Series: Roses of Color, Black & Brown Owned Businesses in Dena – Pasadena & Altadena, CA: PASADENA CLSC & LAFOI Clothing

Pasadena CLSC – Photo by: Anthony Carter, Model: Nia August

“The Harlem Renaissance birthed Black businesses; This is the tale of lost innocence”

This is a quote by none other than Shawn Corey Carter, but you may know him as JAY Z. It is one of the opening lines on his song titled “Pray” off the album American Gangster and it is a bar that has always stood out to me because I don’t believe the Harlem Renaissance gets talked about enough for the creative foundation it laid for the Black community.The Harlem Renaissance took place in the 1920s and refers to the sudden cultural implosion of Black culture – and its significance as a mecca for Black liberty and creativity.

The Harlem Renaissance produced creative geniuses such as Dapper Dan, Zora Neal Hurston, Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, Augusta Savage, James Van Der Zee, and many others who helped pave the way for Black artists and entrepreneurs today. After the first World War it gave a push for the Black people in Harlem to innovate and express themselves through the arts, which then turned into a movement that created a community of everyone supporting each other and re-circulating the Black dollar within our own community.

Pasadena CLSC

Innovation occurs when people have to create something from nothing because access to limited resources forces people to find new ways and strategies to either express or create. We are currently experiencing the same type of movement happening on a smaller scale. Many people may not even notice it because of the social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders due to COVID, but Pasadena is definitely experiencing a small renaissance period and we at Culture Honey think it is a great idea to highlight these new start-up businesses, brands, and creatives who have turned their passions into businesses in a series that will continue monthly to hopefully inspire and encourage our audience to either support or join the wave.

Our first two guests to kick off the series are Dennis Robinson Founder/Creative Director of Pasadena CLSC and Lex Founder/Creative Director of LAFOI.

Dennis Robinson Founder/Creative Director of Pasadena CLSC

Dennis Robinson Founder/Creative Director of Pasadena CLSC

Dennis Robinson Founder/Creative Director of Pasadena CLSC

Can you let the people know a little about yourself? 

My name is Dennis Robinson, and I am a visual creative from Pasadena, CA. I specialize in graphic design and digital marketing with an emphasis on brand development.

Pasadena CLSC – Photo by: Enrique Bautista, Model: Von Castillo

Can you tell us a little bit about your brand and how you got started?

PASADENA CLSC is a local, Black-owned brand whose goal is to amplify, pay homage to, and celebrate Pasadena’s rich history, culture, and diversity through clever designs that are inclusive, timeless, and simply classic.

The idea of a “Pasadena-based” brand was a direct response to the untimely death of Nipsey Hussle. His impact on the community was simply undeniable which was evident as folks wore his infamous “Crenshaw” tee to honor his legacy worldwide.

Pasadena CLSC – Photo by: Enrique Bautista, Model: Emeka Chakurah

While scrolling through Facebook a few days after his murder, I came across a post that read, “I love that people are honoring Nip and reppin’ Crenshaw, but where the DENA tees at???” Although I’ve attempted a few Pasadena brands in years prior, this got me thinking and reinvigorated my desire to create a new brand for the city.

So I reached out to my cousin (who authored the post), we bounced around a few ideas, and co-founded what is now PASADENA CLSC.

Pasadena CLSC – Photo by: Enrique Bautista, Model: Alexis Contreras

What is the purpose of your brand? 

Initially, the purpose of our brand was to provide folks an opportunity to rep Pasadena proudly. Our first drop was a collection called “Them Dena Streets” that simply displayed a few revered streets in the city (a concept heavily influenced by Nipsey’s Crenshaw tee). We received a great response with this drop, so we provided folks the option to customize tees with a Pasadena street name to underscore their love for the city.

As we continue to evolve over our first year, we decided to abbreviate the word “Classic” in our name to “CLSC.” which stands for “Cultivating Legacy and Supporting our Community”. This change in the name shifted our purpose as a brand, refocusing our mission to be about more than just clothes – we understood that it is about uplifting our community.

Pasadena CLSC – Photo by: Enrique Bautista, Model: Raven Sprewell

How do you think your business/brand can contribute to the community?

Since we’re still in the “infancy” years of our brand (because we plan to be around for decades!), we’re still trying to figure out ways that we can contribute to the Pasadena community. We’ve designed and donated shirts to after-school programs, organized peaceful protests in the rise of racial injustice, and recently organized a holiday toy drive-thru which allowed folks to safely donate toys in the midst of the current pandemic. We’re also huge advocates for supporting and collaborating with other local brands and businesses by patronizing, sharing, and reposting whenever and wherever we can.

Where do you see your brand going in the next 3-5 years?

In 3-5 years PASADENA CLSC. will have a brick and mortar in Pasadena. Folks will be able to come in, shop, and even get customized orders fulfilled there. We will continue to be a pillar in the community and support especially our Black and Brown youth every chance we get.

