Flint, MI — It’s not easy being a one man show, or in the case of De’Aire Lewis-Culbreath, a one man brand. At 23, De’Aire or Dee, is the creative entrepreneur and designer of the luxury street wear fashion line DeeLux Styles. Since 2018, Lewis and DeeLux Styles have been featured in local fashion shows, gained community recognition and have become one of the hottest Flint made brands. The key for Lewis is staying true to his passion.
Check out this one-on-one interview with Flint Beat Arts & Culture Reporter and Founder of The Modern Queer, Xzavier V. Simon, and Flint brand-building powerhouse Lewis-Culbreath.
First of all, can you tell me your name and the brand that you created?
Dee: My name is De’Aire Lewis-Culbreath. The brand I created was DeeLux Styles in October of 2018. It’s a luxury streetwear brand. I wanted it to be different and offer a lot of variety. I didn’t want to throw some stuff on a tee shirt and call it a brand. So, I have jogging suits, bombers, two pieces, like anything you can think of. I just wanted it to be different and wear my own stuff.
Give us a quick little backstory, like who you are, where you grew up, what high school, and how you even got into fashion in the first place.
Dee: I can give you that. Carmen Ainsworth is the high school that I graduated from. I’m 23 and will be 24 in five months on July 27th.
You just missed the cut! [laughs]
Dee: No, I love being a Leo. [laughs] But basically I’ve loved to dress good, and I’m really adamant about it. Like, I go in the store and I’m turning stuff inside out, looking at fabric. That was me before the brand.
What led to you creating DeeLux Styles?
Dee: I created the brand because I feel like I can, and not to sound cocky, but I felt like I could do it better.
Why luxury streetwear? That’s a whole category in and of itself. It’s not like couture or any of the high end fashion stuff we generally see.
Dee: That’s my style. I don’t really like to be in a suit and tie all the time. I like to be comfortable but still look really clean, you know? You can have regular streetwear, but I feel like I don’t wanna just throw on a hoodie and say that’s dope. I want that hoodie to look like you paid $500 for it. Did you watch Coachella?
Yes. You talking about Beyonce’s hoodie?
Dee: That’s luxury streetwear to me. I really want to take it another step further. When I get bigger, I actually want to go into styling as well. I love that part.
What I gathered is your stuff has gained traction really fast. What’s the glo up been like?
Dee: Overwhelming! To be honest, I had to learn how to say no. It’s not like offending anybody or that’s not me trying to be funny. It’s just that I physically can’t do it all. People don’t understand that I have a job. I have a life outside of the business! I get so many orders and right now I’m calling them like on hold. So definitely overwhelmed.
What happened that you felt overwhelmed, because for a lot of us, when we’re gaining notoriety and feel we need to work harder.
Dee: I took a break because I had everything going on. I do everything myself right now.
You do all of this by yourself?!
Dee: I’ve got all the equipment at home. I do all the orders. Anything in the world that’s DeeLux Styles I’ve made it. I’ve never had anybody make [anything] for me. What I want now is to find a manufacturer that I really, really like. The problem with that is I’m just super picky, so I gotta order samples from, you know, multiple people just to figure out which one I want to work with.
I understand the feeling of being overwhelmed now. [laughs]
Dee: I want to finalize the website. I want to get that rolling so when people order, it doesn’t even come to me. My first year of business and I kid you not, I probably did like over 10 shows. I was booked every weekend.
You were hustling!
Dee: It was like this is getting really big. I had 20 pieces, no less than 20 pieces every show I did. The brand is called DeeLux Styles and I want 20 different styles and I want to cater to everybody: single people, kids, elderly, just got out of prison, whatever. So I’m at home, literally trying to figure out what 20 looks can I do while I have 50 orders you know, to do?
So with doing all of this yourself, how has family support been?
Dee: I will cry. [laughs] I’m telling you when I first started, I think every vendor event I sold out like, and my family came deep. I’m talking about, they all got the shirts on, they got shirts made with the crew in the back. They don’t miss a beat.
That’s a blessing!
Dee: It was never a time where I felt like I was by myself. My mom and my sister [help] the most because they’re the ones doing behind the scenes stuff that people don’t notice. I’m really just the designer. They bring me what they think I would like and I’m in a basement doing it.
Let me ask you about the logo because it’s very elegant, but it’s also tattooed on your neck. Talk a little about what the logo represents.
Dee: You know, De’Aire Lewis is my name, so that’s where the “DL” comes from. DeeLux Styles came from me just saying, Hey, I want to, you know, offer a lot of different clothes and I don’t want them to be the same. The logo, the diamond, oh my god. I’m telling you since I was like six or seven I’ve always had like jewelry on.
