As with most startup stories, designer Farrukh Ershad can pinpoint the particular conversation that birthed the idea for 5ivepillars, his Muslim streetwear brand. It was back in 2012, while he was hanging out in his cousin’s room, that a brainstorming session eventually led to an actual business venture, driven by a religious message.
“We were discussing different ways to give back to our community, in both conventional and unconventional ways,” he tells Refinery29. From there, he launched the first T-shirt of the collection: “I (crescent and heart) Islam,” a twist on the classic “I heart NY” tee. The effort was both successful and charitable, donating profits from more than 100 shirt sales to Helping Hand for Relief and Development, a global humanitarian organization that responds to human suffering after emergency situations. Since then, the brand has expanded and evolved, but continues to lead with a focus on philanthropy. And while its notion of creating streetwear-centric pieces with a religious sentiment may seem counterintuitive, Ershad maintains an unapologetic attitude toward designing clothing that has meaning beyond the literal pieces.
Ahead, we spoke to the designer, who’s inspired by both God and Kith, about how the two have played a role in his own upbringing, how he continues to push the envelope of style, and how he deals with the inevitable criticism that comes with making a fashion statement.