Entrepreneurs Kaylon Alexander and Larry Spear, both 23, started the streetwear brand 24 Karat Posse as a “materialization of [their] friendship,” Kaylon says.
The childhood friends share a love of sports, music, pop culture and the hustle of bootstrapping a business that’s founded on the grit and ambition for greatness they’ve observed in other Akron leaders.
When the pair entered high school in Akron, they discussed sticking together to pursue their dreams, be it basketball or attending college. Their focus shifted to selling apparel in 2013 — when they were still teenagers.
While the pair shared an interest in clothing, Larry says the appeal of entering the fashion game was more about expressing their creativity and pursuing the unexpected.
“When people were going right, we were going left,” Larry says. “We always wanted to stand out and be us.”
Kaylon says fashion was easier to get into than the music business or making a living from other forms of art. He says the 24 Karat Posse concept was about what the duo wanted to represent in a company or movement.
“Fashion is a big way to stand out from the rest of the crowd,” Kaylon says. “And it’s also big with first impressions — you can always tell a lot about a person from how they dress. That’s usually the first way someone judges another person — how you express yourself.”
Their brand has become a launching pad for a larger goal of community leadership and striving to unite the people of Akron.
They’ve created an overall aesthetic that reflects the pair’s ideology that it’s important to look like where you came from. In their terms, “looking like you’re from Akron” means diversity at the underground level, collaboration and creativity, hard work, becoming recognized for what you do and working toward being the best at it.
“Everybody in the world is striving to be in the 24 Karat Posse, they just don’t know it yet,” Larry says.
Kaylon and Larry agree that the word “Posse” in the brand name is used to promote unity among those who rep the line.
“Sometimes that word gets a negative connotation,” Kaylon says, “But if you look up the word ‘posse,’ one of the definitions is ‘people who come together, who share a common characteristic,’” Kaylon says.
Kaylon says that the brand has allowed them to connect and foster collaborations among people and communities in Akron that otherwise may not have banded together to achieve a common goal.
Although he now lives in Columbus, Kaylon returns to Akron frequently to propel 24 Karat Posse and to immerse himself in the vibe he says he can’t find anywhere else.
“Akron is… you can’t replace it,” Kaylon says. “I think it’s the people, the goal, and everyone is willing to connect. People naturally place value in rarity and things that other people don’t quite know. Akron has a lot of things that only ‘Akronites’ know about, and we think that’s so special.”
24 Karat Posse released a popular “Akron is where the heart is” jacket in 2015 and often showcase local restaurants and underground landmarks in photos of their latest collections. The designers will often drop new additions to their clothing line without notice, like on a random Wednesday at midnight, to surprise and excite fans.
“What we’ve learned over the years is a lot of people like not knowing. We just try to put stuff out in the world that you haven’t seen or heard of,” Larry says. “You need this in your closet because it’s different — we instill unique qualities. [To us] fashion in Akron, Ohio is about being ambitious, but also dressing nice.”
Since childhood, Larry and Kaylon have accomplished a lot by collaborating and sharing ideas over the phone. While they come up with designs, fonts, colors and concepts for their streetwear line locally, the products are manufactured in South Central Los Angeles.
All fabric is grown in the United States, and everyone involved in the production of their clothing makes at least $15 an hour. The pair have a goal of using 70% sustainable fabrics and ensuring all workers involved in the manufacturing of their items earn a living wage.
“This year, we’re executing and doing things better, taking it brick by brick, day by day, trying to progress every day,” Larry says.
By working on their own time and being in control of their design, production and release schedule, Kaylon and Larry can work toward making high-quality products that are not rushed by hasty marketing or hype.
“We’ve learned through experience and a lot of trial and error,” Kaylon says. “Sometimes it involves restarting the entire process if something goes wrong.”
In the next 5 to 10 years, the pair aspire to teach what they’ve learned to local youth and community leaders. Their goal is to provide resources and a head start to those who wish to pursue their own entrepreneurial endeavors.
“We recognize that, as company owners, we want to set great examples for youth and younger people coming up — and to others who already have companies,” Kaylon says. “Not only is it possible, they don’t have to trip over the same things we did.”
The pair recites a mantra each day called “24 Rules,” which embodies the spirit of uniquely pushing boundaries that the brand was built upon.
“The 13th rule is ‘be fearless,’ Larry says. “Everybody is out there taking risks, rolling the dice on something — whether they’re a teacher, basketball player or artist,” Larry says.
24 Karat Posse’s clothing is for sale online at 24karatposse.com. The pair also produces a video series on their website called “Roll The Dice,” showcasing local artists and entrepreneurs.
Brittany Nader is a copywriter and freelance journalist living and working in Akron.