For Trevor “Fresh” Coates, the dream of designing outerwear came to him… in a dream.
“One day while I was in college,” Coates recounts, “I fell asleep and had a dream that I was in Rome. I was walking down a street of shops that sold the best of everything. There was a shop that sold vacuum cleaners, but they were the world’s best vacuums.”
One shop sold leather coats. He inquired about who made a particularly beautiful leather coat, and in the dream, the shop owner replied, “You did.”
Among the “new-school” of Detroit clothing designers, Coates was also inspired by his last name. His fashion brand, The Profit Brand, has long been a streetwear staple with t-shirts and hoodies that have sold all around the Midwest and Europe.
Eventually, Coates plans to move into becoming a luxury outerwear brand in the footsteps of the iconic signature Detroit coat brand, Pelle Pelle.
But, even before taking this final step in fulfilling his dream, Coates is checking another dream accomplishment off his list.
On Halloween, The Profit Brand opened its flagship store at 202 W. Fourth Street in Royal Oak, the former site of the original Burn Rubber store.
“We decided to open the store in Royal Oak in the original Burner Rubber location to honor the historic legacy of Black-owned business in the Detroit area,” Coates said, “I always respected and aspired to be like the two owners who are fashion pioneers.”
Roland Coit and Rick Williams established Burn Rubber as a sneaker boutique in 2007. The store became locally-known and internationally-acclaimed as a place to get the best and most exciting sneaker releases in the Detroit-metro area.
The two paired with Detroit music legends and sneakerheads like Eminem and battle-rap champion, Marvwon.
That legacy, Coates believes, still resides in the very walls of the building.
The location was also previously the site of Cream Blends-a custom line of organic body oils, butters, and candles created by Williams’ wife, Yolanda.
The storefront for the unique product line was short-lived, but it’s finding success in online-only orders.
Despite the legacy that lives at the Fourth Street location, Coates and The Profit Brand are determined to make the place their own.
“Burn Rubber is iconic, but even early on, (Coit and Williams) were still supportive of me and my dreams. They bought my artwork. I value that relationship. They are known for their legacy and fashion history in Detroit and around the world.”
Opening a new business, especially in retail, amid the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging. But, Coates is relying on a strong fan base, diverse product offerings, and unique and fun activities like rotating visiting DJs or staying open for 24 hours straight to encourage holiday traffic.
Coates says he also draws inspiration from the rise of African American designers like Virgil Abloh. The Chicago-native started his career designing for Kanye West and is now the Artistic Director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear line.
“Virgil is an inspiration,” Coates says, “He is a staple Black designer of our time. He inspires me. I hope he keeps going and keeps opening despite ups and downs. A main designer for Louis Vuitton? For me, that’s in the same range as having a Black president.”
Coates has also been inspired by Detroit designer, Maurice Malone.
The legendary streetwear designer began his career with his own store, The Hip Hop Shop. The store would go on to become even more iconic than his clothes after many of Detroit’s rap stars, including Eminem, would get their start battling there on Saturday afternoons throughout the 90s.
Coates says that he has been in contact with Malone who told him to stay consistent, and “go hard” with every collection’s release.
Not just a designer, he has been an active art contributor to Artist’s Village which is a part of Detroit’s Blight Busters. John George, president of the organization raved, “In the years that he was here, he did a number of fundraisers. As a young man, he has always been very positive and done important work. He’s really an outstanding person.”
At Artist Village, Coates, who is also a visual artist, worked for several years as an apprentice to artist Chazz Miller who is working on a new, exciting exhibit in his continued effort to revitalize Old Redford. His first storefront was in that neighborhood, and he still loves and gives back to it.
Given that streetwear is synonymous with Black culture, but has made a significant dent in suburban, European, and even Japanese markets, a Royal Oak location is a good fit for Profit Brand.
But, he contends that it is only the beginning.
“Streetwear is a good starter brand,” he says, “It’s forgiving, it’s affordable. It’s a good gateway to get started in designing. I’m looking forward to always moving forward and evolving.”
Visit Profit Brand Clothing at 202 W. 4th Street in Royal Oak and @profit_midwest on Instagram.