Tell us who you are and what you do!
Growing up on the Southside of Chicago, it wasn’t hard dreaming of a better life. Surrounded by poverty, drugs, and gang violence, you had to have a plan B for how you would survive and go beyond the statistic that is set up for the Black man and woman in America. My mother and father raised me knowing that the world is ugly and that one day, I would seek the truth behind the copious amount of fabrications that society wants us to believe. Being the middle child in a family of 13, I was always the weird sibling, wanting attention.
The only time I received praise in our house is when I drew portraits for my siblings, or engendered my own versions of toys. Boy did I have an imagination. As time progressed, I became fond of fashion due to my parents having a subscription to JET Magazine. I would study the outfits and the people in them. The next thing you know, I had a wardrobe change. My baggy pants turned into slim fit slacks, and my tall tee’s transitioned to button downs. Time passed and now I am in college. One of the biggest businesses in America, some would think. I was getting ready for a chemistry final and had to prepare for a wedding the week after. I complained how I didn’t have any clothes and didn’t want to buy anything. My significant other gave me a great idea, which was to create something. After receiving her message, I purchased a simple sewing machine, studied its features and created my very first bow tie. Spring Break finally came to an end and I was back in Chemistry.
Due to the bow tie being a hit, I wanted to capitalize off of it. The hardest task to many while starting a business, is coming up with a name. So, while going over the periodic table, I came across the element, Titanium. It is a strong and lustrous metal. Hence, the birth of 22nd Element Accessories. My goal is to give fashion moguls a strong and lustrous look for an affordable price. To prolong my progress, I began to go to Goodwill and purchase clothing to study them. I didn’t want to spend money on fashion school, so I taught myself. Once I became comfortable with creating apparel, I changed the name from 22nd Element Accessories, to Clothing and Accessories. With hard work, faith, and patience, 2 years later, 22nd Element is still going strong!
What is the inspiration for your work?
Growing up, I would always see people expressing themselves with color, hairstyles, ect. I am simply paying homage to the everyday people of the world. Those who are daring and have a clear idea of who they are. Far too often, the media and members of society feel as though you have to be a certain size, and look a certain way to be considered beautiful. In due time, looks will fade, but individuality will stay with you forever. Here at 22nd Element Clothing and Accessories, we care about how you feel when you put on a custom piece from our collection.
What would you say to prevent an upcoming artist from making the same mistakes you have made?
To the dreamers and goal-diggers, the first rule is to be patient. Not everyone can make millions over night as soon as they start their business. I like it better that way because I would want a story behind my success. The most important lesson that I have learned about my experience in the fashion world is that you need to forgive those who said you wouldn’t make it and prove their accusations wrong. When I first started, the closest people to me had laughed at me, told me what I was doing was a waste of time, and also told me that I wasn’t special enough to make it. Two years later, I have been in a copious amount of magazines and fashion shows, and I thank God and my parents for keeping me grounded.
As a Black designer, an obstacle that I face is scrutiny from those not of the African American race. I have been told that I am not for the styling of all beings and that I only promote black models. I am simply a product of my environment and I support who supports me. I don’t discriminate when it comes to uplifting a community. From the beginning, I have been all about diversity and will always be.