For this young Nigerian designer, the 709 is his inspiration — and home
Sylvester Edmund is building a clothing brand — and a life — in his adopted province
It's three little numbers that represent Newfoundland and Labrador to the world, but for one young man from Nigeria, the province's telephone area code also represents himself, his business and his new home.
Sylvester Edmund is the creative director of Seven 0 Nine Supply Co., a clothing business based in St. John's. The local area code is front and centre in Edmund's designs, and his adopted home is at the heart of the brand he's trying to build.
"I feel like when people associate with the brand, when they wear the clothes, they're able to feel that it's a piece of Newfoundland," Edmund said.
"It's something that originated in Newfoundland that involves community, music, that involves a lifestyle in the province."
'A passion for fashion'
Edmund was born in Nigeria and came to St. John's to study economics and statistics at Memorial University. But while he spent his days poring over numbers and equations, he spent his nights dreaming up new clothing looks and designs.
"I've always had a passion for fashion," he said. "I've always loved clothing, watching fashion shows and whatnot."
Edmund kept an eye on local designers and clothing companies. After a few years at MUN, he said he saw an opportunity to break into the business himself.
"During my third year, a friend of mine at the time, we identified the fact that there was a gap in the streetwear brand in the province," he said.
"So we decided to take the bold step and start a clothing brand, back when I was in school."
Representing the province
Though still a newcomer, Edmund wanted his brand to represent Newfoundland and Labrador — and the 709 area code came to mind.
Edmund and his friend sketched some designs, then printed some T-shirt and sweaters. Once the pair and their friends started wearing the clothing on campus, people began noticing the logo and asking about the brand.
"People walk up to you and be like, good luck! That's really nice, I love the design!" said Edmund.
"All that stuff keeps you going, and you just want to continue doing something that people are happy for."
Despite the attention his early looks received, Edmund put fashion on the back burner in order to finish his degree. Now that he's done school, and he's trying to design the next phase of his life — a life he wants to continue in the province.
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"I've been here over seven years, I know a lot of places, I've been across the province, visited a lot of historic sites," he said.
"And it's become like a second home to me."
New collection, same vision
Edmund is about to give his fashion dreams a second chance. He came up with a fresh look for the brand, spent some cash on printing, and now has a new clothing collection ready to launch.
On a chilly afternoon in downtown St. John's, Edmund gathered a group of models together for a fashion shoot. With a graffiti wall for a backdrop, the vibe is hip and urban, while the prominent 709 logo gives the garments a distinctly local touch.
"It's a good style for the community, kind of like support the place, the island," said model Clinton Collins.
"I think it's really cool. They're killing it, the way they brand themselves," agreed model Katie White. "It's really professional, and also just laid back."
Edmund gives the models and photographer some direction, but mostly hangs back and lets his designs speak for themselves. He knows that fashion isn't an easy business, and that building a new life in a new province has its challenges as well.
But he also knows he's come a long way, from Nigeria to the 709. Seeing his designs on the streets of the place that inspired them, things look too good to Edmund to look back.
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"It's a thing of beauty, a thing of joy, the fact that they like it and a lot of them have been giving compliments on it," he said.
"It just makes me happy and keeps me motivated."