How We Started
Author Jenna Price | Photography Brian Blakely
"MADE IN NEW ORLEANS"
When two young boys saw the impoverished state of their families, they took a step to change their present circumstance. This step created a movement behind their very own clothing brand.
“It took a long time to get here,” Nicholas Clark said, looking around the small office in the Ruston’s Enterprise Center. “There is just so much.”
Along the bare office walls, drawers filled with red, white and black hoodies, shirts and hats laid tucked away. The clothing stood as a testament to the last seven years. The unique logo of Clark and Marlon Watts’ original clothing brand, WRLDINVSN, proudly incorporated on each article.
Pronounced as “world in vision,” WRLDINVSN’s initial inspiration and hope of production was to help support Clark and Watts’ families. The business venture has continued today as a part of movement to inspire others in similar circumstances.
“When we started, we were so young,” Watts said. “I was self-taught. We would talk to older people to help gure this clothing brand all out.”
Clark and Watts set up racks of the same hoodies and shirts on hangers for display. The makeshift pop-up shop in the student center on Louisiana Tech’s campus caught the attention of students owing in and out of the building during their lunch break.
Students bustled by the pop-up shop to grab a quick bite to eat before class while some browsed. Unknowingly, as students flip through the racks of clothing, they flip through a part of the story of Clark and Watts.
“WE ARE TWO PEOPLE WHO HAD A VISION, and then we went and did it,” Clark said. The hallway continued to fill with the sound of hands clasping and laughing. Music began to pulse in the background. Watts, Clark or one of their interns eagerly greet students who approach the shop, ready to tell their story behind the clothing brand.
“It is like a social event,” Watts said.
“Doing a pop-up shop is about being able to convey our message of our brand with people, to talk about success and being great and bring positivity.”
In 2010, Clark and Watts were 14-year- old boys in the eighth grade. They knew each other previously in the fifth grade and continued their friendship, despite going to separate schools in New Orleans.
Rarely idle in their childhood years, Watts and Clark found ways to stay active by transforming simple activities into their own adventures. They would skateboard together from Lakefront to Canal Street and create and post stunt videos to YouTube.
“We would wake up early in the mornings on the weekends and go to this art program,” Clark said. “I would make Marlon go with me. We would have bus schedules, multiple bus schedules, and we would go everywhere on the bus.”
In the eighth grade, Watts approached Clark with 12 T-shirts he designed off of a designing website called Uberprints, ready to sell.
“We would try to find a way to make money by selling candy before,” Watts said. “We were underprivileged. Fashion is big in New Orleans, the way you look or the way you dress, so we went into selling shirts.”
Before either of the boys could hold part-time jobs, selling T-shirts was one of the limited options they could utilize to nancially help their families. The two friends quickly sold the shirts to their other friends and peers. Watts introduced the designing website to Clark, and Clark began to handle the graphic design side of their newfound business.
Their brand WRLDINVSN was born out of the necessity and artistry of two 14-year-old boys. It laid the foundation of a dream to one day sell in stores and inspire others.
“Back then, we were so young,” Watts said. “We did not know what we were doing.”
The boys entered high school the next year. They began to learn the ropes of designing, selling and marketing clothing to their friends and peers in their classes and extracurriculars.
Watts went to private schools and played basketball, football and baseball. He used the exposure of the multiple high school sports to show of the brand. Athletes commonly parade around in brands like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour. Instead, Watts wore WRLDINVSN.
“Playing high school sports gave us the opportunities to present our brand,” Watts said.
Watts continued to use sports as a platform for their brand as he played collegiate football at Louisiana Tech. Many football players and other Tech athletes wear WRLDINVSN in support.
Clark would become the head designer after the success of the first shirt design. Unlike Watts, he went to public school and was more interested in the arts and acting where he participated in plays and commercials.
Combined with Clark’s knack for visual art and Watts’ natural business mindset, the two were a perfect set of friends and business partners. The brand quickly expanded to being sold online on its own website. Watts and Clark learned the downfall of selling clothing in stores too soon and chose a personal route of selling their clothing line.
“You have to build up a lot of inventory and merchandise to sell online, at pop-up shops and in stores,” Clark said. “We tried to sell in stores too early and lost money.”
The brand became a LLC in 2014, after both had graduated high school, with a shortened name to mirror companies like Gucci. The combined WI symbol began to circulate on their website and social medias as the official logo of WRLDINVSN.
College, for Clark and Watts, was the obvious next step. The feat of creating an original brand mounted onto the challenge of being the first generation to go to college weighed heavily upon Clark and Watts.
“We made it day-to- day,” Clark said. “We come from the inner-city. We wanted more for ourselves. I went to college to show people that you can finish. Even if you don’t know anyone who has finished, you can.”
Living together in college but spending their days in different spheres of
campus, Watts and Clark never stopped collaborating and designing. Watts played four seasons as a receiver for the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, while Clark spent long days in the art building learning to be a graphic designer.
Football helped Watts shape his leadership skills and gave him more infuence on campus to reach a greater variety of the student body with their vision and brand.
“For my team, I am the leader of the group,” Watts said. “I look for ways to get better. When people wear this brand, I want people to think excellence.”
Watts manages the numbers, team management, paperwork and marketing for the brand so that Clark can handle the materials, website and designs. The balance of logistics and visuals allows the pair of best friends, roommates and business partners to use their strengths to produce the quality of excellence they desire and strive to present to the community.
“We want to be leaders and role models,” Watts said. “I want to spark positivity.”
Watts and Clark were presented a unique outlet to use what they have learned with WRLDINVSN and further inspire younger students. They were able to enter a charter school in Shreveport for two hours every other week and work with six students.
“We designed a shirt together with the design ‘DREAM BIG,’” Clark said. “We made the shirts, and, then, the students have to sell twenty-four of the shirts. We are new to this too, and we are trying to gure things out.”
Even while juggling athletics, school and the business, Watts and Clark began to hit their stride within the community of Ruston and Louisiana Tech. In 2016, however, they reached a fork in the road of their success which caused them to question whether they should continue their brand or not.
“We just wanted to have a good day,” Watts said.
During a trip to Atlanta, the day began with a flat tire in downtown Atlanta and ended with a car robbery. All of the WRLDINVSN merchandise and most of all, Clark’s laptop with his designs, were stolen that day.
“Everything was taken,” Watts said. “We asked, ‘Should we wrap it up? Should we do this anymore?’” The incident left Clark and Watts completely torn between two options: a possibly phased-out vision or following their own individual futures. They discussed that night whether the vision they bought into as 14-year-olds was worth risking everything for one more time.
“At the end of the day, the situation was not going to change,” Clark said. “So at the beginning of the next year, we started fresh and bought a new laptop. We figured the brand could be special because of us, and that was going to make us different.”
Watts and Clark have graduated from Louisiana Tech University and is now focusing on their brand full-time. They are planning to expand their brand to women, children and activewear. With the expansion of clothing lines, they are able to share their story and vision with more people.
“If you are wearing our shirt, you believe in this movement,” Clark said. “You support us, and we thank you.”