When many people think of Memphis they think of our soulful music, smoky barbecue or muddy Mississippi River. One of the last things that come to mind is Memphis as a fashion forward city.
There is, however, a growing class of creative individuals committed to bringing fashion into the forefront of a place that seems to reference the past more frequently than the future. In part one of a two-part series, we meet pioneer James Davis, who not only offers tailor-made clothing, but has his own fragrance as well.
Carlee McCullough: Thank you for taking the time to share with our readers your experience and knowledge. Tell us about James Davis?
James Davis: Let me first thank you for taking time to have me for the interview. I am the president and owner of L.R. CLOTHIER. I strive to be more successful every day and understand that success is not simply defined by how much money is made, but how many people you have a positive influence upon as well. I truly believe that if you think it – then you can achieve it. Everyday is something new, something different and life is what you make of it. I love what I do.
C.M.: How did you get into the fashion industry?
J.D.: I first worked in retail at Wilson's Leather. I experienced a high level of sales success, which led to me being recruited by J. Riggings, which is a moderate-level men's clothing store. After starting with selling men's accessories, it was a no-brainer to venture into garments. Initially it was just off-the-rack shirts, which expanded into custom-tailored shirts. From there, my clients began to additionally request to have tailored suits.
C.M.: What do you do in the fashion industry today?
J.D.: At L.R. CLOTHIER, we custom make fine quality suits, jackets and accessories. In addition to that, we'll identify other designers and network with them, to help further their efforts, while limiting some of the bumps and bruises we suffered along the way.
C.M.: What is the status of the up-and-coming fashion industry in Memphis?
J.D.: We've been up and coming for a good while now. A lot of strides have been made. One such indicator, there are now several fashion week events and activities that exist. Their recognition is growing. You'll see a host of boutiques that are around and will even catch some pop-up shops from time to time. There's more fashion oriented networking taking place. The respect of Memphis being an epic center for style, it's a diamond in the process. We've come a long way, while traveling this extending road. Look out for 2 to 3 people that are poised to hit a national stage.
C.M.: How did you get into the fragrance business? What inspired you to get into the fragrance business?
J.D.: What I do in my business reflects the personalities, platforms and existence as some of the major fashion houses. Think Polo, think Armani, think Tom Ford. They all have a fragrance as part of their brand and collection. Not only is it a profit center for them, but also it's a way of attracting a clientele that may not be able to purchase a better-priced clothing item, but they will spend $50, $60, $70 on the cologne.
I really got inspired when Diddy won the Fifi award for having the #1 selling cologne Unforgivable. After always admiring his vision, branding, drive and hustle, I thought – why not? This wasn't a separate class or category for your "urban brands" or anything like that. Unforgivable beat out every other fragrance, period. That was a major accomplishment, which many probably still don't know. These thoughts and ideas helped birth my very first fragrance – CONVOLUTION. Let me say this. It's not a private label that I signed off on. I actually created the scent myself. I'm very proud of that and excited as to how well the test marketing has been received.
C.M.: What are the necessary elements that go into a successful business?
J.D.: The most important element is to have a true passion for what you're doing. In addition to that, you have to have a deep knowledge of your product, service and industry.