Brims Co-Founder, Archie Clay III
There’s something special about a well-dressed man who pays attention to detail.
In an oversaturated retail market where many aspiring designers simply screen print t-shirts or stitch a logo on a baseball cap, Archie Clay III and Tajh Crutch have made a national name for themselves with their high-end fedora line, WearBrims. Made from premium rabbit fur and wool, Archie and Tajh have been strategically positioning BRIMS as an urban yet luxury, statement piece.
BRIMS first caught my attention via Instagram. The way the IG algorithm is set up, the “Explore” tab seems to know that I typically “Like” photos of gorgeous brown women and well-dressed men. In seeing the professional photos on the BRIMS page, one could easily assume that Archie and Tajh were modeling someone else’s product but putting themselves at the forefront of BRIMS was an integral component of their initial marketing strategy. “…We put ourselves out there first so we could get our customers to understand our passion behind the product so that they could really buy into our company” shared Archie during our interview at his co-work space in Atlanta.
As an executive for a major retailer by day, when Archie first thought of starting a line of fedora hats, he found that his fellow Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brother, Tajh, had a similar idea in mind. The pair wasted no time putting action behind their ambitions and they were able to create the first sample within three weeks.
Since it’s founding in 2016, BRIMS has garnered national press recognition as well as the coveted celebrity co-sign with renown singer/songwriter Chris Classic and actor Lance Gross donning their hats. In the midst of his 9-to-5, his clothing brand and moonlighting as a socialite and party promoter in Atlanta, Archie penciled our interview into his busy schedule.
The Tuskegee University alum and “Hat Hustler” shares why 26 was a defining age for him, the importance of being proactive with your ideas and how he developed the necessary swag to be at the forefront of the brand.
Zon D’Amour: Many people associate black men’s style with more streetwear versus “Dapper Dan”/GQ. When speaking with potential investors or retailers, has it been hard to position WearBrims as one of luxury and affluence?
As black men, do you believe that you have to work harder to challenge stereotypes and make a name for yourselves in the fashion industry?
Archie Clay: Yes! I think the fashion game is all about…not necessarily who you know but who’s wearing your stuff. It’s all about influencers, who you have backing your product as well as how long you’ve been in the game.
It is harder for us even though we know we have a very quality, luxury hat that we feel is aligned with both sides of the fashion game—luxury and urban wear. Right now I have on Jordan’s, ripped jeans and a pink salmon jacket I got from Nordstroms. You can accessorize a hat with anything. But I think we have to go harder and work harder to get people to see [us]. And when we’re doing that, everything has to be aligned to the tee: from our website, to our social media pages to how we speak about our brand with passion; the stories we tell, the marketing strategy–everything has to be perfect in my eyes and we always think in that way and go hard regardless of the obstacles.
It took Dapper Dan (pioneer of high-end streetwear) a longer time to be recognized by the mainstream fashion industry but if you never give up, you always have a way to make an impact in the fashion game.
ZD: At 26, I finally began to really believe that I was beautiful and carry myself with confidence. Was there a particular age and/or turning point in your life when you truly felt confident?
AC: I’ve always had a sense of confidence in myself but I think at 26, I also felt that there was more that I was destined to do. I understand fashion from working in the retail, I saw myself doing more but at that point I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. So I think at that age, I really stepped out of my comfort zone to really reach a different platform that I never thought about reaching before. Twenty-six was was a game changer for me; I think it’s that age where you finally figure out what you want to do in life and you go after it.
ZD: You and Tajh are the face of your brand while many people choose to stay behind the scenes. Did you have to get over any insecurities or doubts about yourself and/or about your product prior to stepping in front the camera?
AC: No, I’ve always been a confident individual and this was the marketing strategy behind the brand–to really put ourselves out there first so we could really understand the product and get our consumers to understand our passion behind the product so that they could really buy into our company. Now we’re transitioning out of being the face of the company, but we’re continuing to go with the trend of black excellence and really ride that wave until we can get the point where we can sustain and be the next high end luxury brand like Gucci and Louis Vuitton.
