My interview with RedPanDuh’s creator, Andre Semper takes place inside of the downtown Fayetteville clothing store, HITS (Heat In The Streets). Today he is sporting a Bape green tee, Embellish NYC jeans, Nike Cortez and a Nixon watch. This year’s spring has brought way more showers over the past several weeks than the area is custom to and there’s the promise of more heavy rains later this evening, but for now we’re graced with a beautiful, sunny afternoon. After a warm greeting inside a store where the latest trends hang from the ceiling, surrounded by members of Semper’s family we dive into our interview.
Semper launched RedPanDuh (RPD) in 2015 after starting and closing another brand, Riggy Gang (RG), which he ran from Afghanistan while working as a contractor. “I really was just tired of working for people . . .” Semper says. “I’m sitting in my living room, and Ridiculousness is on . . . And it was a segment with animals and I seen a red panda, like doing a pull-up . . . I didn’t know it was a red panda, so I did my research.” Semper had seen the episode several times, but this time took on new meaning. He found his calling and RPD was born.
Two weeks from finding inspiration Semper’s first design became available for sale, and the brand has sold consistently since its first week, he says. Prior, Semper had been searching for a sign. He had plans to design another brand using animals until he learned of how rare red pandas are now. “They’re on the verge of extinction,” he says. “That’s how I feel with me and my crew, like (the) last of a dying breed . . . Not a lot of people keep it real with you, not a lot of people keep it 100 with you. All my friends are 100.” His point becomes clear as I realize that even now during our interview his family stands with him, close by and ready to provide insight into the conversation.
Practice makes better is the take away from Semper’s recollection of his experiences starting his first brand, RG. “I lost a lot of money with RG, I invested a lot of time; I was giving away a lot of free stuff.” It sounds like the hard lessons learned that every budding entrepreneur experiences. However, the growth has brought Semper to this moment allowing him to navigate better running a new brand in which he takes pride. Semper draws his inspiration from major cities and countries, as well as from his environment, stating he has many females in his family who aid in his quest to capture every demographic.
With the help of friends, Semper sold his first shirt for $73, and the brand has continued to make its way across the United States via the World Wide Web. “God doesn’t make any mistakes,” is the advice given to Semper by a pastor. “This store (H.I.T.S) has been open for about six years and I never even thought to actually use this as an outlet.”
Semper’s mentor, who is a photographer and runs the store, has proven to be a huge asset helping out with creative ideas and visuals for the brand. We share a laugh as he goes into detail on his tight-net circle, who’re already making their mark in the industry. “They’re pretty much just waiting on me. Everybody keeps asking me why isn’t your stuff in the store. They just waiting on me.”
Semper, who is looking into mass production and getting more hands-on with his brand advises other aspiring designers to just “Do you, stick to what you know if it’s been working for you . . . Stick to it.” Something may work for the person telling you to try it, but not for you is his rationale. At the end of the day, this family-oriented man is all about staying true to self and being your own boss. You can catch the RPD brand as well as several of Semper’s satisfied customers (myself included) by following either one of his Instagram accounts, the brand @redpan_duh or his personal page @harlem.wesst. To place an order via PayPal simply hit up that DM!
Be sure to catch our full interview on audio via our website, talentsmag910.com.
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