Student clothing company to spread cultural appreciation
Third-year communication and music double major Sammy Seaver was stopped by a random person while in Germany during his study abroad last year. Wearing a sweatshirt made by third-year design major Nigel McIntosh, Seaver was asked about the sweatshirt’s brand.
“It started to spin the wheels for me,” Seaver said. “I had some experience in marketing and helping people build their projects, but this is something substantial — the product, the message. This is not a get-rich-quick type of scheme, this is something that needs to be out there.”
With such passion dedicated to the core of the company, Seaver soon became a member of the Jahz team, the new UC Davis-born clothing line dedicated to promoting cultural celebration.
Jahz, coming from the Rastafarian word for “god,” consists of McIntosh as its founder and designer; second-year history and political science major Andrew Williams as its marketing coordinator; third-year managerial economics major Laili Attai as the operations manager and 2017 alumnus Marc Toney as its finance operator. Seaver acts as president.
“Nigel and I have been friends since freshman year, and when I started seeing these drawings something really clicked; these are amazing,” Attai said. “Initially I was drawn to the artwork, and when I found out the meaning behind them I was completely sold on the company and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Seaver’s sweatshirt may not be the only recognizable design of the company; the most recent “La Flor de Jalisco” flame tee has made its way on the backs of various students. That’s the point of the clothing company: finding the commonality between all humans, transcending cultural boundaries.
“I wanted to hit a theme that everyone could connect with,” McIntosh said. “Even though it is illustrating the beauty in every culture, I feel like everyone can in some way relate to another culture. Culture is just fulfilling needs that everyone has as humans. Jahz is just finding what makes us human to our core.”
Rather than relying on stereotypical or mass-produced images, each hand-drawn design takes inspiration from a specific culture in order to present the essence of the culture.
“Everyone has culture so we can come together in the shared experience of culture,” McIntosh said. “For example, I have a design that celebrates Indian Hindu culture, and there is a god that I find very beautiful […] I found a picture that I liked and made my own version of that picture. It’s something that people can see and think of Hinduism, but it’s not screaming it. It is simply giving you something to think about when you think of India.”
Moreover, the celebration of diversity and culture ties into Jahz’s emphasis on the Bay Area — as a target area as well as a place of inspiration in itself.
“It has a lot of people in different ethnicities in the same place,” McIntosh said. “But they all understand each other without trying to be each other. Since we all understand each other, we can be each other. I want to show the human part of us so we can get along and be normal together.”
Nested in a college campus, Jahz is careful to and adamant about avoiding cultural appropriation with its designs.
“Obviously we’re not in it for approporting cultures; we want to see the beauty in them,” Attai said. “It has been a fine line between how we present these designs and being very genuine about the intention behind each design. We realize we are on a very politically active campus.”
For Seaver, the uniqueness about the company is that the original designs are truly about appreciation, the abstract center of culture and “quintessential appreciation.”
“We don’t want to be ignorant to the specific images that we are using, so when we do use something from a culture, we want to know what it means, what it means to people — we are not using the image for image’s sake. We want to know the specifics behind it.”
Such a message places itself easily on a T-shirt or sweatshirt, an item of clothing and medium accessible to everyone.
“It’s a medium that everyone can see it; it’s not in an art gallery,” Williams said. You can just be walking down the street and be moved by it. When you wear it you can be proud of it.”
Each shirt also gives back to the community. Since the most recent shirt drop, a percentage of the sales will be donated to a local charity or nonprofit to help where the image was taken inspiration from or the surrounding community.
“The recent one had the flames and the rose, so we gave back to burn victims and the Santa Rosa Fires,” Toney said.
As for the future of the company, Jahz has plans for expansion.
“Right now our big focus is establishing a strong online presence, establishing our social media and making our website fully functional, so that not only people from Davis but people all around the Bay Area can order our stuff,” Williams said. “We want to get into retailers as well. I was thinking as a summer project going down to little boutiques in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco to try to get our message out and be able to present them a look book. We want to expand ourselves, yet staying true to who we are.”
Jahz will be dropping a new shirt design to be on sale in June. To buy their products and learn more, check out their website.
Written by: Caroline Rutten — firstname.lastname@example.org