Columbia, MO is a dusty town spread out between hills and vast forests, parks and farmlands. Smack dab in the center however, is the University of Missouri.
Mizzou, home to SEC athletics and the occasional white frat scandal, is an unlikely but incredibly live ecosystem for creatives, especially those that fall into marginalized groups. It is generally accepted that the black undergraduate population is essentially comprised of 4 large groups of students: those from St. Louis, those from Chicago, those from Kansas City and those from anywhere else on the globe.
This concept is not to be used to reduce these students to their geographical origins, but to shine light on what this generation of Midwest creatives is doing in this small town. A campus collection of poets, rappers, designers, intellectuals, DJs, artists, activists, fashion icons, researchers, movers and shakers, leads to communities built to support these creative pursuits. Not only spoken word clubs, rap groups, orgs and events – but entire businesses.
Enter: The Greens
The company and brand is much more than tops dripping in sauce and hot hoodies that spread like wildfire throughout the campus. The Greens is a sacred space. We spoke with representatives on their team to find out more.
“The Greens is a creative boutique that doubles as an art curation space. This means that fashion and art goes hand-in-hand here at The Greens.”
The initial impression is that this is a clothing brand. But wait, there’s more…
The Greens has two sides to it, the first being the successful clothing line and the second being a flexible and dynamic, curated art garden of sorts.
“On the fashion side, we market ourselves as a high-end streetwear brand. Our focus is on cut-and-sew pieces, giving us extreme freedom, creativity, and custom-ability with our garments. We pride ourselves on our attention to detail and want to deliver quality to our customers.
On the curation end, we hail ourselves as a space where creatives of all kinds can come and be inspired. We like to think our space as a “blank canvas” that can be transformed at any time. During our day to day operations, we serve as a boutique, but the space can be completely flipped at any moment and built out into an in-house installation or collaboration with an artist that fits the brand.”
A radical spin on student run businesses (that puts the original logo company I started at MU to shame – I might add), The Greens is a blend of shop and support system. Not to mention an inspiration showing dreams can be realized and capitalized on, right in the middle of Missouri. Yes, just around the corner from hazardous Rock Quarry and a neighbor to Columbia favorite Heidelberg, sits an art-oasis-meets-retail spot that came into fruition due to the diligence of actual Mizzou students.
The concept came to Marquise White and Curtis Taylor Jr. years ago. Both men have been deeply involved on campus during their respective times at Mizzou and both have their passions and focuses. Quise is notorious for excelling at his personal goals, busting fits and pushing the envelope to pursue and declare his style, while Curtis is more focused on the art side and has extensive photography and videography projects under his belt, not to mention a legacy in the making.
The two have officially been cooking this idea up since 2015 and with that, I had to ask how they took their first steps to get here.
“There has been so many steps to get us to this point, but we think the first step was building a solid foundation for us to stand on. That means defining who we are, what our mission is, and how we could accurately translate this dream and passion into a living, breathing entity. When we established that, everything else kind of fell into place for us. Now, seeing people wearing our clothes and ordering from all across the nation has been super surreal but shows us what happens if we continue to stand behind our mission.”
The clothing has taken off, the store is immaculate and has undergone updates and constant changes and the word is spreading.
To see the full transformation of the space visit The Greens on Instagram here.
The Greens is currently and rapidly expanding its team and has new products and events in rotation to support and connect artists and the community. They emphasize working together and note how crucial Mizzou and Columbia as a whole have been in helping make this happen.
I asked them about their motivation as they continue to grow The Greens.
“We have the opportunity to take everything we’ve learned thus far and pour it into The Greens. What’s dope about that for us is that we are simultaneously pouring into everyone who interacts with our brand as well. We opened this store with the intent to give back to the people. Whether that’s giving people a platform through collaboration or giving people the blueprint and inspiration just by having a space that was opened by two young, black men.”
This aspect in particular is what inspired me to reach out and learn more about the brand. So many times the young, extraordinary and ambitious are told or taught that certain risks are not possible for them or not worth pursuing. It has never been a better time as a young creative to learn, plan and GO! Create, broadcast, brand and build – you don’t need to have a brick-and-mortar space to make an impact or start. I myself am greatly inspired by what this team of people are doing and creating.
“We wanted to be an example to say that all of these things that we typically think are out of our reach are very much so obtainable with the right people and direction.”
And regarding the origins of The Greens creators and St. Louis, there is tons of gratitude and plans to give back to the city, be that with a shop or through service. St. Louis’ support of The Greens is something they won’t ever forget or lose gratitude for.
Read on for more on Marquise White, co-founder of The Greens.
Q&A with Quise
Q: What are 2-3 rules you follow in your life? (Business, Hygiene, Fashion, Work
Ethic, Day to day, Organization, etc.)
For business, I think my biggest rule is to stay true to yourself and your mission. This means embody your brand, represent it all ways possible, work for it with every breath you have, and never negotiate your prices.
As far as hygiene, I live by a saying from Deion Sanders: “If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good.” For me, my biggest motivation comes from the clothes that I’m wearing on a day to day basis. If I’m wearing what I love, I’ll keep pushing out quality in my daily life.
Fashion. I think everyone should live by the rule of “find your style and stick to it.” There are a lot of people’s fashion sense and style that I admire, but I know that I cannot pull off simply because that doesn’t fit me and that’s fine. I think there’s enough room for everyone in the fashion world because we all bring our individual passion and expression with it. Where people get lost in the mix is trying to steal someone else’s flavor and that’s never been the wave.
Personally, I’m an extreme workaholic with high expectations and drive for goal execution, so I’m not the best person to take advice from, but I live by the rule that you work until the job is done. I urge people to practice self-care, but time is the only thing we can’t get back so I sometimes go days without sleeping if I’m that passionate about something.
Organization is key and cleanliness is next to Godliness. Keep everything in your life clean and organized and it’ll be so much easier.
Lastly, day-to-day, I live by the saying “make a play a day.” This simply means that if you accomplish something everyday, no matter how small it is, you’re that much closer to success for what it means to you. Slow progress is better than no progress, so I always encourage people to move at their own pace.
Q: Advice to anyone trying to bring their dreams into fruition ?
A few of the biggest things that have helped us get to where we are is:
- Build a solid foundation and belief system behind yourself and your brand. Make sure that all of your goals and everything you embody is noted and represented. Then live it in and always stay true to it.
- Build a team behind it. Even if it’s just people who support you, no one gets anywhere without others helping them out.
- Don’t be afraid. Things may seem uncertain, but understand that nothing in this world is. Be confident that if you do everything in your power to make your vision work, it will.
- Research and work on your craft. The things you feel you need to get better at, put the time and energy into working on those. That consistent work towards something is how mastery happens.
- Understand that it takes time. A lot of people who are building things from the ground up often get discouraged from immediate reactions and attention in the beginning phases. Understand that every brand that’s been hailed as the best have been doing this for sometime. Be ready for the journey ahead.