WEARING THEIR CULTURE; Clothing Line Showcases African-American History

Article excerpt

Byline: TANYA PEREZ-BRENNAN

ORANGE PARK -- They can be found at every rock or hip-hop concert: funky T-shirts with iconic figures plastered on them. The usual Afrocentric fare features everyone from Malcolm X to Jimi Hendrix.

But how about a T-shirt that features abolitionist Frederick Douglass or educator Nannie Helen Burroughs?

Eager to educate and empower black youths about their more distant history, an Orange Park native has joined with four other young friends to create Culture Clothing. The line of T-shirts, tank tops and camisoles features noteworthy figures and moments from African-American history with the word "culture" emblazoned on the top. The shirts have sold quickly in one Florida store chain and even have caught the attention of a student filmmaker.

While some older people may recognize the figures on the shirts, a lot of youths simply don't know a lot about their history, said Wantaise Wilson, who grew up in Orange Park.

"Now young kids only have so many role models," she said. "We want to give them something different."

And they seem to want it. Detour Clothing, an Orlando chain of stores for young adults, initially ordered 70 to 80 shirts in mid-October. Of those, the store received 20 shirts one day, and by the next day, only one was left, said Anas Asker, Detour Clothing's manager.

Asker has since ordered another 60 shirts from the clothing line.

"I guess a lot of the people appreciate the purpose of it," he said.

Culture Clothing does have competitors, such as artistictee.com, a Web site that sells Douglass and Miles Davis T-shirts. But Culture Clothing also plans to introduce a denim line and expand from there.

Besides Wilson, the other designers in the company are Brian and Arnetta Lane, Napoleon Day and Rayfield Warren. All five are in their mid-20s and met at Full Sail, Orlando's entertainment and media production college.

The concept for the line was born in a conversation between Brian Lane, director of marketing and business development, and Day, director of research and development.

"The word 'culture' just popped up and it was like, 'Yo, we need to do something about that . . . let's put it on shirts,' " Lane said.

The idea caught the attention of budding filmmaker Walter L. Clark, a senior at the University of Central Florida. Clark, 21, saw Lane speak about Culture Clothing in February at UCF during an event with filmmaker Spike Lee.

"I was very intrigued by the Afrocentric images," Clark said. "It was already intriguing to me that they had upstarted this clothing company. …