7 Sep 2018

Elias Riadi from PAQ Talks Diversity and Authenticity

You might have heard of PAQ, four guys who created a youtube channel that is the equivalent of ‘Top Gear’ but for the streetwear scene and the culture surrounding it. Prior to the Bread & Butter preview event in Berlin, we had the pleasure to sit back and chat with Elias Riadi about starting PAQ, fashion, diversity and authenticity.

Elias is one of the PAQ founders and was part of the panel talk at the Bread && Butter preview event. A fashion festival Zalando started 3 years ago, aiming to fuse fashion, music and culture in an entertaining and authentic way. Think of it as a jam-packed “see now, buy now” party with the best DJ’s and artists. The panel was also very special, it was a mix of 5 creative geniuses with different backgrounds and a story to tell. You had Jazzelle Zanaughtti also known as Uglyworldwide on Instagram, hip-hop artist Kodie Shane, Marc Goehring from 032c and our guy Elias Riadi from PAQ.

Tell us about your beginnings?

Basically, when I was a young guy I used to watch TV-shows about cars like Top Gear. However, you didn’t have something that was entertaining fashion. While growing up, looking up these things was kind of uncomfortable because there was none. I remember wondering why isn’t there nothing for young people revolving around fashion to kick back and relax. There was always a lack.

First of all, Dexter Black and Shaquille Keith used to street dance together back in the days. I met Danny Lomas, who was living up north, in London. Shaq and I actually met at an event and where he introduced me to Dexter. From there on we started chilling and then one day all of us boys got in a room together to come up with new ideas about what young people really want to see. Or what do we want to see that’s not offered to us. Our research always led us to fashion. Because when you look at the long queues and streets being shut down for a sneaker release, you realize there’s such a demand. But no one ever offered something of that scale so we thought let’s do something fashion related. We went on and filmed our first episode and the second one outdoors. Showed it to people, magazines, editors, etc. We released it and the rest of it is history.

Besides fashion what inspired you guys? Was personal growth also a key element?

All of them points actually. The personal stuff, as well as fashion, inspired us to start PAQ.

The most amazing thing about what we’re doing is that when I was growing up I needed someone like myself and the other guys. I needed someone I could relate to, feel comfortable with that wouldn’t look down on me because I wear nice clothes. Another reason why we created PAQ was to take a light-hearted approach into fashion and make young people realize that you don’t need to petty someone about what they’re wearing. At the end of the day it’s just clothing (a piece of fabric), don’t take it so seriously. You really don’t need to disregard someone because of their appearance.

Elias Riadi from PAQ Talks about Diversity & Authenticity

You guys have created a lot of content on youtube and gained a huge following. Congrats to that! However, how do you keep innovating in such a saturated market?

Authenticity is the most important thing. We’re not trying to be someone else, we’re just trying to be ourselves. At the end of the day, what triggers people the most is authenticity. Again, we don’t want to copy. That’s why we put four personalities with different styles in the show because we want at least one person to find someone of the PAQ to connect with. A lot of people, in fashion especially, just take. They take from the working class culture. You can take inspiration from something as long as you stay true to yourself.

Our key values within the show are ourselves and you can’t copy ourselves.

How has diversity within PAQ helped the group forward?

I’m half Moroccan and half Cyprian, Shaq is Trinidadian, Danny is from East Yorkshire, Dexter is Jamaican. This diversity has helped us in every single aspect. All of us have something different to offer. Being with the guys just makes you learn so much about everything. When I first met Danny, we were on opposite sides of the spectrum. He was wearing tight suit trousers and a polo. I never thought I would connect with him. But it turns out that Danny was that one friend I never knew I needed until I met him. I think all of us being different and connecting together is a perfect match.

If you look at the outfit videos the outcome is always diverse. It’s not just one person who can reflect on my style. However, you have four different avenues to appreciate and understand. I’d say that diversity is everything for us. Also, it allows us to open up to the world.

Is that why Bread && Butter by Zalando was a match?

The inclusivity of the Bread && Butter event by Zalando goes hand in hand with our ethos. It’s an event everyone can go to. Bread && Butter offers that 360 experience. It’s like with our show, you want to involve the masses, it’s not an exclusive club so anyone can enter. At Berlin fashion week you know that not everyone is welcome. But Bread && Butter is a platform where you can include a lot of people to join the experience. And that’s something we stand for, being inclusive towards everyone.

Elias Riadi from PAQ Talks about Diversity & Authenticity

Do you see yourself doing your own thing, aside from PAQ?

100%. Although we are a group, we have our four different strengths. Right now, we’re focusing on the show as much as possible. Nonetheless, you’re going to see us soon creating our own lane and I think that’s what makes PAQ stronger than ever. When you think of strong collectives like N.W.A. you had Eazy E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and so on. They all had their individual thing going on. That’s what you can expect from PAQ as well.

Is PAQ a hobby that became a full-time job?

When we first started the show we had to keep working on the side. Dexter was working at a supermarket, Danny in a retail store, Shaq in a shoe store, all while balancing university. Same goes for me, I also had a job in retail and I was modeling.

The show was a side project, but today it’s our main source of income and at the same time, we all have our own passion ourselves. Dexter loves music, then you got Shaq with his art, Danny wants to create his own check pattern and I’d like to do something in fashion. It’s nice to see how PAQ is allowing us to grow our platforms separately too.

Elias Riadi + Jazzelle Zanaughtti

What do you advise young creatives trying to create something of their own?

The best way to get your stuff known is being true to yourself and authenticity. Things have been done already so don’t try to replicate. From the start, we offered something that people haven’t seen yet. Though people might not like you at the start. We had people from publications or whatever that were quite snobby and looked down on us. Not everyone liked our concept, but we kept being true to ourselves. If you do so you’ll get to a point where they’ll have to mess with you. With time they’ll have to recognize your talent.


Check out Elias Riadi’s style updates on InstagramTwitter, and YouTube.

Photo credits: Zalando, Samuel Smelty, Tumblr

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