There’s a new kid in the neighborhood and it goes by the name HOOD CNMI. This new brand is proof that streetwear is our part of the CNMI’s norm and lifestyle. Owner and creative director Chris Chang believes that the company’s purpose is to give the Commonwealth its own streetwear identity.
“I believe where you are from makes who you are. Our pride and dignity can influence the world. The designs we create are either inspiration from the sceneries of our beautiful tropical islands, other cultures in CNMI, or student’s work… the Californian and Hawaiian streetwear such as the Hundreds have strong usage of graffiti and surf culture in their streetwear,” he said
“We don’t have a surf or skating culture so I wanted to create something that is hip but has an identity of our own. I utilized paddling and Carolinian dance costumes in my illustrations to show the world what kind of cultures we represent and do it in a very trendy manner so that the brand can be visually amicable worldwide,” he added.
Born and raised on Saipan, Chang is a graduate of Northern Marianas College and pursued a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design in Rhode Island School which he finished in 2012.
“After working in Digital Media Lab as a UX/UI designer in Korea University and graphic design freelancer in South Korea for three years, I decided to move back home to give my services in teaching art in the Public School System. During my teaching experience, I saw many students having interest in the T-shirt business…. I wanted to teach students that they can financially support themselves through creative professions and decided to open up a T-shirt design club in the school I was teaching at,” Chang said.
“We participated at Flame Tree Festival as a middle school club and sold student-designed T-shirts. This led me to open up HOOD CNMI… my designs are never seen, one-of-a-kind because I create them myself. It has a very unique style because we mix different cultures that reside in the CNMI other than Chamorro/Carolinian so you can see different Asian imageries juxtaposed with local images,” Chang added.
The name HOOD CNMI was inspired by Chang’s close association to the islands specifically Tanapag where he used to teach. “In creating my brand, I came across keywords such as family and neighborhood which I personally thought were some strong characteristics of our village. In a neighborhood, it doesn’t really matter where you are from or who you are, but the fact that you are part of the community is enough,” he said.
“I am Korean-American born on Saipan and just like me we have many other groups of people here who are not Chamorro or Carolinian but still love where we are from and love the culture here. Unlike other brands who strongly target specific groups, I wanted to target everyone who is associated with our islands,” he added.
Established in January 2020, HOOD CNMI currently offers T-shirts and Chang said that expanding to other fashion is in the works. “I believe we are nowhere near being famous compared to other fashion streetwear brands but what makes us very unique is that I hand draw all my illustrations and digitize them myself. All illustrations are exclusive and it stands out compared to other designs here,” Chang said.
“I also do many collaborations with non-profit organizations mainly in education and with local businesses to promote and support local. I want to help out the student body here in the CNMI so that they can have a future in creative fields without leaving the island. Although we don’t have enough resources and aren’t financially well-off yet, we try to help out students in any way using what we have,” Chang added
Future plans include beefing up their online shop, bringing HOOD CNMI to DFS T Galleria, making souvenir collaborations with local businesses, and putting up a studio that can teach students different creative skills that can later help them get jobs after graduation. “HOOD CNMI is all about unity, equality, and anti-discrimination and I wish people who wear my designs practice that,” Chang said.
“I hope people who wear my products respect other cultures and consider them equally special rather than excluding them because they are different…I wish people here would be more accepting to changes and welcoming to new ideas so that our community can grow and advance,” Chang added.
For more information, contact HOOD CNMI at www.hoodcnmi.com Facebook: HOOD CNMI Instagram: guahu_si_hoodcnmi and see Chang’s personal portfolio www.petitechoco.com