Designers use fashion to promote unity
Junior urban planning major Josh Sims and Ball State alumnus Nate Robert-Eze featured their new clothing collection in their fashion show "Unity in the Jungle." Sims and Robert-Eze's brand is based around unity. Larry Luellen, Photo Provided
After a trip to Walmart three years ago, Josh Sims, junior urban planning major, and Nate Robert-Eze, a Ball State alumnus, found fashion to be their outlet for success.
In 2015, Sims and Robert-Eze decided to use iron-on transfers, designs in which one uses heat to attach a design onto a piece of clothing, to design their own T-shirts; interest in their designs quickly grew among other students at Ball State.
With so much conversation happening about their clothing, Sims and Robert-Eze decided to release their first shirt: a simple white T-shirt with their custom black logo in the left corner.
They first made the shirt available to friends and family, but were able to further their brand’s outreach by setting up a booth during a 2 Chainz concert at Ball State. They sold so many shirts at the concert that people began asking for more merchandise, which led them to continue to build their brand and design a second T-shirt.
Sims and Robert-Eze’s designs are based around several core values, including simplicity, humility and faith, which have evolved into a common theme: unity.
“We wanted to create a story, so people understand what they’re wearing — it’s a kind of dignity,” Sims said. “We did this by recording people on our cell phones, asking them, ‘What is missing in the world?’ We posted this on social media and people responded quite well to it,” Sims said.
Since their first two designs, Sims and Robert-Eze have created hundreds of designs for their business 2eze and sold more than 1,000 shirts to a diverse group of customers, which Sims attributes to the versatility of their clothing.
Throughout their success, however, Sims and Robert-Eze have faced challenges in staying true to the values important to them and their brand.
Many of their designs emphasize God and faith, and spirituality is a central part of one of their designs. Sims and Robert-Eze were anxious at first to uphold the religious aspect of their clothing because they are trying to reach a wide audience.
“We didn’t want to scare people away. You always have that thought, ‘Is this too extreme? Are people going to wear this?’ but we’ve realized that these values are actually very universal,” Robert-Eze said. “They’re not necessarily scaring people away as much as they’re inviting people. What we’ve learned is that we cannot put away with all the things that we find near and dear to our hearts, and the values that we have just because of what we think is going to happen. It’s important to share our true values.”
Recently, Robert-Eze and Sims’ third collection, which includes more than 20 distinct pieces, has been released and featured in “Unity in the Jungle,” a fashion show that was held March 24.
The show was planned in an effort to create a unique yet effective way to show off the clothing line and was centered around the idea of unity, as Sims and Robert-Eze united their different brands and people of all backgrounds through the fashion show.
“[The fashion show] was a leap of faith. We just hopped in, like most things Josh and I do with the business,” Robert-Eze said. “We didn’t know what the outcome would be because nothing like this had ever been done in this fashion, but we eventually found out all the working parts of a good show.”
The most rewarding part of the business for Sims is seeing students wearing his apparel. Sims said he’s seen people sporting his clothing both on and off campus and hopes to eventually grow the brand to reach a global market.
They also plan to expand their brand into women’s fashion. Robert-Eze said he’s been turning to his 15-year-old sister, Pauline, for inspiration and perspective to allow him to avoid his assumptions of what women want and gain insight from a young woman herself.
As they continue to work to expand their brand, Sims and Robert-Eze are also able to look back at where they started and see how much work they have put into their clothing lines and all the obstacles they have overcome.
Not only is fashion important to Sims and Robert-Eze, but the statements they make with their clothing and their work in the fashion industry play an important role in their work as they continue to move forward.