TGIF Interview

T.G.I.F. Clothing – The Founders Interview

We first gave you all a peek into the T.G.I.F (Thank God I’m Fresh) clothing line through our Friday Feature a couple weeks back. (Check that out here). They pack a dope line with a whole lot of freshness. I caught up with the founders Jahi Roosevelt and Al Maddin to delve deeper into their line and how they came about. They are a great example of being able to do anything you put your mind to. Jahi and Al run their company from opposite sides of the country. Jahi originally is from and currently resides in California while Al roots from Detroit, Michigan but currently resides in Florida. Read on to see how they linked up, how they built upon their already set foundation and what advice they have for people that want to start their own line.

Angel Alzona: That’s pretty dope that you guys can do what you do from opposite sides of the country. How did you guys link up?

Al Maddin: Through the internet a couple years back. I used to do music and Jahi used to be in a group so we used to build with one another through music and that just transferred into this clothing line.

AA: What led you guys into fashion?

Jahi Roosevelt: Just our overall style and how we dress ourselves. We just wanted to give that out to the world. We were seeing a lot of stuff that wasn’t really fresh. And the group I was in was called the Freshboyz so I always had a knack for finding fresh new stuff.

AA: Did you guys grow up with any fashion or artistic influences? Did your school systems help cultivate that or was it something you guys just did on your own?

JR: It was just something we did on our own. We just tried it out and it blew up real fast so we stuck with it.

AA: Where did the name T.G.I.F. (Thank God I’m Freash) come from?

AM: We were just on the phone one day joking around with funny stuff and said “Thank god that we’re fresh.” It just came from there and we evolved it into the line. We didn’t know it would get so catchy.

AA: Where do you draw inspirations for your designs?

JR: We draw that from our own creativity. We’re always on the phone trying to come up with new ideas and concepts that we think people would appreciate and that’s how you should do things. It has to be driven from somewhere and it’s just our own creativity. Mostly everything we do is 50/50. We bounce ideas off of each other and just go from there. There may be something trendy that is going on that may inspire a certain design. Like the “Eye Do It” was trendy with Big Sean and so we put our own spin on that and put an eye on it instead of the letter “I.”

AA: Did you guys have a plan of attack or did you guys just say let’s do this and see what happens?

AM: We just said let’s do this. We had some money so we wanted to invest in something that we could grow and just threw it into our clothing line.

AA: What programs do you use to design your line?

AM: Photoshop.

AA: If a person wants to start their own clothing line, what advice can you give them?

JR: Do a lot of networking. Take over the social networks. That’s basically all we did. We had a big following on Twitter so building our line kind of came easy because we were already big on Twitter. So when we put the line up, people just jumped on it.

AA: Do you think people should build a following before they build a product?

AM: Yeah, I think they should. It helps a lot. Building a large following anywhere really. It doesn’t just have to be online. Even if you want to hit the streets with guerilla marketing, do that. You need the people to catch on and you have to be out there.

AA: What’s a 3 piece starter kit you would recommend for people that want to start their own line?

JR: Have a plan. Have the time. You have to take the time out to do it. And have the execution. You actually have to go out and do it. You have to see it through to the end. That’s what we do. We come up with a plan, put aside what we needed to put aside to get it done and then we execute it.

AA: What sets you guys apart from other streetwear brands?

JR: I think as a young company, a lot of people may think we’ve been around for 5 years, but we’re barely hitting our year mark. Our marketing and how we put our line out for the public to see definitely sets us apart. It’s hard to not see us out because we are constantly networking and putting ourselves out there. So definitely our marketing sets us apart from other brands. Plus our concept is different as well. We also look into the details. We wanted to make sure we added some puff paint element on our pieces as our signature.

AA: Did you guys have any professional training for this?

AM: No, everything we do we basically just taught ourselves how to do it. Even as far as photoshop, I taught myself how to do it. We’re just learning as we go. We may make mistakes but then we know not to do it next time.

AA: Since you guys had no professional training, did you guys have any mentor figures?

AM: We look at other clothing lines and let that motivate us. We see the different stuff they do to get to where they are at. That helped us out a lot by just looking at other clothing lines that made it. They showed us a good example and the right way to go.

AA: Are there any specific lines that influenced you?

JR: Yeah there’s a clothing line out of Cali called D&D Collections that has a line with Chris Brown. We’ve been working with them since we’ve been running. They’ve been helping us with a lot of stuff.

How do you guys split up the roles in your partnership?

JR: I handle a lot of stuff with the business. I also come up with concepts. It’s so 50/50. It’s like two machines working all the time. I say long nights, early mornings because we’re always up on the phone coming up with concepts, sending out emails. It’s really a business. It’s not just flashy clothing, we’re really handling stuff and making things happen. And that’s basically it with me.

AM: I’m on the computer a lot. I answer a lot of emails. I handle the financials for the company. Jahi handles a lot of the network. He makes sure everything is straight and in stock and different stuff like that. We both play our roles. A lot of people may bump heads and try to play another person’s role in the project but we are both good at playing each other’s roles.

AA: What is the process from conception to distribution?

AM: So basically we come up with the concept. Then we design the shirt in Photoshop. Then you send it over to your manufacturer. From there the manufacturer takes it and makes it. Then we get it from them and send it out.

AA: Did you have to do research on different manufacturing companies?

JR: We had the relationship with the print company so we just contacted them and they took over our stuff. Before we decided to make a clothing line, we had different promotions with different people so everything just fell into place because we already had these connections with different people. So we didn’t have to struggle to find different ways to get stuff done. We already had the people we needed around us basically. We had the resources.

AA: How do you promote your products?

AM: We send out so much stuff to different major artists in the industry. We had a lot of connections beforehand so we know the people on Twitter with big followings. So once we launched our clothing line we already had a relationship with the people on Twitter with a big following and we just sent them stuff to say on Twitter and it drove people to our website.

AA: That’s really dope. Any last words of advice?

JR: When it gets tough, don’t give up. That’s the best advice I can give somebody because it’s not easy. It is hard. You make some mistakes and we navigate through thick water to get back to where we need to be. If we gave up then we wouldn’t be where we are right now. When the going gets tough, don’t give up. There have definitely been some tough times.

AA: Did having a partner help?

AM: Yes definitely. There’s certain stuff that you might know, that your partner might know. You combine two brains together, you can come up with something great.

AA: What do you guys have coming up next?

JR: We have a lot of different commercials and teasers. Kind of a day to day kind of series. They’ll be all videos just showing people what we do behind the scenes. And also a how’s it made release, letting people see how our clothing is made. Not a lot of clothing lines take you into their work, you just see the product on the website but you don’t see this behind the scenes. We’ll actually take them into the factory.

AA: That’s awesome. That’s how people learn.

AM: We’re all about helping people. We want to help people learn. We know how it felt being the other person trying to learn so we definitely there to help people get to where we are right now.

AA: Fashion is your craft and you are the craftsman. What do you have in your toolbox?

JR: God. My family. My computer.

For more info on T.G.I.F. visit their site here.

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Written by Angel Alzona

Angel Alzona is the co-founder of Art Room Collective. She is also the director of social media for Keyes Auto Group and a field producer for the Emmys.