James Whitner, owner of Charlotte, N.C.-based retail company Whitaker Group — whose outposts include A Ma Maniére, Social Status, APB and Prosper — has long stocked some streetwear’s most aspirational labels.
Now, Whitner wants to create them, too. In a few days, The Whitaker Group’s first in-house apparel collection for A Ma Maniére will sit along side buzzed-about drops from the likes of Jordan, Nike, Christian Dior and Comme des Garçons in its boutiques in Houston, Atlanta and Washington, DC, as well as on its website.
Priced between $115 and $610, the pieces are Whitner and his design team’s take on “classic luxury” meets streetwear. There are 28 items, including T-shirts, hoodies, denim jackets and pants, sweat pants and workwear-style button downs, made of Japanese stretch denim and twill. The pieces, available on Sept. 4, were stitched in Los Angeles by Black and Latin tailors — an element Whitner, who has made a name for himself as a staunch proponent of racial equity in the fashion industry, insisted on.
“For so long, I had been the outspoken Black person in the room speaking out about diversity and equality and sometimes we forget why I’m even in the room,” said Whitner. “[My company is] here because we have a perspective on luxury as it connects to streetwear and it’s powered by the community that we support every day — the [Black] community.”
This is a chance for us to have our point of view and to put it out to the world.
Whitner’s group of 15-plus fashion and sneaker lifestyle boutiques has launched initiatives like Colour Code, a product collaboration program that helps minority-owned brands and designers create exclusive capsule collections with his retail outposts. He also hosts Free Game, a discussion platform and event series focused on educating minorities on entrepreneurship and raising social awareness.
His boutiques have also collaborated with brands like Nike and Jordan. Those projects, along with years of retail contracts with prominent labels, have helped lay the foundation for his first full launch — but experience has not exactly quelled the nerves for Whitner.
“As you create, you’re in your most vulnerable state,” he said. “Other people have had the opportunity to create much earlier in their career but we had to kind of like piece things together and first focus on growth and create a foundation for retail ... We got the chance to work with tons of brands and fashion houses as as brand partners and retail partners, but this is a chance for us to have our point of view and to put it out to the world.”