by Mellissa Thomas
Imagine you’re born and raised in a very crowded city that’s no stranger to struggle. You’re in such a weird location, your hometown is called the forgotten city. You bust your tail to outshine everyone, but still get overlooked, manipulated, or both, losing to someone you know did less than you to get what you were after. (Sound familiar?)
So how do you make an imprint in a forgotten place where nearly everyone is clamoring for attention?
You start an evocative movement, building a brand around one of the most visceral impulses universal to all of us: the power of persistence.
Baltimore native and resident Dwayne T. Allen’s clothing brand slogan echoes the “natural toughness” his hometown has taught him. The city, considered “up north” by southerners and “down south” by northerners, is the inspiration behind everything he does. “I was never given anything, not even the things I deserved,” he told DOFW in a phone interview August 29, 2013. “I always had to fight for [them]. I rise above the naysayers.”
He described his “forgotten city” as crowded and dog-eat-dog competitive. “Everyone pulls themselves up from their own bootstraps,” he explained, adding that as a result, collaboration is very limited. He revealed that though he worked hard, he still got “screwed over and looked over,” but has never given up. He goes beyond his duty to demand respect, which, according to him, means defying adversity.
After playing basketball for five years, Allen became a bouncer at a lounge to make ends meet during tough financial straits, which sounds almost glamorous…until he added that he wasn’t well paid. He’d lost faith in the college degree and the system, but also gradually lost sight of who he was.
Fortunately, during his bouncer tenure, he rubbed elbows with entrepreneurs, clothing designers, and promoters, and he realized he could do better than the other successful designers, using his struggle as a constant muse for excellence, which fueled him to return to his core: he loved fashion and street skateboarding, and determined he would pursue a career that harnessed both.
During Allen’s studies at Morgan University, he had the change to network with even more fashion designers, models, and entrepreneurs, learning seasonal trends and collegiate fashions, which he incorporated into his clothing line. He challenged himself as his brand concepts expanded, doing deep research (which he continues on his personal blog).
To that end, he has positioned himself for success in Baltimore’s fashion market. He told DOFW that the city’s fashion used to be regional: people would shop at the nearest boutique or retailer to them, so it was easy to tell by their clothes which part of town they’re from. However, since Baltimore’s fashion evolves with the major trends, it’s hard to tell who’s from where anymore.
Despite that, he currently has an advantage because most Baltimore-based brands that grow to become successful usually leave the state, constantly making room for new designers like him, which is why he chose to attach his brand to a movement. “People buy what you stand for,” he said.
Though his line has a wide appeal, he separates himself by staying focused on the brand. “I’m not sold out for fashion,” he explained. “I don’t adapt to all trends.”
To bring his point home, he released a personal brand logo on September 20, 2013 establishing his identity (below).
Here’s how he explained it on his website:
“…the DA stands for Dwayne Allen and the number 24 is a number that I incorporate in almost everything I do with my name. The number “24” usually comes after “DA” or my name Dwayne Allen because it represents me being myself 24-hours a day. I’m myself at all times, I’m never being phony or have different versions of myself in different settings. I’m The Real Dwayne Allen 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.”
TRDA, an acronym that doubles as the first initials for Allen’s slogan, “Take Respect Defy Adversity,” and the first letters of Allen’s personal brand, “The Real Dwayne Allen,” is a street wear clothing line that carries the swagger of both Hip Hop and skater cultures in a stylish and athletic way. TRDA Brand Clothing, LLC. was born August 2010 (which he’s embellished on some of his clothing in the Roman numerals MMX).
Allen’s been skating since the age of nine, so he has intimate knowledge of the styles skaters like and plans to offer them more of what they want. According to him, some of the big brands don’t really know.
His line promises to be a menswear candy store, offering tees, crew necks, hoodies, varsity jackets, baseball jackets, ratline tees, fitted caps, accessories, tanks, and eventually skateboard decks.
Though the TRDA line isn’t available for order yet, Allen’s prototype designs will be ready to premiere in his 2014 catalog, all of which you’ll find at his blog, therealdwayneallen.com.
Like most post-2000 entrepreneurs, Allen’s taking a DIY approach to marketing his brand. He’s a mostly self-taught graphic designer in Adobe CS software and CAD, and with his very recent degree in television and video production from Morgan University, he’s a skilled videographer and show producer as well.
In fact, he’s using video to build a buzz around TRDA already. He initially created a promo video series of him building a skateboard. The completed process is now in one seamless video on his YouTube page.
Furthermore, he’s already building a following through a video series and podcast he co-produces, the Wrestling Wrealm.
Between the Wrestling Wrealm, the promo skateboard video, shareable image quotes he attaches the TRDA brand to (like the one at top), and prototype “sneek peeks” that he releases exclusively to his blog, his presence has expanded and people are already asking him where they can buy his stuff.
Considering how many other clothing designers he’s already met in the tightly crowded and highly competitive Baltimore, that’s saying something.
And, of course, he milks every drop of influence out of social media. He’s on Facebook, Twitter (@dwayneeallen24, @TRDAbrand), Instagram, and LinkedIn; and uses both WordPress (for his professional website) and Blogger (for his personal site).
Also like most ‘treps, Allen isn’t putting all his eggs in one basket — at least not yet. While his brand gains popularity, he offers his services as a freelance graphic designer, videographer, and video editor.
His next challenge is photography. Thanks to his degree, he’s skilled with the Canon Rebel T3i 600D and Nikon D700. So we asked the trick question: which side is he on?
Though he’s a Canon fan, he wisely explained each has its purpose. The professional photographers he met use Nikons, so he may use one for his official clothing line photo shoots, but he finds Canon is better for recording videos, so he plans to purchase a 60D and find someone to learn from.
Check out Allen’s upcoming designs here, and be among the first cool kids to buy his clothes when they release by following @TRDAbrand on Twitter.
All images belong to Dwayne T. Allen. Used by permission.
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