The eclectic creativity of Foolish 1999’s latest spring and summer 2021 releases—including a graphic white T-shirt with a red stencil of two cartoons embracing, commemorating the brand’s two-year anniversary—featured on its Instagram make it easy to forget the clothing brand is only headed by two brothers who are still undergraduates.
Jason Lim, CSOM ’22, and his twin brother Ryan Lim, a senior at New York University, have managed to balance developing Foolish 1999 from the ground up with their academic and social lives. The brothers have pulled inspiration from major cult-followed fashion lines such as Supreme, Wacko Maria, and Born X Raised to shape their own streetwear brand.
Foolish 1999 can be hard to describe, but one word has repeatedly come up between the two brothers: streetwear. With its old-school script logos, beanie and brim hats, and corduroy fabrics, it’s clear Foolish is reviving another era of fashion. Foolish pulls inspiration from ’90s style streetwear, with its baggy denim jeans and oversized graphic T-shirts, but Ryan said the brand is also a reflection of the brothers’ lives.
Jason first worked at Sizerun Supply, a men’s clothing store that features street-style apparel and brands including Supreme. When Jason and Ryan had the idea to jumpstart their own brand, they turned to the clothing store for help, making the store’s Brookline, Mass. location the setting for their first pop-up store. For a few years, Jason and Ryan had contemplated creating a clothing brand of their own, before finally going forward with the idea after Ryan came up with its potential name: Foolish.
“Ryan tells me: ‘Foolish,’ it’s catchy, it’s simple, it’s one word,” Jason said. “And we kind of just ran with it. When I heard it, I was like, ‘We got to do this, like right now.’”
Not long after putting out their first collection in 2019, Jason and Ryan’s merchandise sold out at their first pop-up. To promote their collections, Jason and Ryan turned to their friends to help model the apparel on Foolish’s Instagram. Of the collections they’ve produced, the brothers said the custom-made jewelry line they created with Popular Jewelry in New York City’s Chinatown, which was exclusively for friends and family, was their clear favorite.
As Foolish has grown, the brothers have learned how to best divide their responsibilities with the brand.
“We get along really well, and I think we see, like, in terms of design and what we put out very similarly,” Jason said. “[Ryan] does most of the graphic work, and every day he’ll send me a graphic and ask if I think it’s sick, and I’ll most likely agree.”
Over the years, the brothers’ roles within Foolish have become more fleshed out and concrete. While Ryan does most of the mocking up of the garments, Jason is left to do post-production marketing, lookbooks, and photography. They split the responsibilities for shipping, and will help one another out whenever needed.
The brothers said Foolish 1999 has big plans for the future. As Jason starts his final year at Boston College, Foolish is looking to drop its fall and winter line during November.
“Without giving too much away, what we’re doing now is definitely elevated—colors, quality, graphics,” Jason said. “I can’t even say too much because we’re still designing.”
Kai Takayama, a Boston University junior and close friend to the brothers, said that Jason and Ryan are still evolving Foolish 1999, but that the brand stands out among the street fashion sphere.
“There’s nothing out there that is super similar,” Takayama said. “[Foolish] is more street-esque.”
Jason and Ryan said Foolish 1999 also changed through the pandemic as a response to the “Stop Asian Hate” movement that arose from the anti-Asian sentiment surrounding COVID-19. Jason said the movement had an influence on how he viewed his clothing designs.
In March, the brothers released T-shirts depicting Asian warriors that symbolized Jason and Ryan’s Asian heritage and empowerment. For each sale they made on their recent spring summer collection, Foolish 1999 donated 100 percent of its profits to Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an organization that provides legal services to the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.
Jason, who is Asian American, said that he recognizes the majority of clothing brands are white-owned but the point of Foolish is to have a story, and he sees his personal story reflected in Foolish.
Allison Pyo, Lynch ’22 and one of Jason’s friends, raved about the items she has from Foolish.
Jason and Ryan’s relationships with their friends—who can be seen on Foolish’s Instagram and website modeling the brothers’ latest T-shirt designs and hoodies—are essential to promoting the brand, Jason said.
“[Jason’s] enigmatic and definitely cares very much about his friends,” Pyo said. “His dream is to make a store and have all of us over.”
Jason said he and Ryan are united in their creative mission: making the “hardest stuff possible, the coolest stuff possible.”
Photo Courtesy of Ikram Ali / Heights Editor