Members of the Hip Hop community have always had a strong devotion to the place of their formative years. Whether it’s KRS-One shouting out the “South Bronx”, 2PAC & Dr. Dre expressing their “California Love”, or Ludacris showing his southern hospitality with “Welcome To Atlanta”, Hip Hoppers savor the chance to honor their hometowns. Thanks to New York’s Dean Bellas, people across the country can now represent their cities and towns through his streetwear fashion brand Rep The Code.
After just two years in existence, Rep The Code’s area code featured snapbacks and tees have gotten co-signs from Justin Timberlake, 50 Cent, Wyclef Jean, Machine Gun Kelly, Royce Da 5’9″, and Young Guru. Just last month, the RTC hoodie was included in the MTV Video Music Awards’ official “swag bag” handed out at the event. Despite the well-received hype, Bellas does not want his customers to just wear his apparel, but he also looks to empower them to pursue their passions with RTC’s Creative Arts Platform. Every month his site highlights different underground visual artists and musicians.
DZI: The Voice now gets the opportunity to put a spotlight on Bellas and his fashion brand. The Voice chatted with the NINE ONE FOUR resident to discuss Rep The Code, its celebrity fans, and his advice for other aspiring designers in this exclusive interview.
Yohance Kyles: When did you first discover your voice as an artist?
Dean Bellas: When I was 17, I began to DJ at a few local bars in my hometown, and my hard work was well received. It was this experience that gave me the confidence to dedicate myself to being successful in the arts.
YK: Why did you decide to express yourself through fashion?
DB: I wanted to connect with people in many demographics, and whether people admit it or not, everyone is into fashion in some form or another. Plus, I sold a few thousand dorm pride T-Shirts in college and loved the feeling of seeing people enjoy my designs around campus.
YK: What would you say is the message of your Rep the Code apparel?
DB: Rep The Code is about Representing for your community in bold fashion. Our “Code” apparel Represents every community in the nation, and our “Inspire” snapbacks Represent the attitudes that lead to success in your community. It’s a tough streetwear look, backed by a positive message.
YK: How did you get involved with the MTV Videos Music Awards?
DB: I was fortunate to establish relationships with some amazing people at MTV, after many e-mails and knocking on many doors. They have shown me so much love and support, and I would like to thank them.
YK: You’ve had high-profile entertainers like Justin Timberlake, 50 Cent, Wyclef Jean, Machine Gun Kelly, and Royce Da 5’9 rep your brand. How did you connect with these artists?
DB: Last October, I snuck into a Jay Z concert at the Barclays Center. While there, I linked up with a few people who have been an inspiration to me and helped me get the gear to many artists. Also, a few opportunities arose by being in the right place at the right time, and I met people who recognized the hustle, and they have shown me much love.
YK: If you could pick any other three performers you’d like to see wearing Rep The Code who you choose?
DB: Jay Z, Eminem, Diddy
YK: Why did you decide to incorporate the Creative Arts Platforms into your brand?
DB: I had the opportunity to meet many global icons in the creative arts up close and personal, and it was very inspiring for me. As soon as I gave them my gear to Represent for their community, they put it on right away. They had worked so hard to get to their high level of success and were eager to Represent where it all started for them.
This inspired me to provide a platform for young aspiring artists to replicate these icon’s successes, showcased on a local level. Communities rally around their leaders in the creative arts, and through these platforms, I want to bring more local leaders to national light, grow communal pride nationwide, and bring to life what it truly means to Represent.
YK: What was it about Fliiboy and Kanary that made you select them to be the initial performers for your Local Musician Platform?
DB: I met Fliiboy through a mutual friend. We spoke for hours about music and Hip Hop, and what it meant to him to Represent the 718. His passion was evident, and it’s clear he is going to be successful. Originally it was going to be two artists from the 718, but after meeting Kanary through Fliiboy, it was a no brainer to feature her. She was so graceful, but yet had a true Hip Hop vibe, Representing the 310.
YK: Rep the Code heavily uses the Internet and social media to promote. Do you think traditional methods of promotion like print advertising is still necessary in the Digital Age?
DB: I think any promotion can help, but nowadays it’s best to focus on digital. Although a good-looking flyer can be helpful to have on you at all times.
YK: You’re clearly a big fan of music. What projects got the most play from you this summer?
DB: Justin Timberlake’s [The 20/20 Experience] album, Jay Z’s [Magna Carta Holy Grail] album, Wyclef’s mixtape April Showers, and Royce’s song “Fast Lane” were on blast 24/7.
YK: If a movie was being made about Rep The Code who would you like to see play you in the film?
DB: Joseph Gordon-Levitt for sure. I feel like his passion shines through in all his roles.
YK: What advice would you give someone who is interested in starting their own line of apparel?
DB: Do it because you are passionate about it, not to make a quick buck. Ask yourself if you are willing to dedicate 24/7 to being successful. It’s not going to be easy. Don’t worry about what resources you don’t have. Go meet people and hustle your ass off.
YK: What’s next for Dean Bellas and Rep The Code?
DB: Concerning products we are going to focus on more collaborations with local visual artists. Concerning our platforms for the Creative Arts, a project is in the works to amplify our current message on a much larger stage.
For more info about Rep The Code click it
To connect with Rep The Code follow the brand on Twitter @RepTheCode
Check out the Rep The Code branding video “Do You Rep?”: