Corey Gilkey is an entrepreneur to his core, with all the battle scars to prove it. While competing in college as a baseball player, his dreams of seeing the big leagues vanished after learning that being Black and drafted were two things that just didn't mix. Corey returned to the southside of Chicago and realized he needed to pave his own way. What he has built since then is one of the most influential brands in urban culture, Leaders1354.
Corey and his friends decided to try their hand at retail. They opened a store (Krew) and became the premier shop to get all the best gear. They rose to national prominence after visiting Vegas for the Magic Fashion Trade Show, gaining the interest of every vendor. They wrote the rules for what was hot in streetwear and decided to only carry black designers in their Chicago store.
In 2002, Leaders1354 was born. The brand that would solidify Corey’s legacy as one of the godfather’s of streetwear and every well-known Chicago artist's big brother. Creating a space for young artists such as Hebru Brantley and Chance the Rapper to flourish.
Leaders was one of the first brands built around mission. He encouraged young people to be creative, be authenticate themselves, and lead. Leaders grew into one of the most hype American streetwear brands, growing fans from all around the world, building collaborations with the likes of Billionaire Boys Club (BBC).
"Our relationships are everything. We developed strong relationships with small brands from the beginning and maintained them as they blew up. Brands like 10 Deep, BBC, The Hundreds, and Akomplice, remember me going to their booth and supporting them when they were nothing and no one was there. So when they became $20 to $50 million dollar brands they never forgot us. We paid our dues." This chapter shows the connections and lineage of Chicago brands throughout all of streetwear.
In this chapter, we will hear from creators & designers that influence the culture of Chicago. They will share their relationship with the Leaders brand and how it influenced them in their own creativity and journey. Also, depicted is the controversy of competition and lack of love shown in Chicago between brands.