If you could give your younger self any advice, what would you tell them about creating a business/brand to help move them along quicker?

I would tell my younger self to continue to create and continue to fail, just keep going. Trust your instincts and F*** what they say.

Pasadena CLSC – Photo by: Enrique Bautista, Model: Emeka Chakurah

Lastly, are there any other businesses or brands you guys are liking right now besides your own?

First off, salute to any and everyone doing it for Pasadena.

S/o to: Hood Liberation; Follow My Gut; Koo Company; Sailors Brew Coffee; JV Ortiz Photography; 4 Discussion; Dena Shirt Company; Solid Company; Created for Greatness; Just 2 Nice Clothing; From the Ground Up; Tribe of Dena; Made in Dena; PasaDNA; Sweet Story; Shoes 4 Grades; Waraire; Infantry; Ppls Clothing.

Lex Founder/Creative Director of LAFOI

Lex, Founder & Creative Director of LAFOI

What’s good, Lex? In the words of Lauryn Hill, I hope everything is everything. Can you let the people know a little about yourself?

Hey, Reek! 🙂 First and foremost I want to say thank you for inviting me to be a part of this. Also hoping everything is everything on your end! 🙏🏼 My name is Lex and I’m from here, Pasadena California. I’ve been here since I was about 10 years old. I am owner, designer and creative director for LAFOI. (@shoplafoi)

Can you tell us a little bit about your brand and how you got started?

LAFOI currently is a brand that doesn’t have any restrictions in what I design. My pride is in designing from ideas or views I have and then going from there. The brand started back in 2016. At that moment I wasn’t 100% sure of where I wanted the brand to go and it took me up until about 2018 to start putting real products out for people to buy. I started “lost”, trying to find my way just as many of us do. Shoot, I’m still lost sometimes. But working it the best way I can, I have been able to evolve with each drop and make sure I stay consistent with product and fresh ideas always.

LAFOI

What is the purpose of your brand?

With LAFOI I believe it’s been crucial to be as authentic and transparent as I can be. Probably the most important purpose is to try and get my brand into places that I might not be allowed in as a Hispanic woman designer in a male-dominated field. Also to design from a place of inspiration and not from a place where I put myself in a box and not grow creatively. I want to be able to dominate and compete in every area I create products in. Breaking those boundaries and having my point of view and thoughts respected is my personal goal and purpose as well.

“720 West, Slip Dress + Pañuelo” Design, C.D, and Production: Alexa Amigon & Bessy Centeno Shot by: John Marquez @john.marq Model: Kayla Marie @datislandshawty

How do you think your business/brand can contribute to the community?

Contributing to the community is something I do daily without even really thinking about it. Shooting most of my releases in my community, speaking positive light into its name and having about 85% of the production here is something that all applies greatly. I believe LAFOI can bring a sense of pride to see someone start from scratch and move forward with integrity. As far as giving back, I believe that will come with time and will happen organically. As I grow my community will too.

“720 West, Slip Dress + Pañuelo” Design, C.D, and Production: Alexa Amigon & Bessy Centeno Shot by: John Marquez @john.marq Model: Kayla Marie @datislandshawty

Where do you see your brand going in the next 3-5 years?

In the next 3-5 years, I’m seeing a continuous and steady growth for LAFOI. Definitely more collaborations, more products, more opportunities to better the brand and opening a space where women designers are highlighted and valued. This idea is something I’ve recently been working on and what I have in mind will definitely create moments in time and help us get our point across when it comes to being a woman owner, designer, creative director, stylist, etc.

LAFOI

If you could give your younger self any advice, what would you tell them about creating a business/brand to help move them along quicker?

I would tell my younger self to do the work, don’t expect things to happen overnight and get on a steady course of growth. Fast businesses fall fast but through consistency and hard work you will organically find your way and stay there. Plenty of times I would give up because I felt things weren’t moving fast enough or I would wait months to drop any product because I was scared of “what if people don’t like it”. With that said, I’d say an idea not fulfilled is a lost chance to grow and learn. So fulfill your purpose and go for it!

LAFOI

Lastly, are there any other businesses or brands you guys are liking right now besides your own?

Yes, of course I have woman-owned brands and companies that I’d love to share with you all; first the amazing clothing boutique owned by a very special person to me, my mom’s shop @bessysboutique who’s been open for 20 years now here in Pasadena. My sister Cinthia’s fine jewelry line @centenofinejewelry, my friend Treasure’s home designs @ornoir_bydesign.

My friend Margaret’s accessory shop @stylesbycleo along with my other friend Sonya’s clothing brand, whom I’m dropping another collaboration with very soon @iam.eccentric – stay tuned for that.

I would like to personally thank Lex & Dennis for their time and being open to being a part of this series.

Once again our goal is to shed light and support the culture in any way we can. By creating this series we will be able to highlight many new startup businesses and creatives who are innovating and creating, pushing the culture forward – especially coming from the city of Pasadena. Please go follow these two creative directors as well as the other brands they suggested.
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