Bailey McKeon ’22
This past week, the Tripod sat down with Abel Ngala ’22, a studio arts major, who built his own clothing brand called “No Cain.”
TRIPOD: How did “No Cain” come about and what do you do?
NGALA: In a nutshell, “No Cain” is a clothing company. I make and sell clothes. I’ve been ambitious to make other products but at the moment I just make and sell clothes. I started during my freshman year at Trinity, which happened at a good moment. When I came to Trinity, I was super uncomfortable and “No Cain” was one of the things I started as an outlet for me. It was a form of creative, artistic expression that allowed me to connect with how I was feeling. That’s pretty much the origin story and since then it’s been a way for me to practice my craft, become a better artist, designer, entrepreneur, and businessman.
TRIPOD: Do you design everything yourself?
NGALA: Yeah, I do. I actually just made a collegiate varsity arch tee. I typically work with the type and the colors for all of the visuals. I also have a printer who actually screen prints the designs, so I work closely with them to make sure we have things printed the way I envisioned it.
TRIPOD: What motivated you to start this clothing brand?
NGALA: I’m from New York. One thing you notice about New York is people are always dressing up, they’re always looking good. Even just going to the grocery store, they’re going to put an outfit on. I think that stylish tilt has always been in me just growing up and spending the first twenty years of my life there. There’s also another company called Madbury Club. They’re pretty much doing exactly what I want to, which is working in something other than a 9 to 5 job, and they get to work with all of these cool companies and create all of these cool things. That’s something I really looked up to my freshman year, so they were definitely a big part of making me want to do this for myself.
TRIPOD: What was your original vision? How has this played out so far?
NGALA: The first thing I ever made was sweatpants, and I thought if I could sell a few of those it would be cool. But it’s kind of like a gateway drug though because once you sell three you want to try out some more designs. Now it’s two years later and it’s obviously grown since that point but originally I just thought it would be cool to see some people on campus wearing these sweatpants I made.
TRIPOD: How has your experience at Trinity shaped your work?
NGALA: Trinity has definitely been a big part of my work. Literally, I use the phrase “Camp Trin” quite a bit. Peers, friends, professors, and experiences on campus and in Hartford are all a part of our coming-of-age story. We are all growing up, essentially, and figuring out how to grow up. Having that experience happen at Trinity means Trinity is just going to be in my heart forever.
TRIPOD: When working, what is your daily inspiration?
NGALA: School has been a very big inspiration for me. I love college. I think it’s so much fun. I think there’s so many great things in college that are overlooked or underappreciated. Professors are top-tier and peers are really great to be around. We get to have this experience of growing up in a controlled environment, and there’s a lot of beauty in that. I definitely do get a lot of inspiration from classes, especially discussions I have. I took a J-term class called Possible Earths that was about the environmental history of the Earth. I had no grounding in that subject–I’m a studio arts major–but one class the professor said this one phrase: “How can we be better ancestors?” It was a way of framing climate change that I had never heard before. It stuck with me and I started thinking of ideas about how that phrase could be used on a shirt, so I’m working on that right now. That’s just one example of being in class and having conversation with peers and professors. There’s a lot of inspiring thoughts exchanged there.
TRIPOD: What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned from your experiences creating “No Cain”?
NGALA: I didn’t know if I was as good as somebody who had been doing this for their entire life. I realized, though, that just from living, just from living my life, I do have experiences and I do have things that I bring to the table. Don’t count your experiences out and what you know out.