By Sarah Brutus
Q: Where are you from?
A: I was born in Miami and raised in both Miami and New York.
Q: Where did you graduate high school?
A: I graduated from North Miami Beach Sr. High.
Q: What did you do after high school?
A: I went to the Marines for a year and a half. When I got out of the Marines, I got involved in the music business and worked with some local artists. I got my first big break on the management team of Rick Ross and Pitbull. I was responsible for booking shows and bringing in sponsorship. I did that for about 5 years. I also promoted parties and clubs.
Q: How did you get into fashion?
A: Fashion chose me. I previously had a fashion line that catered to the Hispanic market with a partner. We parted ways, and I decided to start my own fashion line in Miami. The ideas were there, but I never really got it off the ground. After the earthquake I was trying to figure out how I was going to help my community and my country. My brother is a doctor, and he was able to go down and be on the ground and help with project Medishare and Unicef. I wasn’t a doctor, so I wasn’t able to make that same contribution. So I made t-shirts that said, “We Must, We Can, We Will Rebuild Haiti”. I went around to local stores, restaurants, events and barbershops selling the shirts and making sure that proceeds went to help the relief efforts of Haiti with Project Medishare. It took off from there. I would see people wearing the shirt, and I took that as a sign from God. I went on to make the “Bel Fanm” shirts which was another hit. Ladies loved them.
“’I am civilized’ is a brand for the people by the people. It’s a brand that helps uplift the people, especially the youth.”
Q: What does your brand represent?
A: ‘I am civilized’ is a brand for the people, by the people. It’s a brand that helps uplift the people, especially the youth. It’s a brand that people can use as a stepping stone to find their true identity. By me being a club promoter and also working in the management field, I was trying to find my identity. I found that in fashion.
Q: What do you think has helped your business to grow the way it has?
A: I believe there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything. The right way involves getting professionals and experts to do what they are good at. I pick the team, and I let them do what they do best.
“If I’m going to succeed, I need to have Haiti’s support in the long run.”
Q: You recently went to Haiti. Tell us about that.
A: I went to Haiti because I am working on the future. Retailers are looking for the right turnaround times for the products they order. I was manufacturing in China and India, and it took a lot of time to get the product back. If I’m going to succeed, I need to have Haiti’s support in the long run. My cousin suggested that I work with a factory in Haiti. That was a year and a half ago. That was my first time going to Haiti. The factory is a sort of vocational school that teaches earthquake victims the skills they need to be self-sufficient. Once they are done with the school, they can get a job with my brand. That’s what makes me most happy.
Q: Tell us about your mentoring and community involvement.
A: This is something I had to do. This is my true calling in life. When I was growing up, I had no one to talk to. When I go into the schools and speak to my little brothers and sisters, it makes me feel complete. I’ve always done these projects with my own funding. I’ve told myself that if God wants me to do this, He will make a way. It has always been successful. I want to make my school tour worldwide and have it in arenas and stadiums.
Q: What is your advice to young people?
A: Take control of your life. Don’t listen to people who say you can’t do something. Everything is possible.