The Rise of Cousin Boujee
The intersection of art and fashion has always fascinated Columbus native Nick Fridenmaker. At the age of 10, he started his first blog called Players’ Fashion. Next came an obsession with 90s sneaker culture. In the 2000s, as luxury brands embraced the rising prominence of streetwear, he followed suit. Now, at the dawn of 2021, Fridenmaker is well into his second year as the owner/operator and lead creative of the Columbus-based art and fashion house Cousin Boujee.
The aesthetic of Cousin Boujee is unmistakable. Traveling in the same vein as mega brands like Off-White, Stüssy and Supreme, Boujee’s styles feel familiar without ever feeling faux. Where some brands would play it safe with their signature design elements, Cousin Boujee goes for the throat with motifs like “Yuck Mouth” and their “Great Ape” which depicts a Kong-like killer in a battle to the death with a king-sized coral snake.
Their streetwear boasts edgy reinterpretations of some of the most well-known pop culture icons in history (though most are off
just enough to not skirt the realm of copyright infringement). Boujee also loves to play at updating familiar neoclassical and renaissance works with their own signature sensibilities.
The most significant element behind Cousin Boujee, though, is customization.
“That’s the whole point of Cousin Boujee,” says Fridenmaker. “Everybody has something in their head that they’ve tried to put on paper. When you come to Cousin Boujee we allow you to become the artist. You tell us every detail of what you want and we’ll provide it for you.”
By working with Fridenmaker, customers are able to help design every aspect of their custom pieces. Giving them the freedom to experience what it’s like to be their own artists, Fridenemaker helps his clients create something that’s wholly unique while still feeling fully Cousin Boujee.
“Before we did the clothes, before we did anything else,” he explains, “we were getting the customer involved in the process of making their own artwork.”
To do this, Fridenmaker – who is, admittedly, not an exceedingly artistic individual – has brought on an impressive stable of artists and designers from around the world.
Like the cast of a good caper, Cousin Boujee’s company of characters are as unique and versatile as the brand itself.
A Ukrainian named Sergei serves as the go-to for all hand-painted customs.
Another Ukrainian known only as “The Dude” and described by Fridenmaker as “One of the most talented people I’ve ever met” is an instructor at an art institute who gets flown to places like Qatar for portrait work.
“G” – who has a master’s degree from the Beijing National Academy of the Arts - is a versatile artist and serves as the
company’s lead graphic designer. A young woman cited only as “O” is Boujee’s fashion illustrator. Another graphic designer called “Ed Penny” lives in India and is also known as “The Alley Wizard”.
The mystery of this magnificent troupe of creatives only strengthens the allure of Cousin Boujee.
But, to Fridenmaker, all of that surprisingly-compelling mythology is secondary to making sure that Boujee puts out an extremely fine product. He insists on the highest quality materials and demands that no shortcuts are taken with construction.
“Everything is fire. That’s it. Everything is fire,” he says. “It’s not a branding thing. We just want something where someone says ‘Oh, where did you get that?’ We just call that the fire element. This shit is just dope. Like, that’s what we’re going for. We need something just so appealing and so jaw dropping that, though it doesn’t have that label - that name brand on it, you’re still like, ‘Yo, I have to get this jacket!’ That’s what we go for.”
This drive is what’s propelling Fridenmaker to burn through his goals for Cousin Boujee. The brand has already accomplished a lot and started making a real name for itself, but it founder guarantees this is only the beginning.
“I say I’m going to be the next big fashion house out of Columbus,” Fridenmaker explains. “The products are undeniable. And, because we can drop these elite products now, it’s not an outrageous statement to say. It’s just something that I truly believe. It’s going to happen at some point; it’s not not in the cards.”
That next step for Boujee is fully mapped out with more luxury clothing items on the horizon as well as an expansion of the company’s custom fine art line with more “museum-quality pieces”. But what Fridenmaker is most excited about is the company’s foray into wearable tech. Tight-lipped for now about exactly what forms this intriguing tease will take, Fridenmaker promises it’s not something you’ll want to miss.
“We are going to do things that the world hasn’t even seen yet.”