I can tell! [laughs]
Dee: I love it. I thought for sure I wanted a diamond, but I didn’t want any diamond. I wanted that drip, that flavor, you know, that streetwear [feeling]. So I turned that luxury diamond and I made it street. That’s a blend of everything together.
The picture is starting to come together very clearly. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s like a diamond in the rough feel. The writing itself is very elegant.
Dee: I’ve said that on social media. And like, this is my handwriting. I got a book at home literally with a thousand signatures. It also symbolizes the blood, sweat and tears, and the fact that I did every myself from scratch.
That’s incredible. Explain the feeling and interaction with meeting clients or people who want to wear your designs.
Dee: That is my favorite part…actually meeting the people and everything. Like that’s what I was telling my mom and my dad and everybody. I’m like, I want to be able to talk to everybody who’s buying something and be like, ‘Hey, how do you like this? Or why do you like this? What caught your eye?’ You know, just stuff like that. But…I feel like I did it already. [laughs] In that year, I’ve met hundreds of people.
[laughs] Do you enjoy yourself at fashion shows, and vendor events?
Dee: I don’t work the table just because it’s so overwhelming for me. I’m back there kicking it with [the crew]. Any person that has modeled for me, I really feel like I know them. These are not strangers. I know these models. So it’s really easy and fun for me because I can say this look fits you because I know your personality.
We see a lot of drama backstage on TV shows and things like that. What’s it like working with models backstage?
Dee: Sometimes he can get uncomfortable. [laughs]
[laughs] What do you mean?
Dee: Like I can give you the outfit and you can put it on, and I might not like how it looks. I had to figure out how to say that in a professional manner. Certain looks don’t go over for everybody.
Sounds like there’s a balance of realness and professionalism at the same time.
Dee: It can get uncomfortable because they just don’t agree with you all the time. So you’ve got to kind of put people in place and you risk losing a model because if they don’t want to put it on how you want them to put it on, they might say, well, I’m not doing it.
That’s gotta be stressful.
Dee: I’m fine with that because at the end of the day, when you walk on the runway, you’re walking for me. My brand is on your body. But really I’ve worked with a lot of really positive models. I don’t really have negative encounters and I think a lot of people who walk for me know me from social media.
So since we’ve started, I noticed your energy is everywhere. When do you take a break? [laughs]
Dee: I don’t. Now I have it only because I’m on a little break from the clothing line and I’m not taking orders. But that can be, you know, a pro and a con. I realized it was a problem where I felt like I was all over the place. I didn’t have any me time and I couldn’t take vacations. I couldn’t do that stuff because every weekend I had something going on.
You needed that balance.
Dee: And that’s what I’m getting down. I want to let y’all know that I’m still working, but I gotta get these things [together] and learn before I can give you what you want. I need a team. [laughs]
So what are you working on?
Dee: I’m in two shows. One on February 16th. That’s Jeremy’s All Black Show, and then the February 29th is Destin’s Grind 24/7 show. I’m in both of those shows.
Being in those shows and others, I’m sure you’ve had thoughts of putting on your own right?
Dee: I want to do a show, like really memorable. I want to do a show and I’m going to do it the right way and I’m telling you I’m going to do it. I want to say 2020. I’m not going to wait another year.
How do you see DeeLux Styles in the future?
Dee: Like Gucci! [laughs] Like Burberry! I want people who wear [DeeLux Styles] to feel like Kings and Queens! I want it to be really high end, but I don’t want to be too high where my people from Flint can’t get it. The goal is to always walk in the room and not have to introduce yourself.
What is something people have said that has left an impression on you over the years?
Dee: You know, you got to figure out how to make do with what you got. And one thing that Jeremy Cornelia and Tracy Palmer always taught me is: don’t stress over things you can’t change.
Doing all of this, especially by yourself, what would you tell up and coming designers?
Dee: I would say, don’t be afraid to be you. Speak up! Whoever tells you no, somebody will tell you yes. Everybody’s not going to say yes. Every person is not going to give you that venue for $200. [laughs] It’s going to happen. It’s okay.
Do you feel like you are inspiring the community and inspiring other fashion designers?
Dee: As far as the community, I’m glad you brought that up because I want to start doing stuff for the community. I want to do giveaways, can drives, backpack giveaways, all that kind of stuff. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m going to. As far as being inspiring, I just feel like coming out of Flint, where I started at, literally it was something I thought about doing in September and I did it in October. I feel like I’m definitely inspiring other fashion designers off of how I do stuff.
To finish this interview…what have you learned from all this?
Dee: I’ve learned that, you realize that when you get a business, you are no longer just a regular Flint citizen. I get down on my knees and pray. I asked for what I want. I’m a firm believer in that. Don’t get discouraged and you will succeed. It’s going to happen if you keep going at it. Especially let it be a passion as well. Don’t do this because you think this quick money. You know…I do this because I really love it.