D.R.X.P by Zel: Purpose, Inspiration And The Essence of Harlem

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I found this, not knowing I was being groomed for this the whole time,” D.R.X.P. CEO and Founder Denzel explained.

“D.R.X.P. is an acronym for Direction, Reinvent, Inspire, Purpose. It’s about finding your purpose and having direction on your journey.”

A Harlem, New York native, Denzel said his clothing designs are heavily influences by things he saw in his neighborhood and events that took place around him.

“Just the overall vibe of Harlem, the essence,” he said, “I always start with that for my creativity.”

In 2003, Denzel recalls attending the infamous “Blackout at Rucker Park”, a long-standing basketball court created to uplift local youth and bring the community together.

“I was there and I actually remember sneaking up there to see crowds and games at the Rucker,” Denzel said.

On Aug. 14 of that year, Jay-Z and Fat Joe separately assembled teams to go head to head in a game of street ball. Close to 20,000 people showed up to see the likes of Lebron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson and Yao Ming play in what could have been the greatest basketball of all time. Just as the excitement reached its peak, a city-wide black out hit and police shut everything down.

Inspired and driven by rich history and experiences, Denzel started his brand ‘D.R.X.P.’ in 2019, after years of building up his product knowledge. At 16, he got his first job at a black-owned shop and would go on to work many different jobs, mostly retail, until 2016 when he started working with a European designer.

“This is what opened my eyes to different brands and better quality garments,” Denzel explained.

He was able to expand his knowledge of fashion design here until things took a turn in 2018.

“I got fired,” Denzel said.

This pivotal moment prompted him to start a side hustle that consisted of reselling expensive garments. From there, he built clientele within the store, as well as through friends and other people he knew from outside the store.

“I spoke to a few friends about making t-shirts,” Denzel explained, “I researched and copped the shirts that week. They sold out type quick. Ever since then, I haven’t stopped.”

Creative Principles

“It was so crowded that day we had to hang on the fence to actually see anything,” Denzel said, referencing a shirt design influenced by the late Kobe Bryant’s appearance at Rucker Park.

“I’m always working on new designs, concepts or ideas.”

Denzel is very much inspired by legendary businessman, fashion designer, tailor and fellow Harlem Native Dapper Dan. Dapper Dan not only taught himself how to design from scratch, he also invented a new process for leather printing and made a splash with interior design for luxury automobiles.

D.R.X.P. also has a Polo Ralph Lauren effect in terms of legacy and lifestyle branding. Denzel credits Bathing Ape and ACME Studios as some of his style influences, as well.

In terms of his creative process, Denzel starts by brainstorming an idea, which typically comes about through his many influences. His original idea then goes through incubation while he works to perfect it. From there, Denzel shares the idea with someone and makes sure it’s never the same person. He then goes on to review all of his mental notes and craft the design and/or project before moving on to advertising.

“I enjoy the end product and seeing something I created being worn and coveted by someone else is a great feeling,” Denzel said, “Knowing you can help someone feel better about their appearance by creating a good garment or design.”

“This was an early design when I first started,” Denzel explained, “Reminding all the kings to wear their crown and where we came from and who we are.”

“We drippin’ different with purpose and inspiration, trying to reinvent ourselves and have purpose.”

More on Harlem and our renaissance

Harlem is a district of New York City, known for being the center of black creative development. Due to over-speculation by housing developers in the early 1900s, many properties in the area went unsold. This led black Real Estate Agent and Entrepreneur Phillip A. Payton to persuade Harlem landlords to move black tenants into the empty properties. He later became known as “The Father Of Harlem”.

Black people from the American South and The Caribbean flooded into the city in pursuit of better opportunity and higher quality of life, a movement known as the Great Migration.

The 1920s sparked a period known as “The Harlem Renaissance”. During this time, the city exploded with cultural and artistic expression. Many consider the Harlem Renaissance to be the golden age of African-American art, literature and music, more specifically jazz. This era gifted us greats like Poet Langston Hughes, Folklorist and Anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston and Jazz Musician Louis Armstrong and iconic music halls such as The Apollo Theatre.

As we enter the new decade, we mark the 100th Anniversary of the start of the Harlem Renaissance. We must study up, create and share. Our renaissance is here.

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