STREETExPO Brand Highlight: 2eze Clothing Co.
In 2015, Ball State students Nate Robert-eze and Joshua Sims started a clothing brand. With just one t-shirt design, “a simple white T-shirt with their custom black logo in the left corner,” and iron-on transfers, they sold primarily to friends and family. After the students had the opportunity to set up a booth during a 2 Chainz concert at Ball State, the brand’s success increased. People began asking for more merchandise, which led to a second design and the brand continued to grow.
To this day, 2eze Clothing Company focuses on simplicity, humility and faith which evolves into unity. Sims says, “spirituality is a central part of [their] designs,” with emphasis on God and faith. The team draws design inspiration from current fashion trends and real life experiences, typically incorporating a “faith-based spin.” One t-shirt design in particular says, “Pray.” Sims says, “That design was basically a depiction of the moment where things in your life are spiraling out of control and you don’t know what else to do but to talk to God.”
How does the process work?
The team begins the design process brainstorming ideas, considering different possibilities and constraints. Usually at least three ideas are presented to vote on, then turned into a concept. Next, distributors send fabrics and prints for color and material testing. Finally, the team reviews financials and creates a marketing plan. This way they can be sure the product transitions to the customers without issues.
Like any other company, 2eze has faced and overcome challenges. Staying true to the values important to the brand was one of these struggles. “We were anxious at first to uphold the religious aspect of our clothing because we are trying to reach a wide audience,” Sims says.
Now as a Ball State alumni three years later, Robert-eze and Sims have seen the company grow immensely. With hopes to expand internationally, they want to keep the brand based in Indy. “We know that we are able to connect to people here who love fashion and live close enough where they can get to our apparel,” Sims says.
What’s next for 2eze?
Over the next year, they plan to expand within the college market by appointing brand ambassadors at different schools. Another goal of 2eze is to provide employment opportunities for community members in need. “One of our short term goals is to start giving back to our local communities more through charitable events, philanthropic work, and scholarships and apprenticeships. We feel like that is our way of promoting unity which is our passion,” Sims declared.
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.
Cut From the Same Cloth, Urban Planning Majors Build a Fashion Label - Ball State Daily | By. Gail Warner
It’s a recent Tuesday in the Art and Journalism Building, and juniors Josh Sims and Nate Robert-Eze are in their usual spot, presiding over a display of unity-themed T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and wristbands.
Students respond to that theme as they pass by the budding fashion designers’ long table in The Atrium, where they wave, give fist bumps and stop to place orders.
“If we get different types of people in our clothing, they see others wearing it and connect for at least a second,” said Robert-Eze, whose Nigerian surname inspired the 2eze moniker. “In my opinion, that’s real unity, when people connect without saying a word. And when people are unified in some way, they tend to forget about race, gender or orientation.”
Behind their ideals and the camaraderie they’ve built with each other and with others is a lot of hard work and passion. The pair launched 2eze Apparel in March 2015. Since that time, they’ve learned a lot behind the scenes about entrepreneurship, from finding an apparel printer to filing taxes.
They’ve also had fun designing apparel collections, most of which include one of 2eze’s distinct logos. They have experimented with styles ranging from acid wash and camouflage to a best-selling floral line. And in October, they partnered with an Indianapolis clothing line to launch an abstract design for the fall.
“We love how it’s got a pop art feel,” said Sims, referring to the vibrant artwork adorning the back of one of the sweatshirts for sale.
Drawn together by design
Robert-Eze and Sims, from Indianapolis and Gary, Indiana, respectively, are studying urban planning in the College of Architecture and Planning. Their mutual love of design is what drove them to go into business together.
“We think exactly alike,” said Sims, “and have since we met.”
In the future, the students want to parlay their experience as business partners into co-owning an architectural firm that’s as socially conscious as their clothing line.
“We’ll have a mission and encourage employees to do community service,” Robert-Eze said. “Both of us come from low-income communities, so we’d love for our firm to design for people living in those areas. We know them well and feel we can fill that gap.”
Sims added, “As a Gary native, I feel it is imperative for me to dedicate projects to revitalizing the city. The city is beautiful, with so much potential and improvements, and I would like to have a role in bringing the city back.”
In the short term, their ambitions are centered on schoolwork and devoting what spare time they have to 2eze Apparel, which includes selling merchandise every Tuesday and Thursday in the Atrium.
