Every once in a while, it takes someone with balls to shake up the fashion industry from its repetitiveness and showcase something new and innovative to get everyone talking. Collin Spencer, CEO of Minoritees, has definitely become that person.
With celebrity clientele that includes Carla Hall, Regina King, and many more, his brand of t-shirts, tanks and fleece have definitely gotten people talking as the messages on each speak volumes to race, LGBT and so much more.
The brand, which was developed fourteen years ago, aims to celebrate who you are as a person regardless of what society deems you to be. In a world of boringness that is fashion, Minoritees stands out as something fresh that we should all be rocking now that the warmer weather is here and beyond.
I spoke with Collin recently about why he started this brand, how he wants to make a 'bold statement' with each piece of clothing he creates, why Janet Jackson simply loves his clothing and where he sees Minoritees going in the near future. Take a look.
What inspired you to want to develop this brand so many years ago?
I remember when I moved to NYC back in 2000 and I was getting settled into a new city, new job and my first adult apartment – I would go shopping at Urban Outfitters, not only for fixtures to furnish my apartment, but also casual clothes (mainly t-shirts)! Back then it seemed to me that all the t-shirts pretty much catered to sports branding or white male culture. I'd see shirts that said, "Everybody Loves an Italian boy", "Everybody Loves and Irish boy", "Everybody Loves a Jock" etc. It bothered me that I never saw the inclusiveness of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Jewish, Gay etc. and to that end I was already sick of being marginalized. I'd been creating, writing and drawing since I was a child and I wanted to take ownership of that feeling of being "left out". It wasn't long before I made my first sample t-shirt & tank top that boldly stated the word 'BLACKBOY' and my tag said 'DEALWITHIT'. That in itself made me feel proud.
Is the brand solely based on race, or does it include aspects of inclusions for all people who may see themselves as minorities?
Initially the brand was called 'Black I' as a sign of pride and independence because at that time that was what I felt I needed. It didn't take more than a few days of talking to my friends and colleagues to realize how underrepresented most of us felt in regard to our race, religion and sexual orientation. With that, the scope of the brand became more than just a 'race' label but a bold statement that would regain ownership of different labels and stereotypes through designs that could be at times humorous, political or subversive.
Political activism, pop culture, gay pride, feminism and self-empowerment are all an important aspect of what makes Minoritees unique in it's appeal to the loyal fans we've had and the new fans we continue to make/attract.
What sorts of apparel does Minoritees make, and who comes up with the designs for each?
Currently, Minoritees makes apparel in the form of t-shirts, sweatshirts, long sleeves etc. In the past, we have dabbled in accessories such as underwear and swimwear and it is very much the goal to expand our offerings with time. It's pretty much a one man show with me creating, designing and marketing the brand myself. People are always throwing suggestions to me but going at the creative process alone feels more rewarding to me as an artist. When I'm done creating, I always run the ideas by my friends for feedback. I've designed hundreds of shirts in the last 14 years, some that were commercial hits and many that I may not have sold well but fulfilled me on a creative/artistic level.
At what point did you realize how big this brand has become since its inception in 2004?
I'd say it was circa 2006 when Minoritees started exhibiting at trade shows in Las Vegas. It was the perfect storm of exposure not only amongst buyers, but also magazine coverage and it things only improved when celebrities started wearing the brand.
I know you have had some major celebs support your brand, can you tell us some that have worked with you and why they joined in the first place?
The first celebrity that changed everything for Minoritees was Janet Jackson. I had been a fan of ALL things Jackson since I was a toddler and my love for Miss Jackson is unsurpassed. I'd created a few designs and passed it on to her bodyguard thinking nothing would ever come of it. A mere two days later, someone called me and told me she was wearing one of my shirts at a press junket in Chicago. I was in complete shock when I actually saw the photos. From then on, the requests from stylists just organically grew. The fact that my SHERO loved my art was and will always be one of the most gratifying things in my life…far more than profit.
Do you have a favorite moment since you started Minoritees and why does this stick out more than others?
See above. For a few years the brand was being sold at MACY's before the economy bottomed out in the late 2000s. It also makes my heart smile every time I see people wearing my shirt… especially when I'm traveling on the other side of the world. I'll sometimes have friends that are traveling sending me text messages and pictures of people the met in Germany, Australia, etc. wearing my shirt. Makes me tear up sometimes, I honestly just LOVE making art. Outside of Minoritees, I also do private design for other labels, artists, companies under their respective brands.
Ultimately, what is your mission for the company moving forward and what are you most hopeful for in the near future?
I'd love to see the brand expand into a complete clothing line because I have SO many amazing ideas and thousands of designs that have yet to be seen. Overall, I'd love to be the creative force/director and get to the point where someone else can steer the ship. The fact that people have been so loyal and appreciative of this brand's message for 14 years reinforces my belief that the art of it all is more valuable to me than money. After the recession in the late 2000s, I shuttered the brand for 3 years and during that time I realized how more than ANYTHING, I missed and craved the creative outlet. People were begging me to reboot the brand and the loyalty and excitement was right where I left it.
For more information on Minoritees, please check out their official website.