When Simon Asem’s best friend Jordan Carpenter came to him with a dream of creating a clothing line that rejected the exclusivity and harsh standards of modern-day fashion last February, the pair didn’t hesitate. It hit the ground running.
From there, CA (Carpenter-Asem) Clothing Group was born.
Asem, a second-year in city and regional planning, and Carpenter, a second-year in business at Chattanooga State Community College, have built a business driven by style that’s comfortable and available to all demographics.
“The main idea is that we didn’t want people to feel like they have to be of a certain economic social class to wear something or feel like they have to have a certain body type to wear something,” Asem said. “In the media we see a lot of things about people being fat-shamed or not looking cool enough because they’re not wearing the right brand…the whole motive and idea is that we want to create something for everyone to enjoy and love.”
Carpenter said the concept came to him when he started focusing on his personal style more after high school, which he attended with Asem up until sophomore year. He was purchasing clothing lines that looked cool, but said he never sacrificed comfort for style.
Carpenter said the concept of owning a clothing line that focused on looking stylish while feeling confident became the goal.
“It all starts with having an idea,” Asem said. “In society today we put up a glass ceiling where you can see people at the top…we’re always looking up saying ‘I wish I could do that,’ and we realized we could put up our own ladder to get to that height.”
The two began the process by reading up on everything they could about starting their own business. Carpenter said when he first started his research he was told to stick to a certain demographic when marketing the brand but the thought of limiting his clientele didn’t sit well with him.
“I was never that kid that had everything he wanted growing up,” Carpenter said in an email. “My mom always did her best to get me what she could afford, so I don’t want anyone thinking that they could never have access to our clothes.”
Once Asem designed the logo and Carpenter had the website and social media pages up and running, they tested the waters by wearing their first sample T-shirts to parties and getting reactions from their friends.
Since then, they’ve expanded their products to sweatshirts, T-shirts, tank tops, hats, crop tops and leggings –– all of which are mainly unisex –– with designs inspired by minimalism and their everyday lives.
Asem said they relied heavily on feedback from their peers, especially in the early stages of the business, which is the reason why they decided to incorporate the word “group” into their name –– to include everyone who has made the dream a reality.
“You have to acknowledge the people that helped you, that are going to help you,” Asem said. “Within our name I want to give recognition to those people. Family members, friends, future customers. Automatically if you buy something from us or follow us on social media you’re a part of our group. Their feedback means everything to us.”
Carpenter said his goals for the brand are to expand and attain greater recognition, but insists that money isn’t the driving force. Asem said it’s really about inspiring people to run with their ideas.
“Profit is important in a business, but that is never our sole focus,” Carpenter said. “Our huge goal is to motivate anyone, and show them that they’re able to do that same thing.”
Asem said they plan on attending more events to sell their clothing and eventually want to host a pop-up sale on The Oval, but until then their main focus is to design and create a wider variety of clothing that makes people feel good.
“Most people buy their clothes mainly for the look, but sacrifice style over comfort,” Carpenter said. “Once you’re able to be comfortable and know you look good at the same time is a wonderful feeling.”