LeBron James isn’t the only one putting on for Akron, Ohio. Willie Harper is also “just a kid from Akron” with big dreams. The founder of Not Perfect Brand created his clothing line in 2011 with a simple t-shirt to support LeBron’s transition from Cleveland to Miami. The collection has since grown into a variety of t-shirts and hats all conveying the “Not Perfect” message.
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You’re the founder of Not Perfect brand, what was the reasoning behind creating your line?
I wanted to curate limited exclusive items that are somewhat timeless.
When did you get started?
As a student at the University of Akron in 2011 I would sit in the library sketching ideas for tee shirts. I looked up to other brands in our area like Blessed Label & ilthy. We played around with different graphics & created a shirt we dubbed the “Akron Heat” tee which was a shirt we created to support LeBron down in Miami. I wore the shirt to some local bars & soon after it grew like wildfire, Akron’s desire to support LeBron was huge. Once a picture surfaced with him wearing the tee & the hat things began to take off. Him showing the brand support was priceless. We then focused on dropping around 4-5 pieces a year after that using select stores to do pop-ups along with our online shop.
What was the first item you created and what was the inspiration behind it?
The “Akron Heat” tee was made to support LeBron’s big decision at the time to leave Cleveland to Miami.
A lot of your items represent your hometown of Akron, Ohio. What influence has growing up in Akron, Ohio had on you?
Akron is a hot bed for believers & culture pushers. We have a “not quit” attitude that resonates amongst everyone. The city has a gritty feel to it that almost in a way toughens you up and gives you that feeling to just dust yourself off & try again. Failure is not an option.
Many “Big Wigs” have been seen sporting your brand from LeBron James to Porsha of Real Housewives of Atlanta. How did these opportunities come about and what did you feel in those moments?
Networking is key, it may sound clichè but it is so true. Having relationships of mutual friends that hang with certain “people of status” I guess was luck. We always have certain friends of the brand that we always send free stuff too & always send extras. If you are making quality pieces that look good you don’t have to beg or pay people of status to wear your items. Sometimes they will do it just because. We knew someone that was close friends with both celebs (LeBron James & Porsha Williams). We have built a relationship with comedian Rhea Butcher and also ex-NFL player Chris “Beanie” Wells.
Do you see yourself launching a full collection in the future?
Yes we are working on a few fall items at this time. We also are testing different cut/sew manufacturers to put together new unique limited pieces available nationwide in our online shop.