“…My advice to young men is to always push forward knowing that you’re able to do more than what society says you can do…”
ZD: What advice would you give to other young men who may be being teased about their complexion? How can they move past the criticism and develop confidence?
AC: It starts with the parenting. Growing up my mother always told me I was handsome and she instilled within me a sense of self worth. I think parents really need to invest into their sons and daughters. I didn’t have a father but that shouldn’t play a role in how the mother increases and enlightens their sons confidence.
For young men as individuals, I would encourage them to know their worth and know what they can bring to the table especially at a young age. I was cocky when I was younger. I knew that I was smart, handsome and I could play sports as well as anything else I set my mind to, I could do it at a high level. So my advice to young men is to always push forward knowing that you’re able to do more than what society says you can do. Strive to be different from people around you; listen to your friends and family but always think of your own ideas and utilize those ideas to help you flourish onward.
“…We did [our branding] the right way from the beginning. Now it’s about utilizing our network and continuing to evolve from here…”
ZD: From concept to manifestation, how did you go about creating your first hat?
AC: As soon as I had the thought in my head, it was go time. I was so passionate about it, it had to get done as soon as possible. The first week I was looking at different manufactures overseas and in the US. I end up utilizing a website called Makers Row which really helped me to find my manufacturer. After I found the manufacture and reached out to her, we had a sample within the next three weeks. We didn’t like the pink band on the first hat so I changed it. It was a work in progress for us to find the right band and the right materials for the hat but when we found it, it was like, ‘yep, that’s it.’
ZD: I gravitated to your business because of your Instagram page. Your photos are so professional, sharp and well curated. For someone in the midst of launching a business, particularly apparel, “branding” can be so overwhelming when you consider the need for photos, a website, an active social media presence, etc.
I think the issue many new entrepreneurs have is with time management. In terms of getting WearBrims to this point, what were the branding priorities?
AC: Honestly, in the beginning it was more about Tajh and I as the brand. As young, college educated, black men with successful careers outside of WearBrims, we figured that we were the best avenue to get the word out about our brand. If you look at the website it’s photos of Tajh and I but that’s about to change because now our audience knows who we are on a local level.
When it comes to broadening the brand and making it global, people are going to relate more to diversity when it comes to your brand and I understand that. In the beginning the photo shoots were just us. The logo was so simply, it’s just Brims (laughs). Once you have that foundation, everything should fall in line.
It took us about a week to finish our website. It’s important to utilize your resources because building a website for example can be very expensive but you have to find a way to differentiate yourself. I would look at other hat companies and strive to make our site better than the competition. I think we did [our branding] the right way from the beginning. Now it’s about utilizing our network and continuing to evolve from here. I joined The Gathering Spot (co-working space in Atlanta, GA) and I’ve gained so many connections through my membership. There are so many dope people using this space as a think-tank that it makes me feel like I’m in the right place to raise awareness for the brand.
ZD: How did 2017 impact your business strategy for 2018? What advice would you share with people who feel as if they want to get into the fashion industry but they presume that they’re too old to go back to school, or get an internship or simply believe that the market is oversaturated?
AC: The number “7” represents completion and I take pride in the fact that Tajh and I bought this idea to fruition. There are a lot of people with dope ideas that they just sit on. I don’t care if you need to ask your mama, your uncle or your friends for a loan, there are so many resources out there for you to raise money for your business. If you tell me you have an idea but you don’t know how to get started…you have Google, social media and the library. There are so many avenues to execution.
You can’t afford to wait, especially if you want to do something with technology you definitely can’t wait, you have to get it out there, you have to start somewhere. If you want to start a jean line, make one pair of jeans and it needs to be the dopest pair of jeans the world has ever seen and you need to market it until you get sales then flip it and put it right back into your business and make more. There’s always a strategy to making something happen. You have to be strategic around making your company happen.