Paul Aarrington started as an intern at RCA Records with aspirations to work in the music business. Shortly after, he felt unsatisfied and decided to start his own fashion line, PAUL AARRINGTON, INC. The company was established in 1996, and his designs started appearing in many retail stores, including Macy’s. His career in fashion took off by way of fashion shows and working with other prominent designers. Aarrington was able to work with the likes of VIBE and TIME magazines. His clothing also made way for him to style various radio personalities and TV hosts.
Recently, Aarrington established a small factory, print shop, and media company to expand his brand and elevate his business to the next level. BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with the entrepreneur to discuss his beginnings and how he anticipates his business will change moving forward.
You’ve been running your own self-titled apparel company, PAUL AARRINGTON, INC., for over 25 years. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur, and what keeps you going?
My motivation to become an entrepreneur was my love for creativity and seeing ideas come to life. I knew how to style and match clothes to wear, yet knew nothing about designing them. As I spoke with a co-worker at a job I used to work, he would make fun of my name; Paul Aarrington men’s wear, with a hint of sarcasm. I said that sounds good, and I set out to learn about fashion design, surrounded myself with the right people, and all things fashion. I know this sounds cliché, but I have an insuppressible drive to create and innovate new things.
My creativity lies within music. House music, disco, and rap are my influences. Each genre gives a different vibe and makes me feel and create in different ways. I used to DJ and produce music some years back. When I enter a store looking at other clothing, the pieces translate into music for me. I can see the pieces being worn at an event with a specific type of music playing. Since I am a huge Todd Terry fan, I find myself designing with his music in the background. Some days disco brings me back to a time period that motivates me to look at that era for ideas and inspiration.
You’ve expanded your fashion brand to include footwear, cologne, and baseball caps, adding another element to your portfolio. Audio and visual services are now your forte. What inspired you to include those services, and what else are you doing to incorporate your apparel company?
As times have changed, so have my brand offerings. My motto has always been that however I expand the brand, that component must also be able to stand on its own, make money toward the whole picture, and not just its face value. I’ve added an audio and video studio to create all our video and web ads in-house, along with the music needs for ads and/or commercials. I am fully equipped for production and post-production of any and all media content the brand requires. The expanded part of the brand is AVR STUDIOS and PIII Media, inspired by my son Paul Aarrington III. I produced our first sneaker web commercial for the brand with our own production. I have a screen print shop, Nexus Print Studio, which houses our own printing equipment, embroidery machines, and 12 industrial sewing machines. These give us the ability to design, produce and alter many things while offering the service of printing to other companies. I am very big on ownership, so I own all of our facilities’ equipment. We do in-house photography as well, so in my mind, there are no limits. Ultimately I would like to produce films that incorporate our own products in these works.
How do you wear so many hats and still put out products as a one-stop shop and a creative?
Although I have so much going on, I find time to be creative by never turning off that mode. I bounce ideas off my wife Yuvelca to get her perspective. I also consult with other people in a team aspect, so to speak, getting suggestions on how to make things come together. But for the most part, I live the creative process all day, every day. What it comes down to is having a system in place that I know I can just plug in the components and move on to the next idea.
In your opinion, what is the most essential characteristic and/or quality that entrepreneurs need to be successful?
Important characteristics to becoming a successful entrepreneur are belief in yourself, determination, drive, and love for what you do. We know belief in yourself is essential. There are many people that will tell you what you can’t do because they believe that of themselves and think it must be true of you too. Let those non-believers become the fuel to move you forward. There will undoubtedly be obstacles that will distract and discourage you. These are only lessons to get to the next level. A labor of love will always carry you further than just chasing money. The money will come if you love and pursue your dream.
With so many tools at your disposal, what should we anticipate seeing from PAUL AARINGTON in the future? Are there any particular projects we should know about?
Having acquired many resources, I totally see my brand expanding into many areas, including licensed goods (home goods, bath and body goods, spas, etc.). My dream at this point is to make the brand a culture, not just a name you recognize but something you want to be a part of, something you live and breathe. Since music is a big part of my life and creative process, I can see a music division as well.
As far as projects I am working on, my focus is still on innovative clothing. But to give you a sneak peek into what else I am doing, I am working on a fun but educational show for my son, which will show him in some of his namesake clothing as well.