Memphis, By Design

Local fashion designer looks to grow brand

By Michael Waddell

For local fashion designer Xavier Winston, getting out of Binghampton was always his motivation growing up, but today he proudly represents the community as a successful entrepreneur and evidence of what you can accomplish with dedication and hard work.

Winston’s Kencade Apparel clothing line, which features a range of custom T-shirt designs, has garnered national attention over the past year. Last fall it was featured on the second season of Disney TV’s Backstage, as well as being touted by well-known local rapper Kia Shine.

“I’m just a guy from Binghampton trying to tell my story through fashion all while filling the fashion void of Memphis,” Winston said.” I want to shed a positive light on the city. I want to be a part of the good going on in the city and not the bad.”

Xavier Winston, Memphis fashion designer and resident of Binghampton, started his fashion line, Kencade Apparel, in 2011 and is devoted to giving back to the Binghampton community. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

After starting the company is 2011, Winston handled promoting and selling his brand through his website, Facebook and other social media. He was able to get Kencade on Disney TV after reaching out to the show’s costume designer, and he is hoping for similar results in the future from contacting other shows.

His ultimate goal is to become as well-known as Polo designer Ralph Lauren or Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld.

“I plan on expanding to a full line in the next two years,” Winston said. “I’ve thought about testing the market to get my stuff into stores, but I would also like to get to the point of opening my own store. I don’t want to oversaturate the market. I want to keep my brand limited and exclusive.”

Having strong mentors like local entrepreneur Jamese Couch was critical to Winston’s development. He was able to watch as Couch followed her dreams of providing child care centers in underserved areas of the city. She now owns and is director of Fundamentals 1st Learning Academy in Orange Mound and the newly opened Lion and Lioness Learning Academy in Frayser.

“We worked together, and he paid close attention to my work ethic,” Couch said. “He took constructive criticism really well, and we gained a rapport from there. So it started out as work relationship and grew into a friendship from there.”

It was inspiring for Winston to see Couch follow through on achieving her goals, and it served as model for him as he started his business.

“I just love his personality. He’s a very outgoing people person,” Couch said. “He knows how to network, is very determined and has great work ethic.”

Winston said growing up in Binghampton was “just like any other rough neighborhood in Memphis. My only goal was to get out.”

As he grew up, many of the people he knew ended up in gangs at an early age, but the dream of playing in the NBA kept him in the gym and on the straight and narrow. He knew inappropriate activities would veer him away from what he needed to do.

After realizing as a teen that his hoop dreams were not going to happen, he turned his sights to being an architect, which eventually led to an interest in graphic design.

“He’s got that gift of being creative,” said mentor Tim Jordan, a church mentor to Winston dating back to his childhood. “He was always drawing. I encouraged him to keep doing what he loved. All it takes is one celebrity liking your clothes line and putting it on.”

Nike Inc. architect-turned-shoe-

designer Tinker Hatfield became one of Winston’s top role models.

“Anything that I do I’m really passionate about,” Winston said. “One of my goals is to collaborate with a sneaker company.”

He relishes the chance to represent Memphis and Binghampton for fashion, inspiring and motivating local kids to do something and be successful.

“We don’t have anyone to really represent Binghampton. There’s no one who’s made it out,” he said. “So for me to be from the Binghampton area and the kids to see my success is really important.”

He has enjoyed seeing the growth and improvement of the Binghampton area in recent years.

“When we were growing up, we didn’t have anybody telling us we could succeed,” he said. “We thought the only way we could make it out was playing basketball or selling drugs. Being a fashion designer wasn’t even an option.”

So giving back to the local community is central to the Kencade brand, and Winston helps the students, faculty and parents of Lester Prep Middle School by donating shirts, uniforms and other materials.