GVSU students run independent Wildboyz clothing line
During the winter of 2012, then high school students Duane Lewis and K.J. Wesley began planting the seeds of Wild, which would later become Wildboyz, a clothing brand that is designed and operated by four current Grand Valley State University students.
The clothing line came about during a time of transition in the boys’ lives.
“We were at a motivational point, kind of motivational and disappointing," Wesley said. "We were in high school, and everybody was signing to go to college and stuff like that, and we were just like, ‘We really need something that we can push and make a brand or a business out of.' So we sat down and came up with Wild, and then we transitioned to Wildboyz.”
About that day, Lewis said watching his friends sign on to college athletics was a catalyst for creating the Wildboyz brand.
“It was Feb. 1, 2012," Lewis said. "That day was national signing football day for college athletes. We had a few friends from school who were signing that day, so we went to go see them sign that morning. We didn’t even go to classes that day. We just went home and started thinking about life and stuff, and that’s where the whole thing came from.
“The motivation was more so seeing everyone else moving around you and wondering what’s next for you, but not fitting into a typical mode of, like, a nine to five. It was more like, ‘I’m going to try to figure out my dreams.’”
The dream, in fact, turned out to be creating clothing and exploring the realm of fashion production. Lewis said he had experience making clothing that suited his style due to not being in a financial place to buy it as he was growing up.
“For me at the time it was the love for it—I love fashion," he said. "And it just comes back from being younger and not being able to afford everything that I wanted to wear, or seeing something I wanted but not being able to have it. So, eventually you just have to learn to create your own stuff and just create your own look.”
While originally the brand was just Lewis and Wesley, Wildboyz grew into a team effort; their mutual friend John Hall, as well as Lewis’ younger brother Deshawn, joined the brand.
The Wildboyz team members said they create clothing based on what they want to make, rather than following a specific pattern of production.
“We don’t really have (a) set mold for stuff; we just do what we want," Lewis said. "Like, we’ll make bikinis in the middle of the winter if we want to. Right now we actually just finished wrapping up stuff for the beginning of winter, so we’re doing a photoshoot around campus today.”
Following that sentiment, Wesley said Wildboyz doesn’t restrict itself in terms of the types of clothing it creates.
“We do everything fashion-wise, so it’s not just a T-shirt brand or a hoodie brand,” he said. “Any garment or anything that we can see a vision for, we take it and make what we can out of it.”
Moreover, the creators of the brand do all the work with production, from creating the designs to doing the stitching and heat pressing. Before creating a physical article of clothing, though, they have to decide what to create. With a small laugh, Lewis said the process for that decision can be a source of (friendly) competition.
“We kind of just bring stuff to each other," he said. "It’s almost like trying to top each other to a point, whoever brings the better clothes back. It’s like, you don’t win anything, but you can be like, ‘I’m the man.’ It’s just friendly competition, but it all works out.”
Discussing the most rewarding and exciting aspects of being apparel creators, Wesley said the support and feelings of acceptance are a particular high point for him.
“It’s the love to me," Wesley said. "That’s the most exciting thing because it’s like you’re not just selling something to somebody—they actually embrace what you’re doing and actually are involved with it. It brings a different type of feeling to you.”
The mission of Wildboyz, in part, is outreach and encouraging dreams.
“We want it to be a way of life for people in college or kids in high school,” Hall said. “Just to understand that if you want to be a part of something that’s bigger, and something that focuses on you being free and doing whatever you want, Wildboyz is the brand that you want to focus on.”