When Alvin Meda enrolled as a biology major at UConn, he knew he was entrepreneurial-minded, but he wanted to pursue something that felt more secure. Fast-forward to 2016, and he had an undergraduate degree; a job in Cambridge, MA as a research assistant; and an itch for entrepreneurship that still wouldn’t go away. So last September, he launched Homme des Terres, a clothing line he’d been dreaming up for over a year and a half. Now, with the support of family, friends and a growing following, Alvin is building a fashion brand, piece by stylish piece.
What is the meaning behind the name of the brand? What about the hats that simply say ‘finesse’?
The name Homme des Terres is French for ‘Man of Lands’. When I was creating an identity for my brand, I went through the struggle of figuring out a name that would fit the product I was attempting to create, just like most business owners go through. Being a French speaker, Homme des Terres dawned on me because in this current day and age, we now live in a world that is so interconnected with many different cultures, and these cultures that surround us also help create who we are in entirety. This mentality that I’ve strongly adapted is what made me feel as if Homme des Terres was the perfect name for my brand.
As far as the ‘finesse’ hats, anyone who understands how tough life can be for a young person of color knows that finessing is a way of life. There have been plenty of situations throughout my life where I’ve had to finesse in order to achieve a goal and I will continue finessing for the rest of my life. It was only right that the introduction of Homme des Terres to the world included it.
You studied biology in school — what made you want to start a fashion line?
My path through school was just like plenty of others; not truly knowing what you want to do in the future, yet feeling as if you have to make a rash decision that can potentially shape your life. It was while studying biology at the University of Connecticut when I began looking for a creative outlet for myself because although I was a decent student I knew I had an entrepreneurial mindset that wouldn’t die down. I’ve always had an affinity and appreciation for design but it wasn’t until around my sophomore year of college that I truly started looking at it as a possibility for my future. My parents have always instilled the importance of education in me so I figured that even though I wasn’t studying design or art in school officially, I can still do my own research to learn as much as possible and eventually apply it.
Do you have any mentors or role models that have motivated or inspired you throughout this process?
My parents have always been and will forever be my role models. They emigrated to the United States from Burkina Faso in the early 90’s and have broken through unimaginable barriers to get to where we are as a family now. I look towards them when I’m seeking motivation or inspiration because I’ve seen how hard they have worked to achieve their goals and that determination has been passed down to my brother and I. My parents have always had the belief that the traditional route of education is what leads to success, however they’ve come to understand that there are other ways that can open up doors.
My brother has also been a mentor to me, and someone that I look towards for guidance regarding my business. His knowledge on the fashion industry and marketing will always serve as a highly regarded opinion for the brand. My family has been very supportive of my endeavors because they see the amount of effort I put into it and how badly I want to succeed. I have to thank them for everything.
What’s a piece of advice you would give to someone who’s interested in starting a business?
Although I’m still learning myself, one piece of advice I would give is to be confident in your own abilities. Everyone has self-doubt, and it’s true that there is the possibility that things may not work out in the end. But I would personally rather try my absolute best and fail, rather than to look back on my life and say I wish I tried. Being confident in your own abilities is you realizing that you are just as capable of being successful as the next person.
What is it like balancing Homme des Terres with your day job? How do you work out logistics of working full-time with fulfilling orders, promoting the brand, etc.?
Balancing Homme des Terres and working my day job is difficult, but it’s what I signed up for. I use any free time I get throughout the day to work on my brand before, during, and after my day job. Whether that be driving to the post office during my lunch break to drop off orders, or picking up my clothes from the manufacturer before work. These types of situations are things that I knew would happen once I started my brand and I told myself that I was willing to do whatever it takes to make it successful. Putting myself in the position of the customer is what helps me manage my time well, because the customer isn’t concerned about your daily problems; receiving their package quickly is what gives them a great impression.
What is your target demographic for the line and why?
My target demographic can range from teenagers and beyond with no restriction on ethnicity and gender. I started Homme des Terres as a creative outlet for myself – it’s a way for me to express my life as a 24 year-old African American male, however I pride myself on having the ability to connect with all demographics. I want people to look at the designs of my clothing and feel as if it’s something dope they can wear along with it having a meaning behind it. If a certain design doesn’t mesh well with you, that’s okay because I’m sure something will come along that you’ll like.
You’ve said you have other business ideas. What are those, and how do you plan to move forward with them as Homme des Terres grows?
I haven’t narrowed down exactly what business I will be venturing into next because my main priority is making sure that Homme des Terres is sustainable itself. My mind is always looking towards other opportunities that I’m interested in, so I believe that my next business can be in fields ranging from art, media, or creative direction. Whatever it is, I understand that I must learn as much as possible first and work my way from there.