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Meet Samad Dukes of Illegally Owned in New Jersey

Today we’d like to introduce you to Samad Dukes.

Samad, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Growing up, I always loved making outfits out of anything I could find lying around the house or in stores when my grandmother used to take me to run errands with her. As I got older, I started ripping up my jeans and cutting the sleeves off of my shirts just to give it a different life. I never thought about actually making a living off of clothing it was something I enjoyed. Especially in school where you either played sports or was known for getting fresh I used that time to brand my myself and my personal style. When I got out of high school, I worked at a car rental agency and it was so dead there, I would just create shirts online and order them for my own stash. Whenever someone asked me what I had on, I would tell them I made it and that turned into people wanting me to make them t-shirts. I narrowed down what interest me and what I felt was missing and that led to the birth of Illegally Owned.

Has it been a smooth road?
I think when you transform from making something for your personal enjoyment to making it for the masses, it can definitely be a bumpy road. People are fickle, and what they like today isn’t necessarily what they may like tomorrow. So for me it was hard to put myself out there as person who wanted to design clothing because it wasn’t cool to me because everyone did it. I think I had to struggle with the idea that I could possibly do the same thing as people but my message and style was different. So in all, my biggest struggle was just being comfortable with myself enough to let everyone know this is what I’m doing and not care about any outside noise.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Illegally Owned story. Tell us more about the business.
The name of the company is Illegally Owned. From the name alone it sets us apart and people wanna know so much about us just because it isn’t common. It’s based off the idea that coming from the inner city our style and culture is always deemed as a negative attribute until someone commercializes it then it becomes cool to the rest of society. So in essence, we are Illegally Owned as a people. We don’t get to keep what makes us unique once it is exploited to the masses. The attention I received was from designing t-shirts that were ironic and played on my views of society along with making fun of the legal system. I take pride that as a company, everything is authentic from the packaging to the people I have wearing my clothes to the community I live in, New Brunswick, Nj. Everything is real and uncut. I got my style from seeing the older guys in the neighborhood getting money and spending it on luxury clothing and jewelry. I wanted everyone wearing IllegallyOwned to have that much pride and feeling of exclusivity when wearing it.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
In the next 5-10 years, I see more small companies taking over. The people that genuinely know how to connect and know how their consumers think will thrive. I think the bigger companies and fashion houses lose sight that besides the rich making them richer, the communities living in poverty make them rich as well. I believe people are opening their eyes and supporting brands with authentic messaging who actually care about the consumer. To many occasions, when big companies have put out clothing that degraded certain ethnicities. The trend will be people buying from smaller brands that provide exclusivity, quality and consciousness.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Instagram: Illegally.Owned
  • Twitter: Illegallyownd

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