Artist turns passion into fashion

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Aug. 30—When James "Patrick" Allen was a kid, he always stood out. He consistently wore the latest fashions, right down to his Air Jordans. He wanted to look cool. His Aunt Celestina changed everything.

"She always told me I was wasting my money. She was basically saying that they were a liability not an asset. She said I didn't need to have the newest shoes or the nicest clothes and instead of spending my money on other people's clothes she said 'You need to invest in making your own clothes,'" Allen, 26, said.

He laughed. He was no Michael Jordan. Nobody would buy his clothes. Nobody knows who he is.

"She said everybody has to start somewhere," Allen said.

One day, Allen said he was living in upstate New York and he bought a pair of Jordan VII Sweaters, but he didn't have any shirts that matched the shoes.

"They were like red, blue, green, yellow, like every color you can imagine and I'm the type of person I want to have every color in my shirt on my shoe. So like if my shoe has six colors, I want my shirt to have six colors. I was like, I can't find a shirt," Allen said.

He ended up buying a plain white T-shirt at Walmart and taking it to a kiosk at the mall. He told the man his vision and the man used a Cricut machine to make it. Soon, Allen was at the mall every day, watching and learning how to use that machine and an embroidery machine. Not long after that, he bought his own Cricut machine and was making his own clothes.

At 18, Allen moved back to Odessa, where he'd spent the first seven years of his life. He moved in with his grandma and got a fastfood job.

He also got lazy.

Although he'd been taking orders for his "Hussle or Starve" urban designer line through Facebook, he'd started sending his designs to someone else to complete. After awhile, he wasn't making any money so he just stopped designing.

In June 2015, Allen got arrested for possession of cocaine. He was placed on probation in July 2016, but repeatedly failed to live up to the rules and was eventually sentenced to six years in prison in March 2019.

He was released in August 2021 after serving a little more than two years.

"I was being a knucklehead," Allen admitted. "So, I took an unwanted break, but during that time I didn't procrastinate. I didn't use it as idle time. I actually had people sending me books on fashion design. I've read multiple multiple books. I took notes and I just tried to perfect my craft. I updated logos and stuff like that. I found out prices on machines that I needed and ultimately when I came home from prison, I hit the ground running and that's when I bought all my own equipment."

One of the books Allen read in prison was Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike. He learned Nikes were originally called Blue Ribbon before ultimately being named after the Greek goddess of victory. He not only decided he wanted to design his own shoes, but he wanted to create a higher end fashion line.

While Hussle or Starve targets musicians, students and party goers, Sans Souci Couture is meant to be attractive to a larger audience, Allen said.

Over the last year, Allen has been living with his girlfriend, working as an inventory taker, designing pieces for both of his lines and making custom T-shirts out of his apartment.

Just about everything he designs is shared with his family through Facebook so it can be vetted, Allen said. The group includes his mom, his aunt, his uncle and a bunch of cousins. His grandmother gets to see his products in person.

He made one-year, five-year and 10-year goals while in prison though so he's not satisfied just yet.

Allen recently ran into an old family friend, Chris Walker, who is the president of the Odessa Black Chamber of Commerce, and caught him up to speed.

That chance meeting could mean big things for him.

"Probably two days later, he sat down with me," Walker recalled. "We went over some things that he could possibly do and some routes that we could go and some information that could be very helpful to him. We just kind of started the process to help him find find a place so he can generate a little bit more inventory."

Walker said he's a bit "too old" to have an opinion on the clothing Allen designs, but he knows there's a market for them and would love to see him in a brick and mortar building.

"He's young and he's unsure what to do and he's not sure what direction to take. He's like a lot of young business people, they kind of go into business and then they think about 'OK, now what do I do that I'm in business?' So I just told me you need a plan, you need to lay out exactly what you need to do. How you go about getting your stuff organized and get yourself to the point where you're a legitimate business," Walker said.

The two of them have been getting together regularly to discuss things like marketing, packaging and financing, Walker said. He has also encouraged Allen to take classes available through the Small Business Development Center at the University of Texas Permian Basin.

Allen has a leg up on a lot of young people because of his family, Walker said. His mom, Ta'Shawnda, is a nurse and his Aunt Celestina owned and operated a hair salon on the southside of Odessa.

"Because of his upbringing, he has a different demeanor," Walker said. "When I talk to some of these young people about their businesses and their ideas, they pretty much don't want any feedback because they know it all. They already got it and I'm pretty much thinking 'OK, if you've got it, you would have already succeeded' to the point where you don't need to ask anybody something."

Allen is eager to hear his ideas and has even begun attending the same church he attends, St. James Baptist Church, Walker said.

Walker recently told the Odessa Development Corporation about Allen, knowing that one day he may ask them for grant funding.

"I'm just proud of him. I'm glad that he got his life together and he's trying to do something productive and that's one of the reasons I really wanted to help him because he's trying to be productive and he's trying to handle his business the right way," Walker said.

As for Allen, he said he is just trying to remain humble.

"Of course I would love to be as big as Nike, but I mean, I'll be realistic about it. Do I want to get there? Yeah, of course, but at the end of the day, I just want to support my family," Allen said.