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Talking with Philip Dupree, co-owner of Made To Order: A Sole Food Boutique
Interview by Clayton Ruley
 

A Note from the Editor: Phil has been a World Family member from the jump as he's known many of GeoClan's founders since attending the high school with them. Just like he's supported us, we support him and wanted our readers to learn about this young businessman from Fern Rock! Made To Order was recently named on MyFoxPhilly's Hotlist and with continued hard work, more success is sure to come. With that out of the way, lets get to the interview.

GeoClan.com (GC): What's your name, where you from and where you trying to go?

 

Philip Dupree (PD): My name is Phil Dupree, I'm from Fern Rock, Philadelphia PA, USA. I'm trying to get my name on some product in your house.

GC: Now I know you were big into the labels when we were in high school but when did you first get into fashion and thing this is something you'd like to do full-time?

PD: I definitely was all about labels in high school, but back then, it was more of a hobby. My formal training is in finance, however, my business partner and I would take shopping trips to New York all the time, and we got tired of all the egos and pretentious attitudes that accompanied some of those expeditions. We went from it being a hobby to concentrating on opening our own boutique where people could come in and just chill and shop. It has become a full time love affair.

A little of designer this and that is what you get


GC: Did you always (relative) know you wanted to run your own thing? What were some of the stepping stones to get where you are at now?

PD: I didn't want to own a boutique. It's funny because people say, "You were always into fashion, so it makes sense that you own a store", but I never wanted to do this.

As consumers, we go into a store, check the offering, and then make a purchase, but not until I got behind the scenes did I realize how much goes into that.

At first, when we were in the planning stages, we got a lot of assistance from local store owners, such as sales reps contact information, but the closer we got to opening, the less that help was offered.

The hardest thing was finding a location. We actually had a spot, we had negotiated numbers and we were going to meet the owner for the first time, and she saw us, and was like "The place has been rented". Mind you, 2 hours earlier on the phone, we had pretty much wrapped up the deal. Apparently, people still have a problem with race. Go figure. For the record, in the past year, she's had 3 different business, so karma is real.

GC: Did your education have an impact on your quest?

PD: My education definitely has had an impact on this journey, and I'm also able to spot those who aren't so enlightened. When you have formal business training, you have a money first, everything else second approach to things. If something isn't logical, and it doesn't make money, then, it probably doesn't make much sense. However in this industry, people hit you with all kind of ridiculous proposals and ideas that are just plain simple.

GC: Tell us you motivation for starting Made To Order how did it come to be and what do you specialize in?

PD: The motivation for Made To Order was to create an entirely new shopping atmosphere that isn't seen. When we would go shopping, we noticed we were spending x amount of dollars in some of these places and they were just plain rude. Customer service apparently went out the window at some point in the last few years, and we didn't dig it at all.

We wanted the shop to be a hangout. A place where you could come, talk sports, eat your lunch, buy a t-shirt and play video games. People don't have places to hang anymore so they find themselves in places they shouldn't be in, myself included. So we wanted a "common mens" boutique.

We specialize in limited edition clothing and footwear from around the world. People in Philadelphia don't just wear white tees and Air Force Ones, so we wanted to give people a one stop shop for all their fashion needs. We have you covered from socks to hats and everything in between. EVERYTHING.

The front door of the Northern Liberties shop

GC: What's the atmosphere when you walk in the door?

PD: When you walk through the doors of Made To Order, you're always greeted with the three s's(smile,scent,smell), and more often than not, an invitation for "winners" on whatever video game staff happens to be engaged in. This week, it has been Wii baseball. But more often than not, it's a very welcoming atmosphere.

GC: What's been the response from the men, ladies, people of color and the reverse?

PD: The response has been nothing short of amazing. We constantly hear people tell us how easy it is to shop in Made. We frequently hear horror stories of shopping experiences at other local boutiques and how we're so much different.

The Men tend to love it. Women used to complain that we didn't have more of a selection, so we brought in more women's and they loved us for it. Women's stuff sells a bit faster so the "late" shoppers still come in like, "I thought you said you brought in more womens". LOL.

People of color started out as our main clientele, and they were very loyal, however, we are proud to say that our customer base knows no race boundaries. But no matter what color they are, I think they are satisfied.

GC: What kind of work does running your own clothing store entail?

PD: Running your own clothing store is a full time job. Literally. See, most people think you call up the brand, and say hey, let me buy your product. But these brands are so selective of where they place their product. They want pics, brand lists, location, and they basically want to know how cool you and your staff are.

You get past that hurdle and then you have to deal with the shippers, customs, depending on where your order is coming from, and sales reps. On top of that, a lot of brands we carry our international, so it's nothing to get an email at 3:37am from a brand asking how the product is doing, or telling you an order just shipped. And that's just to get product.

Once you get the product, you have to figure out a way to sell it. You can't just put it on a rack and expect people to come. You have to promote everything. The side people don't see is inventory management, sales/profit reports, hiring reliable interns/staff, insurance, rent, keeping the store clean, and still trying to stay ahead of the curve.

