Detroit native Sean Xavier Williams, 30, has always been good with numbers. No wonder a big health insurance company in his home city scooped him up fresh out of college.
“I gave myself five years to work a corporate job and figure out what I really wanted to do,” said Williams.
Just two years in, everything changed. That’s when his lifelong best friend, a graphic artist, finally convinced him—after years of trying—to join a start-up clothing company. “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done,” Williams said during an interview at a coffee shop in Detroit’s Eastern Market area.
The clothes—emblazoned with DETROIT VS EVERYBODY—struck a chord with Detroit’s rappers and their fans.
“Most people would say that it’s kind of negative when they first see it,” Williams said of the registered phrase. “But the people from Detroit understand exactly what it means because throughout time, Detroit has always been written off.”
That’s why Detroit Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson gave a DVE T- shirt to Stephen Colbert on his late-night TV show The Colbert Report. And country singer/judge Keith Urban sported one on American Idol’s Motown night.
“It was the craziest product placement that we could have asked for,” said Williams, whose partners are Tommey Walker and William Willingham II.
“It’s a really hot product right now” and they’re running to keep up with demand, Williams said.
Hoodies, letter jackets, T-shirts and other trademarked DVE merchandise fill the company’s two stores, one on Greektown’s Monroe Avenue and the other on Russell Street. A third store is expected to open soon in Southfield.
So far, fans have shelled out more than $2 million for DVE merchandise since the company’s launch four years ago. “We’ve shipped to every continent except Antarctica,” Williams said with a smile.
Williams is the business brain and works alongside his two company co-founders, Tommey Walker, designer, and William Willingham II, brand manager. They now have 10 employees, all of whom are scrambling to help expand the business and keep up with fashion demands.
Meanwhile, DVE has inked a deal with Detroit rapper Eminem’s record label to permit the sale of SHADY VS EVERYBODY products.
And DVE is looking to expand its line to include spin-offs such as CAMARO VS EVERYBODY, CANCER VS EVERYBODY and even SPARTANS VS EVERYBODY.
Williams wants DVE to stay true to its Detroit roots and the city’s vibe.
As Lee DeVito, an editor of Detroit’s free street paper, the Metro Times, wrote: “In a city that has seen no shortage of Detroit pride T-shirts, perhaps none has attained the cultural cachet of DETROIT VS EVERYBODY.”