Wow. Feeling like I made it. My first job in the industry. I was hired to be the Assistant Designer to the Creative Director for 8732; a clothing line under the Rocawear umbrella for rapper Young Jeezy. It was a small group of close knit creatives. The Head Denim Designer who was always willing to lend his advice told me “Day Day (A nickname he gave me because I came to work one day with a scarf on my head) don’t mistake this to be the standard for every company. This is a special company and a unique experience.” He was basically telling me that I had started my career at the top and I would spend the rest of it chasing this high if my expectation was that any other company would be like like this one. On any given day you could run into the owner Jay-Z, his future wife Beyonce, A young Chris Brown/ Rocawear spokesmodel making grown women act like starstruck teenagers, June Ambrose and star athletes. I literally bumped into Kareem Abdul Jabbar once as I rushed out of the kitchen. As tall as I am my face rammed into his belly button. In the middle of the day all worked stopped for parties sponsored by Ciroc, free concert tickets, fashion shows, photo shoots, company outings and business trips. I even went to an airing of BET’s 106 and Park to prepare Jeezy for his appearance and exchanged smiles with Terrence J. This is just to give you an idea of the perks.
I am a fan of Hip-Hop so going in to it I knew who Young Jeezy was. At least the mainstream Young Jeezy. I knew to drop it like it’s hot when he gave us a shout out on his hit collaborations Go Getta and Love in This Club. “8732, whud it do?!” Heeeeeeyyyy, he’s talking about us!!! When I arrived 8732 was a new clothing line still trying to find direction. Jeezy wasn’t much of a fashion guy so he was relying on his Head Designers to tap into who he was and translate it into clothing. This was to be a brand for his fans. Not just the surface level fans like myself but the ones who knew him back then. Usually when I think of lifestyle brands I think of brands like Tommy Hilfiger. You know the guy who wears the clothing. Their design aesthetic clearly says all-american. Jeezy was no Tommy Hilfiger. He was from the streets and was heavily involved in the crack epidemic of the 80’s. I had no idea that the 8732 logo; that looked like a crest with 2 eights was actually a snowman. The snow representing crack. This information may have bothered me a bit but not enough to make me quit. I guess your convictions mature as you do. Besides, I heard the story of drug dealer turned rapper before. One day one of our graphic designers was at his desk conflicted about his work. He was drawing an image of a heap of crack for a t-shirt. He expressed that he felt like he was contributing to a problem instead of being a solution and didn’t want to continue the graphic. He was faced with the decision of promoting crack to get a paycheck. Center front on a t-shirt as if it were glamourous and not the cause of depravity in our community.
I don’t remember that graphic making the collection and it wasn’t his last day at 8732. Rocawear was kinda cut throat. More people were escorted out by security than the amount of employees who had job security. If you wanted to go they would show you the door. Fashion Food 4 Thought: What would you do? 1. Stay and try to affect change? 2. Put up with it and enjoy the perks and the paycheck? 3. Leave! Comments are welcomed.