I find myself just people watching in my free time to see what ordinary people are wearing. You never know where inspiration will come from.

Taking it to the rack

GC: What lines are getting the most buzz these days?

PD: The lines getting the most buzz as of late are Crooks and Castles, In4mation, Clae and Public School.

Crooks started out as a small brand only sold in Japan, and made the jump to the American market a few years back, and now, it's on the likes of everyone from Jay-Z to Carmelo Anthony. I was watching I Wanna Work For Diddy, and they needed to buy Puff a present, and where did one of the assistants run to? The Crooks and Castle flagship store.

In4mation is a hawaiian brand that has been getting a lot of respect lately for their colorful Casio G-shock collaborations, which we do very well with.

Clae is a footwear company that is slowly developing a heavy following, and Public School is the modern day luxury streetwear for the elite. I'm talking $1000 leather jackets, hooded cardigans and the softest tees I ever felt in my life. It's dope. I think when people check it out, they may be pleasantly surprised.

GC: Does the mantra location, location, location ring true when your talking about the location of your shop?

PD: The location, location, location rule actually has been proven a bit wrong. When we came to the neighborhood, people were like, "Northern what?", or "Why there", and the infamous, "Where is that???". But, if you work hard, and provide people a reason to go to a neighborhood that they don't usually visit, they'll come, and we have been very blessed and fortunate. However, Northern Liberties now is going through a transformation, so now it's like, "you guys made a good choice", and "In a couple years, you guys will be glad you chose this spot". We were glad the day we signed our lease.

A photo from the clothes perspective

GC: Plans to do your own line(s)? Any other plans you'd like to mention?

PD: There are plans to do our own line. We have actually designed some store tees which have done really well, but we're in the process of sourcing right now, so that we can put out a full collection for next spring. Right now, we do a tee for holidays and for special events, but I want us to be able to do some cut and sew items.

Justin and I also comprise two thirds of the owners of Sneaker Auction which is a live event we do where we, well, auction off sneaks. We also provide a celebrity dj and sell sneaks at prices well below market value. We've had Prince Paul as a dj, Bobbito Garcia aka Kool Bob Love, and others to name a few. It's a dope event and the next one is actually coming up in September.

We're also working on a jewelry line, a scarf line, and our own Made To Order candles for the store, as my business partner Justin just returned from Russia sewing up some contacts there.

GC: Why does it seem that George Washington Carver High School of Engineering & Science puts out that talent in artistic endeavors and more than just Engineering & Science?

PD: Carver just seemed to be the school version of the Dream Team. When we all were there, it just seemed like we were surrounded by so many talented people that you HAD to be good at something, just to fit in. And it was a different time back then. Education was stressed more back then than it is now. We were very fortunate to grow up in the times we did. My business partner and I are both products of Carver. We have an intern, Daniel Clymer, who is currently a senior there, and he's a creative kid. Something about that school is magical.

GC: Why do you think this 2008 presidential election was so captivating?

PD: This election was so captivating because we are seeing what our parents and teachers have been promising us for the last 20 years or so. They have always told us that we can be whatever we wanted to be, and to some extent, we believed them. Despite what they said though, there were many that never thought we'd see a Black President. But as Don King would say, "Only In America".

I think that Barack Obama is so eloquent and refined, you HAVE to take notice of him. Obama is the why Martin and Malcolm gave their lives. He is why the Panthers fed poor children in the ghettos. He is why Harriet Tubman traveled the Underground Railroad and why Ali refused to enter the draft. He is the reason why websites like GeoClan spread their message. He is the hope we have all carried. And if that isn't enough, he's the man that will restore America to its former glory. He is OUR president.

A look inside the store from front to back

GC: Why do we need positive change now (besides to spend at your shop)?

 

PD: We need change right now because this country is at the brink of collapse. We are fighting a war that is costing us more than we have ever spent in history on education in this country. People are losing their homes, their pensions, and even more, their lives. Families are being destroyed by the state that this country is in.

American Express laid off 7000 people today. That's 7000 people who woke up employed, and will go to sleep not knowing where their next car note or mortgage payment will come from. And some of those 7000 surely have dependents. It's safe to say 10,000 people are lost right now.

Gas reached $4.00. It costs more to fill up your tank per month than your car note. This can't be life. This is why we need a change. Americans are hated across the globe. We are seen as warmongers and anti-Islamic. This is why we need a change.

Republicans have held America hostage for the past 8 years. We have the biggest budget deficit EVER, and we have a president in power who cares more about oil and defense contracts than a human life. A president who proposed a bailout plan that provided bonuses to Fortune 500 CEO's, while middle class America received foreclosure notices, and overdue credit card bills. This is why we need a change.

Made to Order is on 817A North 2nd St. in the Northern Liberties (North) section of Philadelphia, PA. For more info check out their website by clicking here

Please send any comments to style@geoclan.com


Philip Dupree
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