“At first, we did it for family and friends,” Robert-Eze said. “But after we saw how fast the logo and idea caught on, it was like, how can we blow this up?”
A buzz builds on campus
One of their early fans is Jasmyne Cameron, a junior majoring in sport administration with a minor in marketing. She met Sims their sophomore year and has supported her friend ever since he told her about his business idea.
“2eze … it’s catchy, and I like wearing something that promotes a good cause,” she said. “I’m proud of these guys because they’re so driven. They had an idea and instead of just talking about it, they put it into action.”
Through a promotional campaign bolstered through word of mouth and social media posts, Sims and Robert-Eze have seen their brand take off. Nowadays, a walk through campus brings them the joy of multiple sightings of peers sporting 2eze clothing. “The first time it happened, I had the biggest smile on my face,” Robert-Eze said.
The pair also have faculty supporting their commitment to becoming socially minded entrepreneurs. Olon Dotson, an associate professor of architecture, said: “I believe some of the greatest entrepreneurial ideas originate from a simple introduction, conversation or friendship developed over the sharing of space — in this instance, an academic space. With respect to Josh and Nate, this is definitely the case.”
Duo eager to pay it forward
As Robert-Eze and Sims look ahead to graduation, they hope to hire Ball State students who can help them carry on the message behind 2eze Apparel — one that includes giving back to the community.
“We’ve volunteered at MOM (Motivate Our Minds, which helps area youth succeed in education and society) and participated in workshops and after-school programs for kids wanting to know more about higher education and entrepreneurship,” Sims said. “We also visited the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility to talk to young men there. Instead of them listening and learning from us, we ended up learning from them.”
At the end of the day, he added, “We want to connect with everybody. We’re not geared toward one nationality or race. That’s where our message of unity comes in.”
Student-run apparel company goes beyond t-shirts - Ball State Daily News | By. Kanyinsola Ajayi
Nate Robert-Eze always considered himself to be an entrepreneur. At 14, he repaired his old shoes and sold them to classmates. By 16, he was cutting people's hair.
“I’ve always been the type to get money somehow. It sounds weird, but there is always something that people need,” he said.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the sophomore urban planning major is running his own business at 19. It certainly isn’t to his family.
“My parents always said they knew something like this was bound to open,“ he said.
By "this,” he means his clothing apparel company, 2eze, a business with a mission to be a movement — not just a brand. 2eze focuses on three main things, he said: faith, simplicity and humility.
The business started when Robert-Eze created some designs for his family to wear last year. He shared the designs with friends, who said they would buy them.
Then he met Joshua Sims, a fellow urban planning major at Ball State, who liked the idea. A month later, they started selling t-shirts.
“Me and him are both the type to get stuff done,” Robert-Eze said.
Both students spend at least four hours every day working on their business. Most of their time is spent in Bracken Library. They’re always doing something, like conducting market research or designing a logo.
Robert-Eze is overwhelmed some days, but he said it’s worth it.
“I get my joys from the process; seeing small-term goals being accomplished,” he said. “It could be something as little [as] someone reposting a graphic I made for 2eze. That would make me very happy.”
There are five core members of 2eze who, in addition to Robert-Eze and Sims, are Ball State sophomores Malik Davis, Ken Cohen and Bryce Dotson.
Davis, Cohen and Dotson handle the financial, philanthropy and faith-based aspects of the business, respectively.
All their goals came together when Robert-Eze and his team started raising money for Olon Dotson, an associate professor of architecture, and his family.
Robert-Eze met Olon through a mentor before coming to Ball State.
He got to know him more through the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMAS). Olon is one of the two black professors in the College of Architecture and Planning, and while Robert-Eze is not one of his students, they still became close friends.
Robert-Eze went on a trip to New Orleans with Olon's class in Spring 2015. He became close friends with the professor's son.
This fall, the class took the trip again. Near the end of the trip, Olon's son was arrested. He is currently back in Indiana after his family posted bail.
“I remember when [Olon] told me — I just couldn’t believe it,” Robert-Eze said. “This kid is the nicest person you would ever meet. I could never see that happening to him.”
2eze decided to help Olon and his family pay for expenses like attorneys by giving them 15 percent of the profits from their $5 shirts.
Olon said he was very grateful.
“I see it as a form of activism,” he said.
Robert-Eze said that everything he does is a product of his heart.
“I feel like I am doing the right thing and have the right people behind me,” he said.