Clothes . . . Entrepreneur Interview

Broccoli, Broccoli, Broccoli Fest

Broccoli Fest hit DC, this past weekend, and it was mind-blowing. It brought creative souls from every corner of Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia to the East Gateway Pavilion located in South East DC. The festival included what every great festival considers essential; artsy vendors, food trucks, couple of hula hoopers and a performance line up that ensured a good time.

The organization, Broccoli, was launched in 2009 by Brandon McEachern as an effort to “develop innovative strategies on living healthier and more sustainable lifestyles, while empowering communities to make informed decisions about their health and environment.”   Just about everything at BCFest incorporated the theme of green: in the VIP room you could find mason jars with broccoli stems poking out from the top and signs on trash cans asking attendees to recycle. Overall it was a well thought out and executed event.

I was super excited to be there but even more excited to meet the masterminds behind some of the pop-up shops. I talked with a lot of people but two specific vendors stood out the most.

Meet Phillip Loken aka OG Swagg Jesus the Don II


He was sitting on a table minding his own business when of course I came and disturbed the peace! Here is what you should know about the Don: He is a student at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, he currently runs a mens fashion blog called Cool and Well Dressed that highlights up and coming clothing lines, and he is an artist that works with all mediums. Don was at the festival with a clothing line that he works closely with Avant Garde. Expect to see more from SDBUP on OG Swagg Jesus the Don II. In the meantime follow him here: KingPhill_ and read more about him here

Meet Ryan Lindsay


The event was full of clothing lines. Some of them good some of them bad, in my opinion, I had to have met at least two or three designers all preaching about their lifestyle brand but none of them struck a chord with me like Gloss Rags “And Counting” tee. I saw the controversial names listed on a black tee and thought to myself who would have the audacity to print these names on a tee and it all came full circle when I met Ryan Lindsay. Here is what she had to say about her involvement with #BCFEST and her tee.

Astu: “How did you find out about the festival?”

Ryan: “I found out about BCFest through a couple of my friends who are a part of Rock Creek Social.”

Astu: “Explain the shirt for me.”

Ryan: “The shirt came as an idea after having attended the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. I was making signs with a youth organization called GapBusters and these names really stuck to me, this was back in August, and to think that the list started at 5 and all of a sudden I had to add Jordan. That is where the name ‘And Counting’ comes from…power, passion, purpose – I’m sure you will get stares or stopped when you wear this shirt but it is worth it.”

Follow her on instagram: @randigloss and visit her site:



All in all, the event was eye-opening and I do plan on attending many more BC Fests!

Shout out to our honorary camera woman Kedest Firdaweke.

Astu Mengesha – Stay Down Blaze Up

Art Clothes . . . Entrepreneur Interview


Yesterday I linked up with the extremely moving and talented Entree, owner of HEAP Clothing, and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. She is a member of TRDC, DC native, and is eager to produce a clothing line with a message. Below you will find our entire conversation and contact information, enjoy!

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Astu: “As always I start with personal information. So give us the real Entree and where did your name come from?

Entree: “I am 21 years old, born and raised in Northeast DC, and my real name is Marderica. Entree is short for entrepreneur and I literally went through millions of names, but this one has stuck and represents me the best.”

Astu:”So before I launch into asking about your clothing line, I noticed that you also make music?”

Entree: “Yes, I’ve been doing that since I was 12. I have been surrounded by people, such as my brother, who have encouraged me to explore music. When I was younger, I was bad, haha I can admit I was angry a lot of the time and music was a way for me to express myself without exploring other harmful options. It started as poetry and I started putting it to music right away, I even have old cassette tapes of me rhyming and rapping.”

Astu: “How did you get into fashion or where did the idea to launch a clothing brand come from?”

Entree: “In 2012, I was sitting in my apartment in college thinking to myself I have beat all odds. I am in college, playing basketball, living with roommates, and I am living the American dream. At that moment I began to think about what it takes to be student athlete and something moved me to create the logo for HEAP. Mind you, I can not draw to save my life and the fact that the logo actually came out pretty nice was a sign I needed to pursue this.”

