Kwame “Hass” Thimbiano immigrated from Ghana to the United States with dreams of becoming an artist, but never did he imagine owning his own business — a custom apron company — whose product line would be worn by chefs worldwide.
And recently, the Bronxite was recognized for his artwork.
On July 7, he was announced as one of nine people selected to be the face of Pepsi’s newly launched summer campaign, “Pepsi. It’s a New York Thing.” Each person was also the recipient of $10,000.
“I’m definitely grateful to Pepsi,” Thimbiano told the Bronx Times. “I thank Pepsi for coming down here to the ghetto to find people like myself.”
Thimbiano, 37, recalled when growing up in Ghana his family did not have much, so he was always crafting and creating things. In fact, he sometimes even made items out of soccer balls. As a youngster, he fell in love with colors and hoped one day he would be an artist.
“Colors have always been something I’m passionate about,” he said.
At age 8, he immigrated to Harlem, where he spent most of his life until relocating to Mount Hope five years ago.
It was around that time when his career really took off. He created a colorful apron, called Danyaki, which in his native language means warrior and began selling them to his colleagues at the Red Rooster in Harlem, where he had worked as a waiter since 2012.
As more of its staff wore the colorful aprons, famous chef Marcus Samuelsson, who owns 31 restaurants including Red Rooster, took notice. He then met with Thimbiano and helped connect him with other chefs and food service workers who purchased the aprons.
From there his company, Danyaki Art & Design, was born. Soon not only was the Danyaki donned by chefs, but people like Oprah, Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert and the late Mayor David Dinkins.
Thimbiano said that he never imagined the apron would have such an impact. Today, he sells them throughout the world.
“I had no idea it was going to take this trajectory,” he added.
Although his work is not on display in places high-end locales like Soho, Thimbiano appreciates Pepsi for exposing the vibrant art scene of The Bronx. “We’re not in galleries, but if you come down to the ghetto there’s a lot of amazing stuff down here,” he said.
Pepsi is also inviting New Yorkers to nominate six more locals to get their own shot at $10,000 in support of their passion, for a total of $150,000 going to the city’s own.
Fans can nominate someone they know by going on social media, using both the hashtags #PepsiNYCLocal and #Contest and tagging @Pepsi, and telling everyone why the nominee should be the next local that Pepsi honors. To learn more and for official rules, visit www.PepsiItsANewYorkThing.com.
Reach Jason Cohen at [email protected] or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bxtimes and Facebook @bxtimes.