People react to adversity in different ways. For some, this will hinder and prevent a person from moving beyond their difficulties. For others, it can be a motivator and propel a person to bigger and better. The latter was the case for fashion designer, Charles Jay.
Jay is originally from South Jersey. He grew up in Cedarbrook, New Jersey and went to Winslow Township High School. When he was two years old, he developed kidney cancer. He was told at a very young age that he couldn’t do what the other kids were doing. He had a long road ahead of him, but this ordeal made him tough and prepared him for a world that would continually tell him what he couldn’t do.
After college, Jay decided he wanted to design fashion. While working in various Aldo’s in South Jersey and Philadelphia as a store manager and area manager, he studied the garment production process in his spare time. Through trial and error, Jay learned how to produce clothing by dealing directly with a manufacturer. His brand, Urbane, was launched in 2015 and is an extension of him and his story as a cancer survivor. Jay says, “The color block logo is a reference to me being in the game room (at CHOP) playing with the color blocks. 93, which is on pretty much every piece of clothing, is the year I was diagnosed with cancer. There is always a cancer ribbon or some sort of tokenization on all the clothes I produce.
Jay’s unique brand and story slowly began to create buzz. Her clothes have been featured in Essence magazine, Huffington Post and Complex magazine. It was also featured during Philly Fashion Week. Artists like Swizz Beatz and Wolf Tyler have worn his clothes and Urbane has had small placements on VH1’s Love And Hip Hop. More recently, Urbane and Jay’s other clothing brand, Avenue Black, was featured on HBO’s hit show Euphoria. Her clothes were featured in the Season 2 premiere, which drew 2.4 million viewers and is the best digital showing of any HBO episode on HBO Max since the streaming service launched last May. His mark was carried by the character “McKay”, played by Algee Smith. “It’s a testament to the hard work I’ve put in over the past two years to be able to make those connections and have the resources to be placed on different shows,” Jay says.
Jay has been in remission for 28 years and is still cancer free. His will to succeed and his drive to achieve great things shines through in everything he does. As well as Avenue Black being the name of his second clothing brand, Jay also has a physical store in the Deptford Mall of the same name, the same mall where he previously worked at Aldo. Jay also previously had a store at Gloucester Premium Outlets, where he also worked. “Being able to open stores in the same places where I worked for someone else is a monumental feat for me,” says Jay.
Urbane and Avenue Black brands are sold in the same store. He has big dreams for his Avenue Black brand. Jay plans to open an 11,000 square foot Black Avenue location in Turnersville, New Jersey. This location will be more than a retail store. Jay explained: “The whole concept is a coworking space. A commercial co-working space. We have several retail brands, all local designers and local brands that are sold in our space. People can pay a membership fee and work from our location every day and use the space we have, which includes a photography studio, livestream room, podcast studio, makeup studio, and we also hold workshops and events to give other local entrepreneurs the resources they need. Avenue Black is a small business incubator.
Jay is happy to see that his hard work and perseverance has paid off. “I crossed the trenches, but mentally I was strong enough to overcome the obstacles. No opportunity was offered to me. I had to go get them,” said Charles Jay.