Astu:” What exactly is HEAP and who is your market?”

Entree:”It stands for health, education, attitude, and peace. My market would be the youth.”

“Health: testing the waters of your own mind and body and the ability to grow and motivate others to strengthen themselves. Education: we are all students of life. So educate your mind so that we may walk side by side with prestigious individuals and feel equal, hungry minds understand that it is okay to want more than what society is extending to us. Attitude: confidence and sass – knowing you have something to contribute. Peace: embracing life and all it has to offer, take advantage of the sunrise until the sunset.”  [provided by instagam]

Astu:”I noticed the colors were extremely bright. Is there a reason for that?

Entree:” Haha, yes! I’m glad you noticed that. The thinking behind it is if you have a bright spirit why walk around in black, let it show and these colors can brighten anyone’s day!”

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Connect with Entree

Twitter: @iamheap| IG:heapfashion/iamheap| Email:

Art Clothes . . . Entrepreneur Events New


Thursday evening was a night to remember. I attended the first ever #AbovetheRunway fashion show with a girlfriend of mine and I had complete and total access to the behind the scenes. Created by both City Dreamz Entertainment and A-Quest , a DC socialite and owner of Nights of DC, #AbovetheRunway was an extremely elegant event. The runway included several of DMV’s finest in up and coming urban fashion and intermissions were filled with fresh musical talents the District had to offer.

Below is a detailed account. Enjoy!

I originally set out to interview designers but because everyone was ‘caught up in the moment’ of the event I became so intrigued by my observations on how everything came together. I arrived around 5 PM and saw the coordinator, A-Quest, delegating and directing everyone as the models, the make-up artists, and designers poured in. He kept his cool the entire time and everyone cooperated pretty efficiently.

The event took place at the LOOK Lounge on K Street NW and it began roughly around 8:30 PM. The venue was beautiful and the set up made you feel like you were at an upscale runway show. The lounge had actually just finished up a rally for Hillary Clinton, right before the fashion show, and I could clearly see that the establishment attracts various groups of people – an excellent choice on behalf of the coordinator. Several photographers were present and there was, of course, a red carpet at the main entrance for attendees to take pictures with friends and everyone had access to the designers before and after the show.  Upon entering the lounge to your left was a fully stocked bar and to the right were vendors from the designers with merchandise to purchase – strategically placed for people to look at before the show and to buy after seeing on the models. I found myself around the vendor table entirely too much the items were all amazing and I am all about supporting urban entrepreneurs. I finally ran over to my seats that my friend was holding for us and the show began both hosts A-Quest and Ashley McManus delivered an excellent production.

The show included the following designers: PrissyTreasures, HommeDior, HonestyGray, Undergroundmarketclthco, LostCredit, Raw_Ro – all of whom are searchable via instagram. The designs were not merely simple shirts and matching pants but sophisticated outfits including headpieces, accessories, and original footwear. The colors were vibrant but also reflective of the current winter season – very appropriate. I highly recommend that you check them out!

As mentioned before the show included several performers. I appreciated the fact that it was a variation of the musical genres both R&B and Rap and it was good to see the female rapper, QueenKyi, kill it! All of the performers had quality stage presence and the crowd was thoroughly entertained. (Their names and mixtapes along with links will be released in another post.)

Below are pictures with the hashtag #abovetherunway . . .

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Make up and hair of all the models were on point!

One of my favorite pieces from the @honestygray collection. Her line was my absolute favorite.

Fierce model rocks it in this amazing two piece.

Host A-Quest and rapper QueenKyi share a moment.

An amazing head-piece from designer Rebel Motive.

All in all this event gets an A! I expressed to A-Quest how surprised I was to see this event come together and run so smoothly for it being a first time production. It is truly amazing to see what young African-Americans can do when there is a united effort. I am proud to say that #SDBUP was present and that we had the opportunity to cover #AbovetheRunway.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you are looking for fresh, original, and mind-blowing pieces to wear for sophisticated events contact and reach out to any of these designers mentioned above – support entrepreneurs!

