Milan, Paris and London are just a few places where people assume revolutionary fashion is born. But right here in Toronto two young entrepreneurs are determined to launch an urban clothing line with a Caribbean twist.
When we think of the Caribbean we think of sandy beaches, great costumes — as seen this weekend during Caribana — and a great party attitude, but usually not fashion. However, Joe Grine Clothing hit the streets last week with their anti-violence campaign fashions for Caribana.
Ali McKenzie and Erue White met in an entrepreneurial class at Sheridan College. McKenzie was pursuing business administration for accounting and White was pursuing business administration for retail and advertising.
“We always seemed to be going after the same girl so we decided to work together,” says McKenzie. “All we’ve experienced since then is success.”
In September 2001 they founded Joe Grine Clothing Company with the intent of putting a Caribbean spin on the urban clothing market in Toronto and eventually North America.
“Although our initial intention for market success is still there, a lot has changed in terms of our goals in being complete business men responsible to our community and in putting out positive but effective messages,” says White.
One of the messages Joe Grine Clothing addresses is the current problems of drugs and violence on the streets of Toronto and all over the world.
“Our new and ongoing messages will be to promote an anti-violence movement among our youth using our clothing and style as a medium,” says White.
So who is Joe Grine?
“In the Caribbean they say ‘Man a Joe Grine’. Translated that means he’s a ladies man or a confident individual who’s not afraid to go after what he wants. We decided to turn Joe Grine into a brand. The response has been overwhelming,” says McKenzie.
Currently they sell in Toronto, New York, and Jamaica and have been working hard to keep up with the demand.
Originally the line was marketed at men only but due to the demand from women, the line has expanded to include both sexes.
Despite their hours of study, they say reading about business and actually running one are very different.
“Even though Sheridan did a great job of preparing us for the business world ... you can only learn by experiencing it,” says McKenzie.