As a foster child from Niagara Falls, N.Y., Oaklin Mixon found himself a long way from home. Years later, at 32, he credits the once-unfamiliar surroundings of Flint with not only nurturing his personal development, but with fueling his professional vision.
Mixon, founder of GoodBoy Clothing, has adapted to Flint’s environment as much as the average native of the city. Now he plans to expand his business into the community’s distinct place among Michigan cities known for surviving and inspiring both residents and non-residents.
Mixon started GoodBoy, an “urban streetwear lifestyle” fashion line of t-shirts, jogging suits, sweaters and hats, in 2014. With $1,000 of personal money, he launched the web-based retail shop that has helped increase Flint’s profile, regionally and nationally. Short-term goals include moving GoodBoy into the manufacturing realm and creating garments at a downtown facility before designing and printing articles for sale.
“The GoodBoy brand actually represented the people who stayed in Flint during its economic crisis, to make contributions to the city,” says Mixon. “It’s a social justice-driven brand. Everybody wants good done to them, everybody wants to see good. That’s how we wanted to try and make a connection across the world.”
The first item for sale was a t-shirt bearing a simple “GoodBoy” logo. Mixon launched with a printing of 50 and a “couple hats.” Two years later, heavily relying on social media to promote GoodBoy to “people who love the concept, the brand, who love the merchandise,” Mixon says he has orders from Illinois, Virginia and even as far away as Japan, United Kingdom, and Qatar.
“I was never a fashion guru or anything, but I was into hip hop culture, which is fashion-heavy,” he says. “I just knew what I liked and what was fashionable, because of the culture.”
With no formal training or studies in the field he followed his passion.
“These were just things I loved,” he says. “I loved hip-hop culture, the style of hip-hop culture, and I loved justice. I wanted to unite those things and put them on a megaphone.”
With a team of about six people, Mixon’s goal is to use his “megaphone” and platform to help stimulate Flint’s economic and small business activity. Hoping to open the garment facility, specializing in domestically made fabrics, by next year, he says he’ll employ more staff and salute the legacies Flint helped establish.
“It’s very important for us to begin manufacturing our clothing here in Flint, because it will help restore that classic tradition of American manufacturing. Part of our marketing strategy is to create ads, so we can share more stories on social media,” Mixon says. “The meaning of our brand is a way to constantly tell our story.”
He recalls Flint at one of its “lowest” points when the family he remains close to gave him a home. The city’s lack of vitality and “ghost town” appearance in some communities left an imprint on his mind, contributing to GoodBoy, says Mixon.
Witnessing drugs and other adversity before entering the foster care system helped stir a desire to promote pride and determination in a city that needs both.
“I think it was destiny. I have a unique background that fostered that particular outlook,” Mixon adds. “Growing up and seeing what I did only developed my heart to help people try and see their way out. I think Flint was sort of like a mission field for me.”
Along with developing GoodBoy as a company, Mixon has begun grooming others to guide in the process of hands-on, independent, business branding. Flint native Muhammad Ayubbi is a skateboard fanatic under GoodBoy’s tutelage in developing a skate-inspired fashion line.
“Skateboarding is a part of my life, so I want to do something that flourishes that idea,” Ayubbi says.
Along with retailing tips, the teenager learns inventory and related skills Mixon says will help prepare Ayubbi for a successful business launch.
While he accepts part of his larger branding challenge as defining Flint for those unfamiliar with the community, Mixon says groundwork has been laid for GoodBoy to make the city more fashionable, literally, despite plenty of competition from nearby Detroit.
“I think it’s strictly Flint. We like that, because Flint has to develop an identity of its own. Flint is a unique culture and a unique people. It’s a similar struggle to (Detroit’s) similar outlook, similar type feel.”
While appealing, style-wise, to many younger consumers, Mixon’s focus not just on clothing, but “how it’s made and what it’s made with,” taps into time-tested formulas that he says will support a shop-to-shelf production and retail model. Other plans include developing a GoodBoy sneaker line in collaboration with another Flint-based company.
“What we want to do,” he says, “is create a culture around trying to make good things happen for people wherever they are.”