[Not all photos in post are mine for more pictures please look at:]

Connect with A-Quest


Aster Mengesha – Stay Down Blaze Up

Clothes . . . Entrepreneur Events Inspiration Interview

Join the Movement

When I graduated from undergrad in 2012 I received a job offer towards the end of August in Raleigh, North Carolina.  I packed my things up and moved without hesitation. Now that I am in DC for graduate school I constantly reminisce on the friends I made and the amazing times I had in Wolf Pack nation. So when I was blessed with the opportunity to connect with Arlan, owner of Movement Merchandising I was ecstatic! Arlan Wallace, as previously mentioned is the owner of Movement Merchandising. He is 20 years old, a student at North Carolina State University and is currently studying marketing and creative writing – all the while changing how students in the area dress themselves. When he began to tell me about his business venture – I was truly amazed at how well thought out his ‘movement’ is and I can guarantee this is not just a pop-up business, you can expect that his organization is here for the long run. Below is our complete interaction – enjoy!

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Astu: “Arlan! Now tell me just what Movement Merchandising is?  How did it come together?”

Arlan: “Well I love fashion and I am familiar with business and I wanted to link the two together. In the area there are a lot of consignment shops but they don’t really give you much money when you try and sell your clothing back. I essentially wanted to create a place where you will get more for your money and get some really nice pieces. I just want to give someone an outlet for fashion at a reasonable price – also thirfting can really be hit or miss so I do some of the leg work and find things that my peers would be interested in purchasing.”

Astu: “So wait your prices are competitive in comparison to the surrounding consignment stores?”

Arlan: “Yes, we post on our website and honestly the prices are just right and as the business grows I will just continue to post what items are coming in and people can reach out and we will hold the item and deliver on that price.”

Astu: “That is amazing especially considering how popular thrifting is now a days! It helps that your items are really handpicked for selection purposes. How long have you been in business and what have you participated in so far?

Arlan: “It has been up and running for a little over a month, since October, and we actually made the local paper just in that one month time span. Movement Merchandising was also a part of a sneaker summit powered by NCSU, about a weekend ago, where we had a pop-up shop.  We are making strides – we actually won the Best Business Competition Award, Best Merchandise and Best Apparel Award.”

Astu: “A month and all of this recognition that is extremely humbling and awesome Arlan– so where is this going for you?”

Arlan: “I am interested in opening a store front in North Carolina and along the east coast – I want it to be a brand where people have to travel to the east coast just to be able to buy it or to engage in the experience.”

Astu: “That makes sense it is always exciting to go to a state and know this is the only place or area I can get this item – very interesting marketing tactic that has proven successful for other people! And just to clarify for the readers you sell what kind of clothing?”

Arlan: “Movement Merchandising is primarily vintage items and retro clothing that I can guarantee you will not find them anywhere else. We also sell custom tees and we actually have baseball tees with the business name – which are always available to order or purchase.”

Arlan, in conjugation with business partner Zach Fasica, is really delivering a practical service.  I can remember rolling out to Goodwill with my girlfriends every other weekend and I still do! What Arlan is doing is promoting a distinctive way of dressing – it is so easy to go out and purchase a blouse from any well-known store but thrifitng requires creativity and risk to put the outfit together. This business is truly unique! In an age where consignment shops run the streets for our generation – Arlan is genius for coming up with this amazing plan to recycle and still create new shirts alongside what already exists.  Kudos and shout out to you Arlan – success is on the way!

Sidenote: During the interview Arlan explained the math behind the transactions of Movement Merchandising and I was immediately blown away and of course dumbfounded – this guy knows his economics so if you want further information on how to sell to Arlan – connect with him below.

Connect with Arlan

Twitter: @TheRealSixx_Fo | IG: Buymovement |

Astu Mengesha – Stay Down Blaze Up

Clothes . . .

