Entree is more than a brand, its a lifestyle. Created in 1999 by two friends who printed designs on t-shirts and selling them out of their parents trunk. Entree Lifestyle has come a long way, the brand has gone from being rejected by many store buyers to selling out completely. Entree is currently making their presence known in the fashion world by serving some of your favorite artist in the music industry. Chris Brown, Wiz Khalifa, Dipset (Jim Jones, Juelz Santana), Bow Wow, Wacka Flocka, Lloyd and many more can been seen wearing their designs. Jazzy F. sits down with Henry Li, one of the two creators to find out what Entree lifestyle is all about.
How did Entree Lifestyle clothing begin?
I started off with 5 t-shirts. I was still in college at the time. I was working a part-time job, and my partner was working. we would just meet up after work and screen print t-shirts — it wasn’t even a brand; there was no brand. It’s like kids saying “I have a record deal.” They don’t really have a record label, it’s just them and their boys making music. I had a vision and this was the vision (for it to be like this), and we’re still growing. Did I know for sure it was going to be like this? No. I’m very fortunate to still be doing this right now. Your typical entrepreneurial type story: started in the basement, went from five shirts and started selling throughout the neighborhood. I took those shirts and kept on doing it, kept going door to door, store to store trying to sell my stuff and they would turn us down. We’ve been through all that stuff. And now we’re here; we are a brand, we are supporting those lifestyles and we are in those doors and we’re in a lot of accounts.
What inspired you to get into fashion?
I’m a mid 90s baby. Where I came from, a lot of cats were rocking a lot of vintage Ralph Lauren and North Face — that was the era I came up in. There was no street wear — street wear was clothing, it was brands that were regular American brands, and the streets took it and made it into something. So I was always into the style of how my jeans were, getting these certain sneakers and we had our own little thing going on in our borough. So I wanted to serve that message to the world. Hence the name ‘Entree’ — we’re here to serve, we’re trying to serve what I feel like is Hip-Hop and what street wear should really be. It should be clean, and it should be fresh. I’ve always been very heavily into the dressing and the fashion of Hip-Hop. So I took the opportunity to create my own brand.
What made you guys infuse street art into your designs?
We’re from Brooklyn, and we grew up writing Graffiti, and that was our element of Hip-Hop. My talent lies on the graph, and I incorporate that into the brand. We’re a Brooklyn based company started in 2006. We really felt like there was no genre that we have, that we’re offering right now; we’ve got something different. Our brand speaks for itself. When the whole world was doing something else, and from the business aspect, to play it safe you may want to make the same similar stuff to whatever’s selling We didn’t go with that. We did what we felt was good. And when we were coming out, that’s why we have one of our slogans, ‘misunderstood’, we were misunderstood; they didn’t really understand what the brand was about, and that’s what really separates us from everybody else — we don’t really follow what’s going on; we are creating our own path and creating our own fan base and doing what we love and transferring that into our clothes.
Would you consider Entree Lifestyle a urban brand?
I actually don’t really like to use the word ‘urban’ because when you use the word ‘urban’, you tend to pigeon-hole yourself. We’re just in the business of making clothes. We are a clothing line and we embrace the streets.
What does fashion mean to you?
I’m speaking on behalf of me, Henry: My definition of fashion is “be yourself.” The clothes in my closet is my costume. Who I’m going to be today is what I’m going to wear. Clothes don’t change you, but they certainly make a statement. I’m all about comfort. The swag gotta be on point. But the main thing is don’t be a follower, and wear what you want to wear. Be true to yourself and that’s fashion.
Do you think that Entree is portraying the lifestyle to the fullest?
We are living that lifestyle right now. We still are the real people. We didn’t change. Nothing changed. I still do grassroots marketing, we still put up stickers, we’re still doing illegal street art — we practice what we preach. We’re not faking the funk. We’re living the lifestyle we’re trying to sell.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to step outside the box of the trends?
Trends will always be there. If you’re a rebel of the trends, be yourself. Start your own trend. Don’t follow the trend because you’ll never gain respect that way. Nobody will ever take you seriously. We have a saying in the skate community: posers. You don’t want to be a poser. If you’re not a skateboarder, don’t walk around with a skateboard. It all comes down to being yourself.