Get ready for New York Fashion Week because here comes teenage Langston H. from the Boys & Girls Club!
While viewers may be surprised to see the 13-year-old entrepreneur’s designs on the runway, his mother Jacqueline is not. Coming from a long line of successful business owners within his family, Langston is a natural go-getter who balances his passion for business with school, student council, basketball and track.
“When he launched his fashion line, The Top, Langston asked me for help,” said Jacqueline. “I told him that fashion is not my area of expertise, but I can put you in touch with people who can help you.
How to become an entrepreneur 101
Langston found the network and rigor he needed to pursue his entrepreneurial goals at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan.
Through a special program called the Industry Club, youth members can gain work experience in industries such as fashion, risk management, urban planning, sports, esports and entertainment.
“Our mission is to ensure our youth are ready for careers, startups and homeownership,” said Shawn H. Wilson, club president and CEO. “Helping young people explore their interest in entrepreneurship is more complex than just ‘teaching’ them the curriculum. Business is environment, culture, language and network. Ultimately, we built an ecosystem where Langston has access to all of these components.”
Teens are required to apply to join the Industry Club and attend roughly six weeks of after-school workshops to gain real-world work experience. Employing up to 200 Detroit-area youth annually, the program takes a holistic approach to understanding the many facets of working in the industry and connects youth with paid opportunities, mentors and networks.
For Langston, it was the boost he needed to deepen his understanding of the business side of the fashion industry and increase his passion for design. “My experience has been excellent,” he said. “I enjoyed meeting other teen fashion designers and also getting inspiration from the program directors.”
For his mother Jacqueline, the Industry Club is a door opener for all young people who want to build a great future on their own terms. “This experience equips Langston with skills that will last a lifetime,” she said. “This program has empowered my son and thus my family. Programs like this create generational wealth and can change the trajectory of a child’s life.”
While his initial interest was sparked by the business side of fashion, Langston continues to learn and experiment in the design process. “I like being able to tell stories through colors, patterns and textures,” she says. “Art allows for self-expression without the need to use words and explanations. The process of designing a piece requires hours of brainstorming and tweaking ideas until I find what feels right. Seeing the finished product is exciting and makes me feel proud.”
Celebrating black identity through fashion
As a young black man making his way in the fashion industry, Langston deeply appreciates the mentors he’s become close to through the Industry Club’s “Blacks in Fashion” component, which connects the club’s kids with black mentors who are actively working in their desired industry.
“It’s so important for our youth, especially youth of color, to find mentors to connect with who have similar life experiences. Not only can these men pass on their technical knowledge of the fashion industry,” said Shawn, “but also give young people the tools to overcome the race-based barriers that come with being entrepreneurs of color.
Langston also pays tribute to black designers who came before him in his fashion line The Top, which features famous black Americans and themes of black identity and power in its designs.
“I always knew there was racism in America, but I never experienced it,” Langston said. “After the murder of George Floyd and the uprisings across the country, I saw with my own eyes how much hatred there is in the world. My goal is to uplift and remind black people who we are!”
“I think it’s powerful for young entrepreneurs to realize whose shoulders they’re standing on,” said Shawn, “but most importantly, I hope it inspires Langston to pick up the baton and figure out how to become that leader, that creator of change. who uplifts others. We all have a responsibility here.”
Watch your dreams come true
Langston put in the work and now sees it come to life as well as representing himself and The Top at major events. His designs have already caught the attention of two prominent rappers – Babyface Ray and Big Sean.
This February, Langston and Jacqueline will head to New York to see Langston’s work on the runway. “It’s an amazing feeling, like I’m a celebrity,” Langston said of being invited to New York Fashion Week. “That opportunity really reminded me that my hard work pays off. He is looking forward to experiencing what life is like as a designer in New York and is most looking forward to seeing his designs on the runway.
And while his career as a young entrepreneur is moving at lightning speed, Langston’s biggest piece of advice for aspiring startup entrepreneurs came with a capital letter: “SLOW DOWN!”
He continues: “When I started The Top, I was in a hurry. I finished the brand and it was ready to go in two days. Then I realized I wasn’t presenting my best work. I decided to reset and give it my full effort. This process took about three months.”
Langston and his mother are excited to celebrate his appearance at New York Fashion Week and a job well done, but the young entrepreneur’s success is just beginning. The club member continues to network and look forward to what’s to come in his fashion line and beyond, as well as continuing to represent his Boys & Girls Club.
“The experience boosted Langston’s confidence,” Jacqueline said. “He engages in articulate conversations with adults where he successfully delivers on the brand’s purpose and explains the benefits of the Boys & Girls Club. Seeing my son show such confidence and joy is awe-inspiring. I am beyond proud.”
Great futures start here
Boys & Girls Clubs across the country help young people develop the skills they need to become problem solvers, communicators and leaders so they can find jobs they love when they’re ready. Learn how clubs prepare young people for college, careers and life, and how we can help you too.