Global Eye Stories Project- Janoffrey Clark: 12west
Could you tell us more about your entrepreneurial venture as a designer from back when you attended GEE? Are you still a designer and can you give us a few updates since your last workshop at Global Eye?
Oh wow, so much has happened since my last workshop at Global Eye. I am still a designer by trade and have launched my own brand named 12westbrand.com with my business partner that I met in college. It’s a dropship site where we curate fashion from all over the world for people that want to have a foundation of where they shop and want to have a personal style. Our slogan is “the personal style architects”, and it’s a site where you can shop and get anything from suits to shoes and accessories for both men and women. The ultimate goal is to have this site be a destination of a collection that I actually design. With its growth through marketing and its increased following, 12west will be a place where people will be able to see my first collection of clothing.
When and why did you start styling?
I started freelancing back in 2012 where guys and girls, but mostly guys, were my clients. At that time, I noticed that no one was paying attention to men. I wanted to be a voice for men and how they looked at getting dressed everyday. So I do closet transformations by redoing people's closets, taking them shopping once we’ve done that, and just letting them have a voice in what to do and how to put it together/wear it. 12west is a place where you can buy all those things after you’ve been styled by me. It was created for individuals to elevate their style with guidance of professional industry experts to assist them along the way. So we cater to our customers’ needs and give them access to a range of products that will excite and entice them. We have new stuff every month where we get a new range of products and styles. Our mission is to just empower full self expression through providing resources that are curated by fashion direction for all men and women.
How does your identity as a gay man of color affect you perspective and position in the design world with perspectives specifically?
A large part of the entertainment industry is part of the LGBT community. Global Eye has been a major resource for me being an African American gay man and an entrepreneur. None of that has an impact on me to be able to do business successfully. But growing up, I was an only child. I have siblings that share the same father, but I didn’t meet my dad until I was 16 so there were a lot of things that could have caused me to not do what it is that I’m doing. I’m always about making a difference for the person behind me. There’s this saying that you create a lane and you stay in it. And I’m not trying to be like anybody else.. I’m not trying to follow anybody else. All I want is to be successful and be able to take care of my family and get married one day. Global Eye is my resource when I have that creative vision in the middle of the night and I just want to put it in someone’s ear too get some feedback. It’s the mentorship alone that is phenomenal. A lot of being gay and black is that you feel alone or you feel like there is no support. And you have a tendency to procrastinate on the tasks that are at hand or maybe not move forward cause you’re getting so many No’s. Global Eye is a YES at every step of the journey.
Why did you decide to take a Global Eye workshop, and how did it prove helpful in comparison to other training programs?
I initially knew some details about Global Eye, but when it launched I decided to go ahead and apply. When I got accepted, it was pretty awesome. I didn’t know much of what it was other than that it was supposed to have an impact on men of color and their entrepreneurial endeavors. Global Eye was distinct from other training programs because we were able to learn about exactly how to build a brand and find the tools to do that successfully.
What do you think are the qualities of a good entrepreneur, and what advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Consistency, Perseverance, Vision, Creativity, and Partnership. (Partnership) I would say is the largest one of them all. What makes me successful is being able to work with others in order to add more perspective. Because even if it looks one way for you, it might not look the same for others. Therefore, being able to collaborate with other people who have your vision is important. As far as advice, I would say don't give up. I can't stress that enough. There are going to be plenty of days where you ask yourself, do I really want to do this? When your venture becomes something that is actually happening, it becomes so large. Another piece of advice is that the money will come. Do it because you love it. Some people like drawing and some people like surfing. Do whatever it is you want to do in life because you enjoy it. Do it because you love it, and the money, success, and recognition that come with it are just the cherry on top. Lastly, be yourself. I'm authentically myself. I don't have any other ulterior motives other than making a difference.
What social good or social action do you take , in other words... what's your way of giving back to society?
I started an organization called Be Suited. Be Suited is “To be self united in transformation every day.” What I do is dress graduating high school students with their first suit. Having a suit can empower young adults in numerous ways. One of the tools that I had growing up is that I was always around people who dressed well -my mom, my grandparents, my aunt, and my cousin. They all dressed well and naturally so did I, and no one said go do it this way, so it just became a part of who I am. I’ve always been conscious of the way I presented myself to people. My past wasn’t college right out of high school; therefore, I want the people who graduated in high school to know what tools they have, because if you know how to dress during an interview, you have a better chance of performing well. We’ve already started Be Suited, and will continue to empower high school students with suits to instill self confidence and empowerment.
What are your dreams for the future ?
For the future, our goal is to having a global brand that people recognize and are known for. We may eventually want a brick and mortar store but now more people are continuing to shop online. I want to be amazon and not amazon level of curated fashion, but amazon level of clothing that I've designed. We want to cater to things that people use in their lives, and exemplify being a lifestyle brand. I want to expand 12west into a global brand that cares about everyone's needs and how they want to represent themselves in the world.