The west side neighborhood around the intersection of Joy Road and Meyers in Detroit can be a tough place, but theFAME Shop
, located at 10608 Joy Rd., is a brightening presence.
FAME is an acronym for Fashion, Arts, Music, and Entertainment. Those things are integrated inside the shop, which features screen printing, embroidery and sewing stations, a recording booth, and more. At one time, the shop was even home to a small bookstore that was set up by notable Detroiter Shaka Senghor
"FAME" is also the nickname of shop owner Clement Brown, Jr. He adopted it as a sort of professional persona while working as a sales representative for a clothing company because it embodied the things about which he was passionate. The name stuck with him.
Clement Brown, Jr. is a 22-year-veteran of the clothing and fashion business, remarkable considering that he is only 34 years old.
Brown and his family moved to Detroit from Buffalo, NY when he was 8 years old. When he was 12, Brown's close friend Edsel Marshall III started airbrushing
. Brown began collaborating with Marshall on designs, applying them to clothing, and selling the products to kids at school. By the time Brown was 15, he had opened a kiosk at Fairlane Mall in Dearborn to sell his clothing products to a wider customer base.
Brown has been creating and selling his own lines of clothing ever since. Several years ago, he purchased his Joy Road building from an elderly couple who were retiring from their embroidery business and opened the FAME shop.
Since opening the shop, Brown has become an active member in Black Male Engagement
, and participated in an MIT Media Lab
held atOmniCorps Detroit
Currently, FAME shop provides screen printing, embroidery, airbrush, and other clothing embellishment services, but Brown is working on transitioning part of his operations into a DIY studio where people can come in and learn to execute their own designs and produce their own clothing.
Brown and FAME shop were recently selected to participate in the inaugural class of Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses Detroit
program, which links local entrepreneurs with financial resources and mentoring that will help them grow their businesses.
All the while, Brown has continued doing the things that launched his career -- designing and making clothing.
"My idea is to use fashion, something we're naturally good at, to teach and inform my community," says Brown.
One of his successful clothing lines, Laundry Money, actually incorporates dollar bills into the clothing. The bills are used to make a greater point about what we value culturally. The message is critical of empty materialism.
The shirts feature a laminated dollar bill and string of screen-printed sayings, starting with street terms like "grind" and "hustle," then transitioning into more legitimate business terms like "network," "build credit," and "invest."
"It ain't about the dollar, it's about what you do with the dollar," says Brown.
Positive messaging is an undercurrent that runs through all of Brown's work. Three years ago, Brown began a festival called Joy Day to bolster the sense of community along Joy Road. During Joy Day, which happens late in the summer, the FAME Shop coordinates giveaways of school supplies, clothing, and free haircuts for neighborhood kids as they prepare to go back to school.
Last year, FAME Shop hosted the first-ever Winter Joy festival, which was created to provide neighborhood kids with fun activities during the height of winter. This year, Brown plans on holding Winter Joy at Christmas time to ensure that local kids in need get gifts during the holidays.
Brown is currently excited about his newest project, a clothing line produced at FAME Shop called Do #'s
. It's a play on a term
used in the hip hop music industry that refers to selling lots of records, i.e. "doing numbers." Brown applies the expression more broadly as a way of celebrating success in life endeavors.
"If you're taking the SAT or trying to lose weight, we're saying, 'Do numbers!'" says Brown. "From the heart you reach the heart. Do #'s embodies who I am."
All photos by Doug Coombe.