilst a rising name in the elevated streetwear scene, Emay ensures that his grounded nature is evident in everything that he does as he immerses himself in a video game on his PlayStation whilst candidly firing out his brazen responses to my questions during our interview. A quality both endearing and increasingly difficult to seek out in the industry we find ourselves in.
Whilst catching up in the East London-bound Jehucal offices, the designer got candid with me on his rejection of the industry’s formalities, the ways in which his brand is an extension of himself and how his future involves a seven-figure income and golf. Head below to enjoy our interview with Emay Enemokwu…
Do you have plans to live in London?
I was born here and was forced to move out due to school issues. I don’t think I would live here again, not because of anything bad, but I just really enjoy where I live now – plus there are great golf courses.
It is where the fashion scene is though?
I’ve got a Benz, I can drive in.
So you like country life?
London is so busy all the time, and you’re surrounded by mad people. I like that when I go home, I can literally be alone with my family and chill out.
The industry is crazy! Is it too much for you, do you think?
Everyone is fake! I stick to myself, and that’s it. I don’t care about anyone else but my faction.
Do you have an inner circle that you trust?
Yeah, I’ve got my inner circle. I see them as family more than friends.
Well, we’ve spoken about the industry, but shall we talk about the clothes and Jehu-Cal! I know that is your name, but I also know you go by Emay now. Talk us through your backstory.
This feels like my X-Factor sob story, but basically, I was treated badly at school. I went to school in North Edmonton, and I used to get picked on quite a lot for my name being Jehu-cal – it was quite a unique name. I got into a lot of fights in primary school, I go suspended a mad amount of times and eventually was told either you leav, or we’re going to kick you out. That is when we left London and moved to Hertfordshire, where I’m based now. When I moved, I wanted to kind of restart my life, so I went from Jehu-Cal to Emmanuel, shortening that down to Emay and now EMAY4K. Where we live is quite an affluent area, and kids wear Prada and Ralph Lauren to school – my parents weren’t buying me that. At the same time, I started to get a little more into what was then considered underground music, so Odd Future and Kanye, and seeing them wearing Rick Owens, Margiela, Supreme but then seeing how expensive they were inspired me. It was the combination of being mocked for not having the cool clothes in school and also loving clothes that sparked the idea of starting my own brand. I actually tweeted that when I was 15, it’s still on my Twitter to this day. I picked the name Jehucal for the brand because this is me overcoming the name I was picked on over. I’m locking that name into my success story. I took the shit I got mocked for and turned it into a now-globally recognised brand, so that’s how the brand name came to fruition.
I feel like the name plays into your close-knit family, and I know how close you all are. Do you cite them as part of your success?
My mother and father are inspirations, straight up. My mum worked in IT for her whole life and then decided that she wanted to open a salon, and I remember she would go to work from nine to five and then go to college from like six to nine, and then she would still come home and feed us. I saw her do all of that for a couple of years, and then she quit her job to focus on opening a salon. I see her as a massive inspiration for that reason because if she can do that, I can have no excuse! My sister also inspires me with her perseverance towards her acting career, she’s younger than me but sometimes feels like an old sister in the way she advises me. My father is just a wavy guy that reminds me daily what it means to be a man and take care of your people.
I feel like so many people wouldn’t even be able to fathom the idea of that growth and success that Jehucal has experienced! How was that for you?
Yeah, it’s crazy because during my degree, when I started the brand and was doing it part-time, I was making a graduate salary, like 25k+ a year. And to do that after a year is crazy. This idea had grown so quickly, and I almost got a little bit overwhelmed by how fast it was growing because you must maintain that growth. It was also hard to balance the degree with the brand, and it meant that the brand did suffer a little bit as my degree progressed. When I did come to my year out, I was down bad. But I was able to come back from that. So, there have been a lot of low points, but we bounce back ten times stronger every time.
How do you get through those points?
I cry all night and listen to Adele! No, I’m joking, I just have a rant! I’ll go to my sister and complain to her for a while, and then she’ll tell me to get my shit together. Or, I’ll sit here [in the office] on my own and write down what I can control, what I can’t control and then make a plan of action for what I can control. We all have lows, but it’s about taking time out to sit and think things through.
You’re speaking about the office as a place you come to escape, but I think it’s quite a big symbol of your massive growth over the last two years. How does it make you feel sitting in here being surrounded by your success?
It is crazy! It’s a big fucking room, and it’s all mine. I was driving the other day, and I just thought to myself, ‘oh my god, if my brand was to flop today I could fuck up three people’s lives,’ because I pay their salaries. It is weird that I can no longer view this as just a hobby, and it is actually a full-on business. But I’ve been enjoying it a lot more recently. I’m actually a boss, which is pretty cool.
At what age?
I turned 25 on the 5th of November.
You’re sitting very pretty for your age, but do you think you have peaked yet?
Most people, if they were sat in my position in terms of how much money is being made, they’d be pretty calm. But for me, I want to hit the millions. Like six is cool, but I want to reach seven figures. Not for personal gain but because of the things I want to do for my family. I’m grateful that I’m in a position where when my sister’s laptop broke, she told me and I bought her one the next day. I want to be able to bless my family and friends even more.
Seven figures! Good to know!
Yeah, and when I hit the next step, I’m going to be the most irritating person ever. Everybody will hate me because, on the one hand, I’ll be blessing my family and friends, but I will also be so frustrating to look at. I’ll probably be doing mad flagrant shit for no reason.
What do you want to do then you hit seven figures? What’s the first stop?
You’ll see me on tour, just on my own, like a sabbatical. One day I’ll be in Bali, and then I’ll be in Spain, then you’ll see me in Maldives, New York and then for two months straight, I’ll fuck off for a bit and come back with crazy inspiration.
Ok, we will check back in one year to see if you’ve hit the seven figures! So, let’s chat about the clothes. I feel like they can best be described as elevated streetwear! What made you want to tap into that niche?
It’s the lovechild of streetwear and luxury. But, when the brand started, it was very much streetwear. It was just graphic tees, hoodies – real basic stuff. The thing is, I’ve grown up and so has my style and taste, which means that my brand had to follow. When I first started the brand, I was wearing dirty vans that had rips in them, so I was making garms to match that. I love the high-end things, but you will still catch me in a chicken and chip shop almost three times a week eating my £3 meals because that is just who I am, I feel like I am the grey area between luxury and street.
I love that! They also have loads of slogans all over them; have you got a favourite? My favourite is the ’Till Forever’, do you want to talk us through how that came about?
Till Forever is the escape plan. A plan in motion since I was 18 applying for my degree and writing on my personal statement, “I’m coming here to get the skills I need to start my own business.” The plan to escape the monotony of the degree, job or family that everyone is set on, and instead be in the world of Till Forever. Abiding to my rules, dictating every choice in my life for the rest of my life. Jehucal will grow and live beyond me, that is Till Forever. Jehucal is a blend of two things: being luxury and streetwear and being powerful and romantic. Depending on how you place that phrase, it can look really sweet, or it can look really aggressive.
I know you say that the clothes are an extension of yourself. But who are you making them for? Who do you want to see in your clothes?
It’s for people that believe in betting on themselves. With the clothes, I haven’t got someone in mind in terms of who I think of when I design, I just think of someone who shares the same values as Jehucal and appreciates good quality products.