During his time at Clemson, Ashanti Thomas had dreams of medical school. But reality had a different plan, to become a fashion designer, entrepreneur, and marketer. His Swiff brand clothing officially opened the doors of an 18-foot-long, glass-enclosed trailer on October 3, ensconced during business hours in a parking area at 424 King Street.
Thomas sells t-shirts, hoodies, sweatpants, beanies and other products, designed “by a wearer for the wearer, conceived from an undefinable perspective that remains simple but significant,” according to his promotional material.
More Than Just Clothing…It’s a Community
Thomas says his brand is more than just clothing; it’s a community that South Carolina natives can call their own. “It’s like buying your favorite team’s jersey,” he observed. “You buy it because you love your team and want to be part of a community.”
His mobile store is a place where people of all races, creeds, colors, national origins and sexual identities are warmly welcomed and encouraged to loiter and socialize amid the 100% cotton creations.
Speaking of those creations, Thomas is the creator, despite not having taken one minute of fashion courses during his college career. He earned his design expertise the 21st century way – viewing every YouTube video he could find and adapting the lessons to his clothing vision. He taught himself Adobe Draw and Illustrator to sketch out the designs that fill his head before embarking on the painstaking measurements. All that makes its way to a manufacturer in Atlanta to create a sample for review. Once the sample is approved, he orders as many shirts as his capital will allow – he’s a startup after all – and puts each item through a gauntlet of loving care, including ironing and folding every last piece. Only then are they ready to be displayed for your sartorial pleasure in the mobile store.
A Born Entrepreneur
How does a health science major from Irmo without design or fashion experience become a clothing designer and marketer in 2020? The 21st century way, of course. Thomas began creating mouthguards for football players while in college but when it became clear that the process required more investment than he had, he switched to t-shirts. The original designs featured the Swiff name in massive letters across the front of the shirt “like a big swatch of American cheese,” he admits.
Thomas says he would never wear such a shirt today, but they attracted a following and became a subject of discussion around campus. That experienced germinated into the idea that clothing is more than merely outerwear.
Today’s designs are the opposite: subtle and dignified, more consistent with Thomas’s personal style. Their main identifying element is the Swiff name embroidered with subtlety, to indicate to other community members that you’re on the same team without shouting it into anyone’s face.
Just a year out of college, Thomas bootstrapped his company, raising money by driving for Uber, cutting lawns and working other odd jobs. He’s put thousands of his own cash into the trailer and thousands more into each clothing run.
Swiff Brand Clothing: High-Quality Materials
Swiff, by the way, is personal for Thomas and his friends. On his high school football team in the Midlands, a group of teammates dubbed themselves “Swift” and developed the modern-day equivalent of a secret handshake. Wearing Swiff products offers everyone membership in the club, though you will have to ask Thomas to teach you the handshake separately.
The content distinguishes his clothing, but what makes Swiff brand clothing worth owning and wearing is high quality material, heavyweight all-cotton fabrics tested to stand up to repeated wear and washings. After voluminous research into fabrics, Thomas found the option that appealed most to his high-end sensibilities.
Those sensibilities hearken to this young entrepreneur’s early days, back before he was named best dressed in high school and all the way back to childhood, watching the Little Rascals movie. In it, the kids build a go-cart from scratch, inspiring Thomas to follow suit. “I always wanted to build or create something,” he said.
Ultimately, Thomas would like to see Swiff brand clothing in a permanent King Street location and then expanded to the nation’s fashion capitals like L.A. and N.Y. to provide a forum for him to give back to communities, especially the African American community.
Thomas’s girlfriend serves as chief critic: when she wears one of his items, never to return it, that’s the seal of approval. So far she has a full wardrobe and an appreciation for a guy who is always creating. “She thinks I could work a little less, though,” Thomas admits.