Meet the Next Dapper Dan, Tee of Exclusive Game Clothing
From T-shirts and jerseys to high-end customized Chanel and Versace gear, Queens native and Atlanta transplant Tee, founder of Exclusive Game Clothing, has come a long way. After working as Young Jeezy’s stylist early on in 2003, the man behind the infamous “Snowman” shirts has taken his game to a whole other level. He’s become the go-to clothier for industry heavyweights including Diddy, Rick Ross, Chris Brown and many more, and his customized apparel has many likening him to the legendary Harlem designer Dapper Dan because of his ability to create original apparel out of pieces from brands such as Chanel and Versace. Speaking from his newly built factory in Atlanta, he speaks to XXL about his come-up, creating the Snowman Tee for Jeezy, his relationship with Diddy and more. —Ralph Bristout (@RalphieBlackmon)
We read that Rick Ross once said that you’re “on the next level.” Meanwhile, other folks are comparing your custom alterations of luxury brands to Dapper Dan. What do you think about all the accolades?
As far as Dapper Dan, he’s definitely a legend. It’s a blessing to hear that. Honestly though, I’m just working. My head is down and I’m just into my craft. I don’t even see the success, really. I’ll be looking at [my past interviews] and be like, Damn this is me really doing this shit? So it’s that kind of feeling. ’Cause I don’t notice, I’m so busy doing stuff. I don’t get excited when I make [gear] for Ross or nothing like that; I’m more excited about the feeling and their response after I present it to them. Like, “Damn, Tee you did this!” That makes me feel good and motivates me to try to come up with doper pieces for all my clients. How long have you been in the fashion biz? I’ve been doing this since 2003. I’ve been doing customs since about the time Lil Jon was coming out—that’s when I was doing the jerseys. I started doing the big-ass basketball jerseys that were down to your knees. [Laughs]
You’re from New York, but you moved to Atlanta as your career began to take off. Why?
I was one of the dudes that was all over the city. I lived in Staten Island, in Brooklyn, Queens, all over New Jersey. In Atlanta, the music scene had so much potential but there was a void down here for people who needed that type of clothing or anything custom-made. There was so much money to get down here but there was no one to [do it]. I was living in a little spot in Brooklyn at the time, and I had already come down to the A a couple times, so I said, Wait, I made this much money in this few days and it’s cheaper? Man, I’m moving. I was already plugged in with all these rising artists, so I just sort of grew overnight. I’m still growing. Speaking of rising artists, you were already cool with Jeezy before he blew up, right? Yeah, we pretty much came up together. It started after being out here in the A with the homey Bleu Davinci. He introduced me to Jeezy one day and we just got real tight and linked like brothers. Jeezy’s one of the artists that paved my way to help me get out here. That was my partner. He played his music for me before he even got out there. During that time I was doing my jerseys for Big Meech, Jeezy—that was my whole team at the time and it was like we all just came up together. So, after I came down there, he made me his stylist before I even got really into fashion. He told the people at Def Jam, “I don’t need no stylist, my stylist right here,” ’cause I was always dressing him.
You’re also the man behind Jeezy’s infamous “Snowman” tee. How did that come about and how did you handle the controversy that came along with it?
Me and Jeezy, we were young at the time so it was more of an exciting feeling. We weren’t even thinking about the money. When we went to New York and seen that shit in the store windows. We were like, Oh shit. All on 145th Street, the Snowman tees were all over the windows. When we first made it, it was like a joke; I felt like I was reaching. Jeezy called himself Snowman so I said, Let me put a snowman on a shirt. When he seen that, I could’ve got the “What the fuck is this?” But he took to it hard and was into it. He wore that everywhere he went. I didn’t think it would be that big. If we both knew at the time we would’ve probably tried to brand it. We put it out ourselves, but I wasn’t that advanced at that time; it’s more of a hustle to me [now]. But then I was seeing that they had Snowman shoes, Snowman keychains—all of that shit just got out of hand.
But now you’ve got your own business, Exclusive Game Clothing.
I started in my apartment, it grew and I built my own empire. I got a big factory [in Atlanta]; I do all the cut-and-sew there with my team. I got a lot of seamstresses and my design team, and we do all the custom varsity jackets, high-end custom stuff that Rick Ross wears, custom leather jackets, motorcycle jackets. We’re like a one-stop shop where we do all. And we have the clothing line that’s sold out at DTLR, Dr. Jays, Get Set in Brooklyn, all these spots in New York City and more. We’re in a lot of stores right now so; I’m trying to build the brand itself now. It’s like a full-time job. I might have to fly on a plane to meet somebody like Ross on tour and drop off some items or meet with Puff in Paris to drop off a package—that’s what I’ll do. I’m like a doctor; I’m on-call all day.
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