Inside Twin Cities designers Mermaids & Accolades' custom streetwear

Tony South and Darrell Thomas create zip-up shirts in quirky, graphic prints to match your personality.
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Tony South and Darrell Thomas create zip-up shirts in quirky, graphic prints to match your personality.
Tony South and Darrell Thomas are the designers behind Mermaids & Accolades.

Tony South and Darrell Thomas are the designers behind Mermaids & Accolades.

Minneapolis-based streetwear brand Mermaids & Accolades have changed how we don a button-up shirt.

During an era of trial and error and endless YouTube tutorials, brand cofounder Tony South came up with the design for the brand’s signature piece. The one-of-a-kind creations include a mandarin collar, uniquely patterned fabrics, and the closure is one simple zipper.

Mermaids & Accolades launched in 2013 after South's desire to produce more than just screen-printed clothing expanded to brushing up on the sewing skills that always seemed second nature to him since his 7th grade FACS class.

To promote his brand, the 27-year-old South has given shirts to Twin Cities musicians and friends, including Finding Novyon, Devon Reason, GainesFM and Mod Sun. 

“Novyon used to wear our stuff around and bring us backstage, then we met Mod Sun,” South said.

Minnesota-bred rapper Mod Sun and designer Tony South rocking Mermaids & Accolades zip-up shirts.

Minnesota-bred rapper Mod Sun and designer Tony South rocking Mermaids & Accolades zip-up shirts.

Meeting Mod Sun, led to connections with more national acts like Machine Gun Kelly and Blackbear. 

And South’s most recent gift to Blackbear gave way to his most-liked Instagram post – a paparazzi photo of actress Bella Thorne wearing a graphic flame shirt intended for Blackbear.

As momentum grew, South took on an apprentice last year. Now, Darrell Thomas, 23, is a co-designer for Mermaids & Accolades. GoMN sat down with South and Thomas and talked about their brand, inspirations, and how Bella Thorne slid into their DMs.

What inspires your creations?

Tony South: For me, it’s life, patterns, vibes, what I feel, how I see people that I hang around, pictures I see and art. Mostly, most of our customers inspire us. I mean they are the one’s that are texting us or messaging us like, “What do you think you can do with this?” And we’re like,"let me figure it out."

What does the custom aesthetic provide for clients?

Darrell Thomas: You don’t have to be scared to be yourself when you wear our shirts. It definitely allows you to be free and be creative, which is a strong point for us too. With our stuff you could definitely really express what you like. Like, “I like cats, I’m going to wear a cat shirt.”

Mermaids & Accolades customers can choose one, two or three patterns for their shirt.

Mermaids & Accolades customers can choose one, two or three patterns for their shirt.

How do you decide on which two or three patterned fabrics to pair together?

TS: Mostly we just freestyle. It all comes down to the patterns. It’s just however the pattern flows and how you vibe with it. If it’s a super dope fabric, we’re not just going to put a bar in the middle of it.

DT: Definitely harmony is the big thing here. The harmony of it.

Are there any challenges that come with contributing to the local fashion scene?

DT: It’s definitely a challenge. A lot of people feel like they got to kiss up to people to get on shows and that’s not our vibe at all. We just do what we do. Either you like us or you don’t, it’s as simple as that.

TS: For me, personally, everything just has to be genuine. It’s really hard for us to do a fashion show, because we have to come out of pocket and make five random shirts in random sizes that we don’t know if we can sell it after. Since everything is "one of one," we’re not really promoting our stuff for the next season.

What are some of your favorite parts of designing and sewing clothing?

TS: The love and making people happy. I love creating shirts for people that they would never get at an H&M or Forever 21. That’s what keeps me going and why we do it. We’re not here to be in New York Fashion Week shows. We do just fine just talking to normal people and being personable.

And the random DM from Bella Thorne after paparazzi caught her wearing one of your shirts probably wasn’t so bad either.

TS: One of my friends texted me, “Her shirt looks familiar, isn’t that the one you gave Blackbear?” I was like "Yeah, they were together," and I was like "Oh my God!" Then she DMed us to ask for more shirts, which was pretty nuts.

DT: Yeah that was crazy. TMZ got it, DailyMail took a picture of it, it blew up, and this man (South) got like 8,000 likes on his photo.

What are your long-term goals for your brand?

TS: Our dream I would say is just to open up our own store, a little boutique. It will have a bunch of fabrics on the wall. Just a really cool, chill center where like you can walk in and it will take us like an hour to make a shirt, and you pick out what you want – kind of like a tattoo shop.

While there is no physical shop yet, South and Thomas recommend you follow both their personal Instagram accounts and the Mermaids & Accolades page and turn on post notifications so you know when a new pattern is up for grabs. 

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