Far from a pair of normal jeans . . .

Inspired by Rihanna’s personal stylist, unique in her own right, and a person with an intense passion for denim – Jasmine White is a force to be reckoned with in the up and coming fashion realm. I was introduced to her through a mutual friend and I was struck by her denim designs. I was able to snag her during the infamous Redskins vs. Cowboys game this past Sunday for a quick chat.

Check out our interview below . . .


Astu: “Thank you so much for taking the time to do this I am really excited to learn more about NormaJeans! So tell me a little about yourself?”

Jasmine: “I am 24 years old, I took a couple of courses at the Art Institute of Atlanta, and I have a diverse background in retail – so I am very familiar with different trends and fashion in general.”

Astu: “So what exactly do you do to get your custom jeans? And where did this idea come from for NormaJeans?”

Jasmine: “It started out as a summer thing. I started making them for me and it caught on quickly. It was not anything serious but I have gotten so many compliments that everyone was telling me ‘girl you really need to start a business’ or just flat-out asking me can you make a pair for me.  I basically use a cut and bleach method – sounds simple but it is tedious and I can guarantee that it is different and you will never get the same pair so that makes them right away custom-made. And, surprisingly, it was not only the girls a lot of the guys I know were hitting me up, too, asking for a pair of custom jeans.”

Astu: “Wait? Guys too?”

Jasmine: “Yes! Everyone! I am even doing pants for children. “

Astu: “That’s amazing! Now I want to go back to a point you mentioned. You mentioned the season: summer. Now that it is getting colder – is business still booming? Also the name, very creative, where did that even come from?”

Jasmine: “Of course! Everyone still wants a pair especially since you can throw on tights/leggings with a pair of boats. It is very easy to put something together. Ha ha now as for the name, believe it or not it came to me with the recent wave of interest in Marilyn Monroe that came about. Everyone loves her. I did not go along with the hype, right away, and I am one to really research something before I jump on a bandwagon. So one day, at work, I looked her up and found out that her real name is Norma Jean.  I do admire her, especially, after learning more about Ms. Monroe – so that is basically how the name came about. Haha the funny thing is that there is also a strip club in Baltimore, Maryland called NormaJean but do not get confused ha ha.”

Astu: “Ha ha! I would have never known that her name was that – I can see why she went with Marilyn.  Now, Jasmine, where do you see this going for you? Where is NormaJeans going?”

Jasmine: “Well, I would like to open an online boutique where I can sale wholesale items along with my things. To me, an online boutique is cost-effective and just smarter than opening up a physical location because you’ll have to factor in all these other things such as rent and anything else that comes along with a place’s upkeep.”

Astu: “That is very smart and makes sense! More flexibility for sure and you can reach more people. Now is there anything else you would like for our readers to know?”

Jasmine: “Yes, I will be purchasing more jeans and customizing them very soon so that they will be up for sale. I also want people to know that with everything I will provide above and beyond customer service, I have big plans for how items will be delivered to people, and I am really looking to invest in myself and make this business become an even bigger reality.”

Astu: “Thank you so much Jasmine for taking the time to speak with me and take care!”

All in all, I was really impressed with this young woman. She was able to take something that a lot of people can and are able to do and turned into something profiting. I asked her what sets her apart from any one person cutting and bleaching their own jeans and she simply replied “I am doing the tedious work…no one wants to take the time to, constantly, rip and rip these items and that is exactly where I come in.”

Once the interview concluded I, of course, continued to probe and I found out more about her passion for denim. It started early on in her fashion career back in high school.  Motivation came from a school teacher who saw potential in her with her first creation of a “jean purse” made solely from a pair of Levi’s. Her desire as an entrepreneur is unmatched and quite interesting. Please support NormaJeans by placing orders via email and follow Jasmine on her instagram: Besdress, I promise you will not be disappointed by her hard work.

CONTACT: and IG: Besdress

Astu Mengesha – Stay Down Blaze Up