By Haylie Navarre | LSU Student
Courtney Howells is selling dope and it's perfectly legal.
"Dope" is the name of her clothing line, a brand she said is designed for sneaker enthusiasts like her. Her designing career started at Baton Rouge High School where she created shirts to match her shoes.
On one particular t-shirt, Howells wrote the word "dope" (a slang for "cool") across the front. Students began asking around where they could get "dope shirts."
"The name just stuck and I kept it."
Howells isn't worried about the word "dope" being misinterpreted because she said she doesn't understand how any drug could keep kids "fresh." She said that, if anything, when people see this design, it clarifies the name and they understand it's a clothing line.
"Usually people like the humor in it. It appeals to a wider audience than our target market."
Howells recently showed her collection on the runway as part of New Orleans Fashion Week. She runs her business out of her home, but insists she operates from wherever she has her computer. Her line is carried at three locations in Baton Rouge, as well as venues in Lafayette, New Orleans, Houston and Charlotte.
Howells said the formal name for her aesthetic is "street wear," but she wants her line to be more of a life-style brand, meaning it would appeal to a specific demographic, predominantly 18-to-25-year-old males and hip-hop fans.
Howells said when she started the company she tried to stay true to its origin and create designs that appeal to her. Many garmets in Howells line feature design details or colors reminiscent of clothing from the 1990s—the decade in which Howells grew up.
"The brand in general is an extension of me. I would say that's one of the reasons why they are '90s inspired, because that's me."
Howell said she also draws inspiration from movies, being around other creative people, people watching and music. Howells also is inspired by basketball fans and culture, especially since Baton Rouge native and Charlotte Bobcats' power forward Tyrus Thomas has become a member of the "dope." team. Thomas helped to inspire several athletic wear designs in the works, including sweatpants.
Serving as the owner, creative director and designer Howells has her hand in every aspect of the company. She frequently carries a sketch pad to draw designs "whenever the idea strikes." She likes to sketch the design on a t-shirt in her pad first. She creates and colors a vector of the design in Photoshop or Illustrator. She gauges feedback from family and friends, then prints a few sample garments of a new design and posts photos online.
"If there's good enough feedback, I'll go ahead and produce the shirt."
Howells said one of her most popular design is a shirt that features the phrase "D.O.P.E. to keep kids fresh." Usually once the stock from a design has been sold, it's gone, but Howells said they have kept this one around. The message is a play on words from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program's slogan "D.A.R.E. to resist drugs and violence."
The line was shown at its first trade show in January and Howell said she plans to attend more in the future. Another upcoming activity involves "pirate shops," which Howells said is when a brand pops up with a few items in a store as a temporary display.