Check the Label: Fourth Is King Founder Jay Byrnes Created The Brand He Wanted to Work For
It's the first full day of daylight savings, the sun has just dropped in Chicago, and streetwear entrepreneur James "Jay" Byrnes IV is on the phone.
His voice is ebullient, his tone evidence of the light at the end of the tunnel after a long cold, winter. His house has been stripped to the studs, freshly applied foam insulation keeping out the not-quite-spring air as he tells Green Label about his five year-old clothing brand Fourth is King.
"You know, I was a graphic designer and an artist and I was looking for the cool jobs like everybody," Byrnes says. "You want to want to work for Nike or Burton and you hit them up as a freelancer and you're not getting many responses … And if I'm not getting responses from people I might as well start doing it myself."
Byrnes’ combination of DIY attitude and clean design aesthetic has propelled FIK from tiny t-shirt label to a full line of sweatshirts, skate decks, and accessories which have made Byrnes and his brand one of the hot indies in the burgeoning Chicago streetwear scene.
"One of the biggest challenges is how are we going to connect with our audience," says Byrnes of his online only store. "We've been doing a lot of pop-up shops in Chicago where we'll either work with a gallery or a restaurant or some kind of vacant space and just throw a party ... I really love being able to craft an experience."
From working with mash-up mavericks The Hood Internet on the artwork to 2014's Mixtape Vol. 8 to creating the Artist Series with fellow Chicagoan designer Matthew Hoffman, Fourth Is King have developed a reputation for quality products and effortless style.
"For us collaboration is a really important part. It's great to be working with other creative people," says Byrnes. "The things that we do, we're fans of. Lapel pins? We love 'em. I collect them, have a bunch on my messenger bag that I wear to work and it's something that I really wanted to do for myself, for the brand."
"Fourth Is King is just that clean piece of paper that I can just go wild on. Whatever I could dream, this is my opportunity."
Image: Fourth Is King