How to Raise a Million Bucks for Charity with T-Shirts, According to Brain Dead’s Kyle Ng

So I hit up our friend Dev Hynes [of Blood Orange] and was like, “Yo, are you cool to do this?” And he’s like, “Fuck yeah.” We made it a T-shirt in the next two hours and we launched it the next day. There’s something about that energy of just being able to create stuff very fluidly with your friends that I think is so important.

People felt that energy—it was almost a subconscious energy, and you could tell it wasn’t coming from some corporate campaign or structure. Right now, the people are really the strength and if you support the people they’ll support you.

What’s the story behind the design?
We were like, “What should it say?” He gave us the idea for the Blood Orange graphic, but then the main thing was the back, and we weren’t really sure what to put there. And then his girlfriend [and actress] Tessa Thompson was like, put this on the back and he did. I didn’t know that until he posted thanking Tessa Thompson for the fine words. But I was like, “Fuck, that’s even tighter.”

Were you surprised by the amount of money it raised?
The night before it went up I thought we were going to make like $40,000, and it was going to be so tight. That’s how much he would usually raise: $40,000 to $100,000, which is awesome. But somehow it got so crazy. The final exact number was $480,000. But with all the charity stuff we should probably be able to hit a million dollars of pure donation.

With all the other items?
Yeah, there’s a collaboration with Fontaine Cards. I just got a text they’re probably at like $40,000 to $50,000 in the first two hours. The power of the people speaking up and supporting is really incredible.

What made you want to post something to Instagram, highlighting what you guys did versus what Supreme was able to do?
Well, I think it wasn’t really a diss to Supreme, to be honest. It was more about, look at what we can do when this company with a billion-dollar backing did the same thing. It’s the people who do that. All I can say is I’m really happy that the people who support us got us to the same level as of the top brands in our market.

Blood Orange Brain Dead We Are One T-ShirtCourtesy of Brain Dead

I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but it sounds like what’s frustrating about what’s happening with these brands is that when they collaborate with you, they’re benefiting off of streetwear culture, which is built off black culture. But then when you ask them to step up, it becomes this bigger conversation. Is that right?
Totally. To me, it’s pretty mindless because it’s not like we needed a huge campaign. It’s just, like, let’s help out when we can. But at the end of the day, a lot of these brands I reached out to just did exactly what we did a week later. And you’re just like, “That was your big plan?”

And that’s when I just got frustrated. I think there’s such a lack of sincerity for the people, and not just towards the black community. I think the black community is the linchpin of what’s happening. People are selling ethics and communities and culture, and they don’t build any real culture into their company.

If you see someone in your neighborhood being attacked, you help out, because that’s your neighbor. You help paint your neighbor’s place. You do all these things to help your neighbor. I don’t have to think about it in my house, and figure out the best paint to buy the neighbor. I’m out there.

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