About two weeks ago, I was strolling through Twitter and I came across all these different people that I knew as well as some very likable artists like Big Sean, Playboi Carti, The Cool Kid’s Chuck English, Dom Kennedy, Wale, Asher Roth(and the list goes on) rocking either the “Eat Your Wheaties” tee feat. the iconic Juelz Santana dipped in Bape or the Sade shirt and I was like damn …. who’s making these and how can I get one ? Turns out the two creators that I was looking for Jeffrey Lockhart and Jonathan McLean were out of the 704 (Charlotte, NC) and I spared no time sending a quick dm (cause that’s just apart of the process sometimes) and an email of course. Below, me and Jeffrey chop it up about the foundation of TCS704 , the crazy finessing that has went into the journey, the phone call with Juelz Santana, and future plans for the expanding street-wear brand.
–So first of all, did you and Jonathan have a set plan for what TCS(The Clean Slate)704 would be ?
Jefe: The Clean Slate was originally a blog/online publication. I went to New York for two summers and interned for Mass Appeal and Jonathan was interning at Complex. The internships were very eye opening for us and we kinda strayed away from journalism. For a while, we didn’t know what we wanted to do to reinvent The Clean Slate but things just happened naturally. I ended up getting Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and taught myself how to design so we started designing t-shirts. There was never really a purpose. We just knew we were guys with taste and an eye for what’s cool. Things happened very organically. We never announced a transition or anything. It all happened smooth.
–What made you both want to make this into a streetwear apparel company ?
Jefe: We are both kids of that classic streetwear era (2008-2013). So I guess, even if we never exactly said “I want to own a brand,” it was destined in a way. All those days of being on Hypebeast and Sole Collector Forums in high school lead up to this. We’d see our big homies rocking stuff in high school and then go home and google it. That’s how we got put onto a lot of different shit. A lot of the underground brands that eventually influenced our own.
–What or who inspired you to actually take fashion and branding seriously ?
Jefe: What inspired me to take it serious was the response to the first bit of shirts that we did. I had no prior experience with design so it inspired me to learn more about it and seek out more information.
–What kind of accountability would you say that you hold right now as far as being apart of an expanding brand out of Charlotte?
Jefe: Just staying original and helping carve out this fashion industry in Charlotte. Charlotte isn’t really known for our clothing so we just want to raise awareness and let people know that Charlotte got fly shit too.
–When was your very first pop up shop ?Anything you had worries or fears about during this time ?
Jefe: Ahh man, our very first pop up shop was in Atlanta at OG Maco’s Birthday Bash, last year in Atlanta. We lost a lot of money doing that pop up shop. First off, we had to pay 50 or 60 bucks just to set up a table. I’m honestly not sure why we paid to vend somewhere, especially at a concert. It just wasn’t the right environment for a pop up. We got put in an off set corner in the venue, away from all of the traffic. The lighting was off. It was super dark and they might’ve gave us like a strobe light or some shit. I’m huge on presentation especially when it comes to selling product, so this was all stuff that I took into account. We had spent all of this money on a huge shipment of shirts and maybe sold like one or two. These were early mistakes that we appreciate now. It was all a learning curve.
-So we’ve seen people from Big Sean and Wale to Smoke Dza and Playboi Carti rockin’ your sh**..How hard did you guys have to work in order to get your clothing to these rappers with platforms ?
Jefe: A lot of finessing but some were through prior relationships that I had through interning at a magazine and moving around in NYC those two summers. I had met a lot of managers through doing interviews and shit like that. But we’ve did it all from running up on Peewee Longway in the back of the club to waiting hours outside a venue for Flocka to come out a venue. It’s usually always a challenge but that’s the work that people don’t see. Funny story, that’s how we actually got the Freek’n You tee to Wale, it was at the GHOE concert last year. We went to Kinkos and made fake passes, got thru majority of security and handed it off to my little brother Greylen, who had been backstage because he hopped over the barricades. At TCS, we believe that teamwork makes the dream work haha.
–What do you think they love most about your brand ? or what reactions have you guys at least observed from them?
Jefe: I think they end up wearing the gear because they can relate. Dom and Big Sean were coming up in the rap game during that classic streetwear era. That was the era that inspired us. Carti is not much younger than us so he grew up in that era as well. All of our products tell some type of story, even if you can’t tell, and some people catch nostalgia from the stories in these shirts.
– Wow, that’s really dope and definitely a work ethic but I can respect.. But speaking of rappers ….What was that phone call with Juelz Santana like ?
Jefe: Absolutely surreal. I grew up on Dipset and Juelz was always my favorite out of Dipset simply because he was that young nigga that was killing shit. He had the swag. I mean, Cam did too, of course, but Juelz did it on some youthful shit. He was always ahead on the style. We were glad that he embraced us and wasn’t tripping at all. We sent him a package out and we spoke about potentially doing some creative work for him. Only had a conversation with him twice though and haven’t heard from him, All love. Even if we never work, we were just excited to get his blessing.
-When did yall realize that you all had something very special on your hands ?
Jefe: I realized this when I was at the Travis Scott x Young Thug x Metro Boomin show and Metro came out in the Trap God T-Shirt. At that moment, I knew that this could be something. I couldn’t believe it. We had given it to him before the show and he said it was hard and that he was going to wear it but I didn’t believe him. Shoutout to Metro tho, he’s a man of his word.
-In one word, how would you describe your work ethic up until this point?
Jefe: Everlasting. I’m always working. I think I might’ve slept 8 of the last 48 hours. Being that I work for Diamond through the day. I allow my nights to be the time that I work on personal endeavors, whether that be TCS704 or freelance work.
–So being that your interning for Diamond Supply and Jonathan interning for Play Cloths right now, what are you guys’ plans for the future of TCS704?
Jefe: We’re soaking up professional game with these brands. I’m about to go finish out my last semesters in school so TCS704 is pretty much going to be my focus since I’ll be back in NC. Jonathan will still be in NYC but our design process is very easy and convenient. I pretty much design things and he gives his input and opinions. We always find that common ground when we reach a difference. We’re going to apply what we’ve learned from these brands and apply it to our own.
-What would you say consistently motivates you all to keep creating even though you both have experienced a good amount of success off the brand so young?
Jefe: Knowing that we’re inspiring kids to follow dreams is one things that keeps us pushing and of course, more money haha. I wanna buy moms a house off fashion money.