When I was young there was always this search for the next big thing before it became a big thing. Everyone wanted what was poppin and I wanted to make something pop.
I was going to college at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) at the time. My childhood friends Torrey and Miguel were going to UMES (University of Maryland Eastern Shore). I had not been to their campus at this point but when I did my mind was blown. The culture was so much different, the styles were everywhere! It was like walking around in a fashion show.
I still hadn’t found the next big thing. Then Torrey was wearing a t-shirt that had a hand-painted bear (Bogey) on his shirt. What made the shirt really appealing was one is was art two it was created by hand and three did I mention it was art.
The reason this blew my mind was that the shirt embodied everything that I thought should be characteristically in the soul of a brand. It had the perfect mix of masculine and feminine energy. It was flat-out sweet.
I had never seen anything like it. There were local brands that popped up and of course I supported them but there was nothing like this. More importantly, was what you had to go through to obtain a shirt. There were brand ambassadors on campus. They were the only ones who knew where the secret lair was hidden. After I swore an oath which I broke on a technicality, I’ll explain later, you went to the shop.
The most interesting thing about the shop was that it was weird it was like a storage unit with a garage and front doors. There I met Marlon Clark. The coolest thing about the shop was that everyone had this sense of exclusivity since each piece was hand drawn. No one would ever have the same shirt, hat, headband, or in my case jacket. After spending a ton of time there, to be honest, I didn’t want to do anything else, I found out when he put out his new shirts. Fresh off the canvas so-to-speak. I had to be there.
I swore an oath not to take anyone there but I didn’t have a car at the time. And I was fiend out. Everyone swore an oath and everyone broke it. Ok, it wasn’t really an oath but it was supposed to be a secret. I think only brand ambassadors were supposed to hit the spot.
It was the epitome of combining products that individualize with experiences that connect. Marlon shared stories of the brand and its origins but really he just let the conversation go where it was going. It was almost as if he could care less whether anyone actually bought something as long as he got to create it. Plus there were pretty girls there. She wore a bear on her shirt, I wore a bear on my shirt, the colors of the shirts weren’t different neither were the characters. Now we have something in common, something to talk about.
Why am I telling you this?
The biggest thing was that the owner of the company was real. He was there in his shop every time I went there. He created the experiences. When a design came out and you got to be amongst the first to grab you a shirt, that was an experience. When you were just sitting around shooting the shit, that was an experience. When you had to know somebody that knows somebody that knows something about it, that was an experience.
The shirts are sweet but the experience is sweeter.
Also, It felt, in terms of fashion, that someone understood me. It was a visual outlet. It was akin to being able to sit outside in a waiting room for Basquiat to finish. It wasn’t about the t-shirt though. I realize it now but it’s about the soul of a brand. That soul emanates energy. That energy can be felt through each design.
One day I hope the soul of my brand reaches its hands out grabs people and pull them in. I want to generate a similar feeling.
In the end I don’t know what I’m saying accept I appreciate you.