As an ambitious young entrepreneur, Langston turned to his local Boys & Girls Club’s workforce readiness program and found the mentors, inspiration and connections he needed to kickstart a career in fashion. Read how this Club kid’s work is about to take the runway at New York Fashion Week.
Get ready New York Fashion Week, because here comes Boys & Girls Club teen Langston H.!
While audiences may be surprised to see the 13-year-old entrepreneur’s designs on the runway, his mother Jacqueline is not. Coming from a long line of successful business owners within his family, Langston is a natural go-getter who balances his passion for entrepreneurship with school, student council, basketball and track.
“When he launched his fashion line The Top, Langston asked me for help,” said Jacqueline. “I told him fashion is not my area of expertise, but I can put you in contact with people who can help you.”
Langston found the network and rigor he needed to pursue his entrepreneurial goals at Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan.
Through a special program called Industry Club, teen members are empowered to get workforce experience in industries like fashion, risk management, urban planning, sports, esports and entertainment.
“Our mission is to ensure our youth are career, start-up and homeowner ready,” said Shawn H. Wilson, the Clubs’ president & CEO. “Helping youth explore their interest in entrepreneurship is more complex than simply ‘teaching’ them a curriculum. Entrepreneurship is an environment, a culture, a language and a network. Ultimately, we’ve built an ecosystem in which Langston has access to all those components.”
Teens are required to submit an application to join Industry Club and participate in roughly six weeks of after-school workshops to build real-world work experience. The program employs up to 200 Detroit area youth annually, implementing a holistic approach to understanding the many facets of working within an industry and connecting youth with paid opportunities, mentors and networks.
For Langston, it was the boost he needed to deepen his understanding of the business side of the fashion industry and grow his enthusiasm for design. “My experience has been outstanding,” he said. “I have enjoyed meeting other teen fashion designers and also received inspiration from the directors of the program.”
For his mom Jacqueline, Industry Club is a door-opener for all young people looking to build a great future on their terms. “This experience is equipping Langston with skills that will last a lifetime,” she said. “This program has empowered my son and therefore empowered my family. Programs like this create generational wealth and can change the trajectory of a child’s life.”
While his initial interest was piqued by the business side of fashion, Langston continues to learn and experiment in his design process as well. “I like being able to tell stories through color, patterns and textures,” he says. “Art allows self-expression without having to use words and explanation. The process for designing a piece requires hours of brainstorming and editing ideas until I find what's right. Seeing the finished product is exciting and makes me feel proud.”
As a young Black man making his mark in the fashion industry, Langston is deeply appreciative of the mentors he’s grown close to through the “Black Men in Fashion” component of Industry Club, which connects Club kids with Black male mentors actively working in their desired industry.
“It’s so important for our youth, especially youth of color, to find mentors who they can connect to and who have similar lived experiences in life. Not only can these men pass along their technical knowledge of the fashion industry,” said Shawn, “but also give youth the tools to navigate race-based barriers which come along with being an entrepreneur of color.”
Langston also pays homage to the Black creators who came before him in his fashion line The Top, showcasing famous Black Americans and themes of Black identity and power in his designs.
“I always knew there was racism in America, but had never experienced it,” said Langston. “After the murder of George Floyd and the uprisings across the country, I saw firsthand how much hate there is in the world. My goal is to uplift and remind Black people of who we are!”
Soon, he’ll be doing so from the runway. Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan partnered with New York-based fashion brand Maison Black to pair five young African American fashion entrepreneurs with five accomplished designers. Together, they’ll unveil their looks on February 7 during New York Fashion Week.
“I think it’s powerful for young entrepreneurs to realize whose shoulders they’re standing on,” said Shawn, “But, most importantly, I hope it inspires Langston to pick up the baton and figure out how he can become that leader, that changemaker who uplifts others. We all have that responsibility.”
Langston has put in the work and now he’s seeing it come to life, as well as representing himself and The Top at prominent events. His designs have already caught the attention of two notable rappers – Babyface Ray and Big Sean.
Boys & Girls Clubs across the nation help young people develop the skills necessary to become problem-solvers, communicators and leaders, so they can find a job they love when they’re ready. Learn how Clubs are preparing young people for college, careers and life and how we can help you, too.