The holidays came early for Ben Rivers and his streetwear apparel start-up, KYOU. The sophomore management major’s hoodies, tees and caps are being distributed as a bonus add-on to members of a major subscription-based men’s clothing distributor.

Ben Rivers, center, has launched KYOU-brand apparel.

Ben Rivers, center, has launched KYOU-brand apparel.
Image Credit: Ashley Jones

Similar to a wine- or food-of-the-month club, ThreadBeast delivers packages of trendsetting apparel brands each month to fit their subscribers’ style profile. Included in Threadbeast’s holiday season deliveries will be free apparel from the Clemson University student’s fledgling apparel brand, KYOU (pronounced Q).

“It’s a great way to create an awareness of KYOU’s brand,” Ben said. “ThreadBeast carries many big-name brands with which we want to associate our brand, so they will be distributing 1,000 articles of our clothing to their customers with their holiday orders.”

Founded in June of 2016, KYOU’s streetwear fashions are rooted in the surf and skate culture, but also encompasses elements of hip-hop fashion.

“My interest in retail apparel started in high school in Spartanburg. My friends and I would go to the mall and see all the new clothing lines that had Southern connections,” said Ben, who was born in Vietnam and moved to South Carolina as a child. “Being attracted to hip-hop and the pop culture, I liked the clothing but wanted to go in a different direction.”

Without any formal art training, Ben began visualizing a design for KYOU, which in Japanese means to unite or cooperate.

“My ultimate interest in design is more from the business end. But I didn’t have the money to pay an artist, so I became the artist,” he said.

Ben’s streetwear design concepts came to fruition using PhotoShop and Illustrator, as he has since taken advantage of Clemson’s partnership with Adobe technology to further refine the brand’s look. After forming an LLC and creating wholesale accounts, he searched out vendors to print and produce the apparel, which also includes bomber jackets and joggers.

Up until now, KYOU apparel has been promoted through point-of-sales at music venues, where local rappers have endorsed his clothing by wearing it during performances. Ben said he’s hoping to realize interest in his clothing line soon from the partnership with ThreadBeast.

“They’ve already begun shipping our product with their holiday orders, so we should be able to tell soon if this marketing approach takes hold by activity on our web site,” Ben said. “We’re hoping this will whet customers’ appetites for our product enough for them to order more online.”

“Ben is showing great courage by going out and doing something with his dream, rather than just talking about it,” said John Hannon, entrepreneurial lecturer in the College of Business. “He set his sights high by going after ThreadBeast. He’s a great example of an ambitious, bright student taking what he’s learned in our classes and turbo-charging his business idea.”

With the jury still out on how the holiday promotion with ThreadBeast will impact KYOU, Ben is already looking at next steps in marketing his start-up’s wares.

“If the reaction to the ThreadBeast promotion is favorable, I’d like to approach chain stores like Journeys or Zumiez, which carries similar clothing that appeals to those in the sixteen to mid-twenties age demographic. I’ve also thought about a brick and mortar presence in the Greenville area, where our store might get other brands to sell their apparel alongside ours.”

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