How many streetwear brands have come out of Minnesota?
The answer: probably less than you can count on one hand. For Paaq, a clothing brand started by University of Minnesota students and grads, this brings a fire to their pieces that they hope will ignite a guiding torch for years to come.
“We wanted to tell a story that wasn’t here before,” said Aamir Peeran, Paaq's creative director and a University graduate. “That just turned into us realizing we can tell the right story, the right way.”
Sparked by a conversation over a late-night hookah sesh, Peeran and his co-founders took inspiration from a group that is not currently present on campus, the Desi Student Union, whose main goal was to bring to light the vibrant and eclectic cultures of South Asia.
All DSU members in years past, the Paaq founders see fashion as the new wave in cultural storytelling.
“Streetwear is the perfect platform to bring our culture out on because it’s comfortable for everyone,” Peeran said. “We want to show everyone that we aren’t different — our culture’s clothing and designs can be translated into any wave.”
Luckily, the founders say, the University is an inviting place for people from different cultures. The hope, in turn, is to use this eclectic wave to create a fuller image of what it means to be a South Asian university student — and looking good doing it.
“All of us really do like and cherish the culture that we have, and don’t feel like it’s properly represented around — whether it be streetwear, art or just day to day passing,” said Zeeshawn Abid, Paaq's operations lead and a senior studying entrepreneurial management and management information systems in Carlson.
Abid hopes Paaq will fulfill a void where South Asian representation is missing in the sphere of influencers. Starting with the University and hopefully spreading their message outward, the hype brand is laying new ground.
“We want the brand to be the first thing you think of when you think ‘South Asian’,” Abid said. “We want it to be cool for everyone to wear.”
All founders concur that from the increase in Round Two-esque consignment shops like Piff MPLS to an explosion in hip-hop tour stops, Minneapolis is on the rise when it comes to street culture. We may not be LA or NYC, but we’re trending towards more trendy.
“My friends who aren’t South Asian still relate to our brand because it’s modern — for young people,” said financial lead and Carlson finance and MIS senior Haris Hussain. “It’s also cool how much we’re learning along the way. We just run with everything and see where our designs take us.”
In their now-live first collection, Paaq takes a classic “6 God” prayer hands image and adds some South Asian clout, giving the hand imagery traditional mehndi paintings.
“Even though we see the hands everywhere, they actually have historical value to them with familial sacrifices and it was so surprising to see no one had done anything about this before,” Hussain said. “We just really working on giving significance to the art we’re doing.”
Having sold out during their pop-up featuring long sleeve t-shirts with the “mehndi hands” at the Pakistani Students Association's Pakistan Night last Friday, Paaq’s collection one is now available online.