Ladi Kazeem has built a 181,000 strong following on Depop, the social shopping platform that acts like the offspring of eBay and Instagram, thanks to his unfailing instinct for sourcing rare deadstock T‑shirts from the more chaotic corners of retail, from charity shops to old record stores worldwide.
Having previously amassed serious collections of Coca-Cola, The Simpsons and Space Jam merchandise, the Manchester-based Kazeem had already built a fierce reputation in collecting circles as a locator and collator of lost treasure. But it was his focus on vintage T‑shirts which has boosted his profile to new levels. When Depop staged their IRL shop in Selfridges last year, he was one of the small handful of super-sellers they hosted.
Quite simply, 30-year-old Kazeem has pieces that you’ve never seen before and nobody else can find. Think: a burnt orange garm with a French-speaking, skateboard-slamming Bart Simpson, a jet black 1989 Technique-era New Order band T‑shirt, and a super rare, single-stitch 1989 Keith Haring piece.
Good luck trying to buy one though – scroll through @ladskazeem and you’ll see “Sold” stamped across rows and rows of posts, with the likes of Kendall Jenner, Kanye West and 1975’s Matt Healy all having been seen wearing tees he’s unearthed and contributing to his current total of more than 2500 sales.
“I spend every hour of every day sourcing shirts. If I’m not scrolling and browsing on platforms like Depop, then I’m on the road hunting down old record shops or thrifting through endless piles of unwanted goods, trying to find some hidden gems,” explains the young entrepreneur. “I take my military sack out with me everyday and usually aim to find 80 – 100 t‑shirts per week.”
With credentials – and a work rate – like this, we thought it only right to ask the elite bedroom businessman to walk us through how he nabbed his five fave tees.
“I bought this piece off someone’s back whilst in Manchester, it’s one of the rarer original T‑shirts from 1996. I remember somehow spotting the front visual of Noel and Liam and then without realising stopping the bloke who was busy, (most likely doing a weekly shop) offering him £150 cash on the spot and a T‑shirt of his choice from the high street… thankfully he agreed. In America this happens quite regularly, I’ve heard plenty of stories like this. A lot of the rarest and most sought after T‑shirts are usually thrown away or donated, so they always end up in some of the most unusual places.”
“Over the years I’ve had many variations of this T‑shirt and although it’s super rare, I always seem to find one. I found this particular one in a souvenir shop in Berlin whilst visiting a friend. I literally popped in for a drink, as most of the souvenir shops in Europe are also convenience stores. I spotted a small rail of T‑shirts next to the till so quickly went through them and naturally the majority were all modern “Welcome To Berlin” t‑shirts, and then boom the most random original The Score T‑shirt just hanging there for five euros – I couldn’t believe my luck. I’d hazard a guess that on the current market it’s worth around £750.”
“A friend contacted me about this T‑shirt about a year ago. He was working for one of the vintage chains in London and he’d picked it off the shelf and stashed it away. It would have retailed there for around £18, so he messaged me and told me to make an offer. He wasn’t technically allowed to buy the T‑shirts, as all items needed to be on the shop floor a month before staff could purchase anything. So I had to go to London to pay £18 for the tee and then pay him £150. Not only is it super rare, but it’s pretty much unheard of these days to find a bootleg American rap T‑shirt out in the wild, in the UK. It ended up selling for around £550 and again on the current market is probably worth around £800 in the right hands.”
Nirvana Nevermind bootleg
“This T‑shirt was one of the centrepieces in the Japanese book HELLOH showcasing rare Kurt Cobain merchandise valued up to £1000. It was offered to me by a thrifter from Essex, who’s known for hitting up all the local Car Boot Sales and thrift markets in London. It’s the type of T‑shirt that I’ll probably never see in the flesh again and, naturally, it sold within seconds of me listing it. That’s what I love about these T‑shirts, you can almost track their timeline from the day it was purchased – probably around 1991 on Carnaby Street or Covent Garden, and then it probably spent the next 10 years in someone’s wardrobe. Then after that in the same person’s attic or loft, hidden away from the world, collecting dust… until one day that person decides to sell it at a Car Boot Sale for £5, not knowing it’s now worth 200x that.”
Smashing Pumpkins LS
“I found this one in Manchester for £15 and it’s up there, it definitely means the most to me. A few years ago I found myself in a position where T‑shirts were just getting harder and harder to find; the demand was there but I was struggling to find quality and everything was stagnating. I walked past my local record shop (in Manchester), Clampdown, which was a five-minute walk from my studio at the time and spotted some T‑shirts in the window, so I decided to have a quick browse but didn’t expect to find anything. Literally after 30 seconds of looking, I found the Holy Grail of band T‑shirts – all super rare, all unseen in years, right under my nose, and this T‑shirt was a part of that. Finding those tees not only kept me afloat when things were getting tough, but also changed my mindset when it comes to day-to-day hunting. It made me realise that these T‑shirts are everywhere, you’ve just got to be willing to look longer and harder than everyone else. And then look again.”
Find Ladi Kazeem at @ladskazeem on Depop