By Kenzel Williams
Despite living in different states, two friends are continuing their mission to push forward the cultural message of their brand, Abstract Supply Co.
What started off as a skateboarding group in Okinawa, Japan, Abstract Supply has evolved into a community and a celebration of Asian-American artists and military dependents.
The online store is currently run by college students Drake Presto and Mary Obsuna.
When Presto moved to Okinawa during middle school, he entered a completely new environment because it was a foreign country to him.
Presto and the other kids he met on the military base wanted an outlet that allowed them to explore the island, and after realizing they shared a similar interest in skateboarding, skateboarding group Abstract was born.
They decided on the name “Abstract” because the members come from different parts of the world, thus defining themselves as an “abstract” group of people.
The group created a YouTube channel to show off their skateboard tricks, and they gained a humble following of 500 subscribers and thousands of views.
Much like other military dependents, though, members of the group had to relocate to other parts of the world. To keep a connection: the group designed t-shirts as a way to remember the memories they had in Okinawa.
When Presto moved to California in high school, the company began to reach a larger community of military kids. Presto’s new friends in California heard about the market and Abstract’s presence grew.
“What it turned into was something that connected all military dependents, no matter where you lived,” Presto said.
The overall goal of Abstract changed from keeping the memories of Okinawa alive to connecting a community of military dependents and celebrating Asian-American artwork.
One way that Abstract has connected this community is by collaborating with Asian-American artists. Abstract has worked with artists like Mark Tez, Hana Codango and Mary Obsuna.
Obsuna was one of the first artists to collaborate with Abstract. At first, she was hesitant about collaborating. Being only 16 at the time, Obsuna was still learning about photography, but this allowed her to hone her skills.
“If it weren’t for Abstract, I wouldn’t be this passionate now about photography,” Obsuna said.
When Presto moved to California, Obsuna stayed in Okinawa. Since then, the two have not seen each other for three years.
Now, Presto attends Arizona State University while Obsuna studies at University of Texas at San Antonio. The distance hasn’t stopped them from continuing to work on Abstract, though.
Despite living almost 1,000 miles away from each other, Presto contributes much of the duo’s success to social media. Their online following has allowed them to continue the clothing store, despite this great distance.
Abstract is currently in its final season and will soon be ending, but they have big goals for this last run.
“Our goal for this last season is to bring everything back together and go back to our roots,” Presto said.
Although the two don’t live in Okinawa anymore, perhaps the original goal of the company is the ending goal: to keep the memories of the island alive.
Both Presto and Obsuna place elements of Okinawa and Japan into their designs as a tribute to the place they once called home.
Abstract Supply Co. features minimalistic designs and subdued colors. Simple snapshots of convenience stores, buildings, Ferris wheels and nature capture the peace and bliss of living on the island.
“I’m trying to share Okinawa through my eyes,” Obsuna said. “Through Abstract, those are my literal eyes.”
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