HINSDALE - Two former Hinsdale Central high school students have started a new urban street wear clothesline — and it’s totally awful.
Awful Cloth, created by Charles Zayed and Emmit Flynn, 20, intends to encourage people to practice positivity in their lives, starting with their clothes. Zayed said that while the "awful" in their brand name could be perceived as bad, it could also mean "full of awe or inspiring."
The pair said that this kind of roundabout positivity has shaped the way they run their business.
“I consider both of us really positive people,” Flynn said. “And it was also just a big part of my life, just in the mental health world and keeping a positive mindset and attitude, especially during high school. It’s something I think we found out is one of the most important things in life, and so we wanted to really push that to the forefront.”
Flynn and Zayed met on their high school’s swim and water polo teams, but rekindled their friendship post-graduation when the business idea arose.
Zayed, who attends Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, said that he took a quesadilla maker to school in order to avoid the constant bombardment of pizza on campus. When his dorm floor mates found out, a business idea was hatched — but he wanted to focus his talents toward larger ambitions.
Fashion had always been of interest to Zayed, so he reached out to Flynn, who he said had always been talented in art, to create some designs. With their talents combined, Awful Cloth was born.
Flynn, who attends Fordham University, said that he thought Zayed’s business proposal was long coming, based on a number of projects Zayed had pursued while still in high school.
“In high school, I remember Chaz would make a lot of these random small batch tee shirts — just for local stuff that everybody knew about like football games, restaurants around town — so I think it branched from there, just trying to be creative like that,” Flynn said.
Creativity has been a big part of the business from the start. While Zayed typically runs the business side of Awful Cloth and Flynn focuses on the art, they both have agree that colorful, unique aesthetics are a must.
“Everyone’s got the same brand things, like Nikes and maybe fraternal letters,” Zayed said. “We don’t want to have your typical blacks and blues— we want to have yellows and pinks and oranges”
While running a business and completing a college degree at the same time has its challenges, the duo said they think it has enhanced their college experience.
“It’s sort of like a kid who lives close to school; he always thinks he has enough time to get to school, so he always ends up being late,” Flynn said. “If you don’t have enough on your plate, it’s really hard to be productive. Combining the business with school really forces us to actually pay attention to our time and plan things out.”
After college, the pair hopes to keep growing their brand, and eventually, they’d like to open a brick-and-mortar store. But for now, they just want to encourage people to wear clothes outside of their comfort zone.
“It’s all about your perspective on things,” Zayed said. “You could look at our yellow hoodie and be like, ‘Oh that’s awful, that’s bad, that’s ugly,’ or you could look at it like, ‘That’s different, that’s unique—they’re themselves.”