Transcending all boundaries
By By Ida Brown/The Meridian Star
Dec. 31, 2000
Growing up in a rural Mississippi town, Thomas "T.J." Walker had limited access to the world of fashion. However, he possessed an unlimited source of creativity and vision.
Nearly two decades after getting into his car and driving to California with no idea of what was ahead for him Walker has become a highly respected leader in the contemporary fashion industry. His clothing designs have graced the pages of such prominent publications as Forbes, Details, Code, Vibe, Source, Elle, GQ, Sportswear International, MR, Black Enterprise, Seventeen, Essence and Women's Wear Daily.
Walker's seemingly whirlwind foray in the fashion industry was actually years in the making.
After receiving an associate degree in communications design at the then Meridian Junior College, Walker transferred to Delta State University and earned a bachelor's degree in graphics design and painting. From there, he went to Louisiana Tech and received a master's degree in graphics design and fashion illustration, with a focus on painting and printmaking. It was printmaking that helped open doors for the aspiring designer.
Shortly after his arrival in Los Angeles in 1985, Walker began creating T-shirt designs for a company that did screen prints on clothing. The company's owner, Carl Jones, started the clothing company Surf Fetish and Walker did designs and graphics. The streetwear surf line did very well it grossed $15 million in sales the first year but Jones decided to embark on another venture with Walker as his partner.
The two introduced the collection Cross Colours, a line of urban clothing with a positive message.
Cross Colours which was sold mostly through the now defunct Merry Go Round clothing store chain was very successful and earned global recognition for design. In just under 18 months, the company amassed record sales in excess of $89 million, catapulting it into Black Enterprise's prestigious Top 100 black-owned businesses in 1991, ranking at No. 20. Cross Colours went on to receive further acknowledgement from the publication as "Company of the Year" in 1993 and its ranking increased to No. 10.
Walker and Jones also started the line Threads 4 Life," which reinforced the message of Cross Colours.
When the Merry Go Round store chain folded, the designers closed Cross Colours and sold the name.
In 1997, Walker decided to take a break from owning a clothing line and focused more on his design consulting firm, as well as conducting promotions for companies such as Groove, UMEN, Menace, Michael Jordan, DKNY, KO Man, DADA, Converse and Target Stores' private label programs. But it wasn't long before he had embarked on another designing venture.
In November 1999, Walker launched MODISCH German for "avant garde clothing." A men's and women's clothing line more contemporary on the levels of DKNY and Calvin Klein, it is geared to, but not exclusive to the urban market.
The line was introduced in February at The Magic Show a noted menswear show held biannually in Las Vegas and has been very well received. Walker recently returned from Hong Kong, where samples are being coordinated for upcoming major shows including the introduction of the fall line at The Magic Show in February 2001.
Walker has received numerous design awards, including the coveted Rising Star Award (issued by the Men's Fashion Association) and the Chrysler Award for innovation in design. He was also a member of the president's commission on the NAFTRA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and invited to speak at the White House on behalf of the fashion industry.
Although Walker has earned recognition as the embodiment of worldly style, he is still very much grounded. The son of Thomas Sr. and Annie Walker comes home often to be with family and friends the backbones of his success.
Having successfully overcome his geographical limitations to the fashion industry, Walker hopes to leave a legacy behind by way of developing programs and/or schools for graphic and fashion design for inner city children.
He also plans to establish a school in his home state to promote art and business.
Walker's advice to youth, especially those with aspirations that may seem farfetched to others:
MODISCH will soon be available at The Buckle in Bonita Lakes Mall. To see more on the clothing line or to order a catalog, visit the Web site www.modischine.com.
Ida Brown is Lifestyle editor for The Star. E-mail her at email@example.com