Darryl Brown: From Toledo to fashion fame

Photo credit: Tyson Hughes

Previous generations called it “looking sharp” – when you look and feel like a million dollars and your ensemble just sparkles. Darryl Brown calls it “getting fresh”. And as one of America’s emerging fashion moguls, Brown knows a thing or two about freshness.

Photo credit: Tyson Hughes

Brown’s energy is evident the moment he walks into the room. He walks like a hangover and shines with the confidence of a man who has paid his debts and more. He wears a white DB (Darryl Brown) t-shirt (US $ 80) and DB pants (US $ 150) and smiles as he shows the future home of his fashion headquarters in Toledo, located in the former Sophia Lustig Shop is located at 124 10NS Street. His dreadlock hair is pulled over his left shoulder in a long cascade. His arms are tattooed with artwork by Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, a memento of the 10 years he apprenticed in the New York fashion world. He also worked as a stylist and cloakroom manager for Kanye West for a number of years, but we’ll get to that later.

Brown is the founder of the Midwest Kids sportswear line and its DB workwear line of the same name, recently dubbed a “watch out brand” by the Complex website and now available nationwide from Nordstrom. He has just designed a shoe for Adidas, the big reveal of which is slated for this fall. Kanye West, Lebron James, and Machine Gun Kelly are all listed in the contacts on his phone. And he’s done fashion shows all over the world, from Paris to Milan.

Pretty good for a kid from Toledo’s South End.

Photo credit: Tyson Hughes

Midwest kid
Born and raised in the Collingwood / Belmont area, Brown achieved his first fame as a track star at Rogers High School. Called All City and All State, he was known in the neighborhood for his athletic prowess. By the time he graduated from Rogers in 2004, Brown had already traveled the world and attended track meetings. He describes his childhood as a “blue collar” and praises his parents, who still live in Toledo – his father is retired from Jeep and his mother still works at the Toledo Hospital.

“I’ve been blessed enough to avoid trouble and not have too many problems. Growing up downtown, we weren’t rich, but we weren’t broke either, ”says Brown, stretching back on a futon in his upstairs office on 10th Street.

After receiving a track grant for Vincennes At the University of Southern Indiana, however, Brown quickly realized that he was just one of many fast athletes out there. He also quickly became disillusioned with the politics of university sports.

“University sports are really run like a business. It wasn’t as full of fame and passion as high school sports. And if you’re not a top athlete, there’s no money in it, ”says Brown. With his dream of participating in an Olympics, Brown went back to Toledo. He got a great job as a conductor on the Norfolk-Southern Railroad, where he made a lot of money for a young man of twenty-one. But after four years on the railroad, he started to burn out.

“I am a cancer. I don’t like anything standing. I like to move and make progress, to get to the next level. After doing all the parties in my early twenties and getting that out of my system, I just thought, “What’s next?”

His life should take a fashionable turn.

Clothing designed by Darryl Brown. Photo credit: Tyson Hughes

To look good
For as long as Darryl Brown can remember, he has loved “getting fresh” and photographing people. He loved the feeling he got when he dressed in well-designed clothes. His interest in fashion led him to his friend Zack Beebe’s NEX store, a clothing and lifestyle boutique near the University of Toledo campus in Secor and Dorr. Beebe opened NEX in 2009, which Brown describes as a “one-stop shop for boys”. Not only could they come by and buy top notch streetwear, they could also listen to music and get their hair cut. On his days off from the railroad, Brown spent hours hanging around the NEX and suggesting to Beebe what goods to keep in store. Though he enjoyed helping his friend shop, Brown still didn’t see a future in fashion.

“For me, fashion was what I saw on TV – thin people walking up and down the catwalks, silks and fabrics everywhere. That’s how I thought fashion. I thought there was no place for me, ”says Brown.

But one day Brown booked a then largely unknown rapper from Cleveland, Machine Gun Kelly, for NEX, and the rapper asked Brown about the hoodie he was wearing and where he could get one. Little did Brown know, he had just won his first client as a stylist.

“I found out that a stylist is someone who makes people chic and that blew me away,” says Brown. “I thought all these famous athletes and entertainers were just rich and had the resources to buy the clothes they wanted. I never knew there was a person, an entire profession, that attracted them. That blew me away. “

Clothing designed by Darryl Brown. Photo credit: Tyson Hughes

Brown left the railroad and devoted himself entirely to the fashion world. He moved to New York, worked for the Rocksmith brand and also styled people on the side. After a few years, through an association with Machine Gun Kelly, Brown ended up being a full-time stylist for Kayne West, which eventually led to a move to Los Angeles. While in LA, Brown dropped his two brands, Midwest Kids and Darryl Brown, which were both successful. But in the back of his mind Brown remembered his Toledo roots and working class upbringing. And while Kanye was great working, LA life lacked its sensitivity to the Midwest.

“Both of my brands are rooted in the Midwest,” says Brown. “I draw all of my inspiration from my childhood and childhood in the Midwest, so it just made sense to come home.”

So he did.

Downtown Darryl
“It doesn’t look like much now, but wait until it’s done!”

Brown walks through the gutted interior of the former women’s boutique (which has moved to Perrysburg) and explains the layout of its new world headquarters as workers haul away material on display.

Brown walks through the dusty room and points out where sales counters and an in-house print shop are to be built. One thing is for sure, he’s a lot more relaxed in Toledo than in LA

Photo credit: Tyson Hughes

“Every day that I lived in NY or LA, I woke up under pressure. I felt like a hamster walking on a wheel. Since I’m back home, I feel good. I am definitely getting more for my money. I can spread out deeper instead of thin. Some people go far with it, not deep, but shallow. I’m trying to go deep. “

Deep indeed. His Midwest Kids brand is inspired by his mom’s classic college sportswear, while the Darryl Brown line is inspired by the clothes his dad wore every day when he went to work. Work at Darryl Brown’s headquarters is due to be completed this fall, with an official launch scheduled for October 1st, when he will also present his Adidas shoe to the world. Right now, Brown is happy to be at home in Toledo. He can be close to his family and friends and girlfriend who lives in Detroit. In the meantime, it’s normal for Brown to sell his clothing lines and help people “get fresh”.

“After all, I’m just a Toledo guy. I’ve been very blessed and very lucky and it’s great to be home. ”

For more information, visit wemidwestkids.com and darrylbrown.com

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