When he was just nineteen, Dawaud Muhammad started selling t-shirts on the streets of Oakland. From there, he quickly realized that garment wear was what he wanted to do. Now, Dawaud runs Big Printing. And although he sells more through Instagram than on the streets, he’s been determined to keep street style at the heart of his business. We catch up with him to find out why he’s chosen to keep a niche market and why street style is so much more than a fashion trend for him.
We’ve seen on Big Printing’s Instagram page that you work with a lot of chenille patches. What’s the story behind that?
The patches are pretty unique because they're from people all over the country. We specialize in streetwear, but it comes from everywhere: Chicago, Philadelphia, South Carolina, Miami, Los Angeles, Compton, Houston — everywhere. It's a slew of different personalities and different visions. It's really a beautiful thing. We debuted at a convention recently and we set up our booth like a museum, with patches up like works of art. The turn out we had was great. People were really feeling the different designs out there and it was such a good thing because we represent a demographic and clientele that's kind of been overlooked. I think that [people] just aren’t used to seeing designs for our kind of demographic. But when they saw our booth, there was something really organic about it.
What are the benefits and challenges of having a niche style and market?
One of the main benefits is that you can kind of be an expert in your field and hit your target market with a bullseye arrow versus just some broad strokes. A challenge may be that you get bored with doing the same thing, but you will be the prime market leader - which I think is a better situation. If you go too broad, you kind of dilute your marketability. Having a little bit of everything means you'll never be 100% for this demographic or that demographic. Whereas somebody out there who is 100% will be whooping you every time. As long as your market is big enough to grow and scale into, you should be good.
Any other words of advice you’d like to give?
I think right now is a really unique time in fashion with the emergence of social media. Now, you don't really have a middleman between you and your clientele base. So I would encourage everybody out there to bump up their social media presence and online marketing. Maybe 10 years from now, it might not be like that, so we've got to take advantage of it. Definitely do Instagram ads and get your name out there. Back in the day, I had to print flyers, give out flyers, shake hands — and now you can give Instagram some money to hand out 10,000 flyers instead!
So would you say that Instagram is almost like the new streets you're selling on?
Yeah, it's like a big boulevard or highway for real! So put a sign on that highway and show them what you can offer.