An Essex High School sophomore is using his creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to dive headfirst into the complicated, exciting world of running a fashion business.
Jesse Rivers started ALONE, a streetwear clothing company, earlier this year when he completed an internship with Burlington-based printing company, Amalgamated Cultureworks.
“The whole process of production took probably a month, because I did it all myself,” Jesse said. “I had to learn everything.”
Jesse said in exchange for learning how to screen print clothing and using Cultureworks’ equipment, he provided marketing assistance for the company. Jesse had to invest his own money into the actual products and ink to print the clothing up front.
Jesse said he learned a lot, including seeing how clothing is made and the benefits of quality control. However, he said for the next round of clothing he makes, he wants to focus on the design and marketing rather than the production.
Though he received assistance on the production side of things, Jesse said he had to pick up the business side of the company as he went along.
“I jumped into it completely blind,” he said.
Now that his clothes are printed, Jesse runs ALONE Clothing out of his basement, using a website and social media to market his products. He prints out shipping labels and sends the clothes off himself.
Jesse’s mom, Kelli, said she’s incredibly proud to watch him work on his business, which she says is “all him.”
“It’s fun to see him network his way through the local music, marketing and art spaces to build relationships that help further his business,” she explained in an email to The Reporter. “I feel like each week, he’s set up yet another meeting with a new contact – he networks better than most adult professionals I know.”
Jesse, also a musician, said he’s inspired by musicians like Frank Ocean, Kid Cudi and Kanye West.
“I didn’t have a father figure growing up, and I think I really gravitated towards Kanye West,” he explained. “I don’t just look at one artist … there are so many creative people I look at and try to draw creativity and inspiration out of.”
ALONE’s logo was born from music, too: Jesse came up with it when he was doodling Nirvana’s logo in math class. The result mimics the band’s downturned smiley face with X’s for eyes and now graces every piece of clothing he’s made.
“When I think of the word ‘alone,’ it’s kind of depressing,” he said. “But the way that it’s used in this sense, it’s almost ironic, it’s flipped. You’re fighting your inner demons.”
The mission statement on ALONE’s website says Jesse hopes his clothing can help people be comfortable with themselves and turn negativity into positivity.
One of his first T-shirt designs has the phrase “Boys don’t cry” with “don’t” crossed out, conveying it’s OK for boys to show emotion, an idea that bucks the norm in American masculine culture.
Jesse said he’s also inspired by different color palettes, which he says give the clothing a certain mood. Though his first batch of clothing includes pink and blue, he said he likes to think of his clothing as gender neutral.
“If you like the color, it shouldn’t really matter,” he explained.
Looking toward the future, Jesse said ALONE was just invited to set up a booth at the Hour 99 art gallery on New Years’ Eve in Burlington. The clothing will be featured in the evening’s fashion show, on display for hundreds to see.
Jesse’s clothing can be found at www.aloneclothes.com.