A Florida A&M student debuted his fashion line, Ellie Owen, alongside hip-hop heavyweights like Young Jeezy and Jim Jones at Atlanta Fashion Week on September 22, and is looking forward to carving a name for his designs in one of the most cutthroat industries out there, fashion.
Leon Curry, 21, a junior political science student from Key West said he aspires to be more than a fashion designer.
“I want to be a mogul, actually own things,” Curry said. “Instead of just having a clothing line, I want to own the textile mill or something like that. There are a lot of urban designers, but when you look into it the people who are making the money aren’t really urban owned and then we can’t really bring money back into our communities.”
Ambitious plans like these are no surprise considering Curry’s humble beginnings. Curry said that being raised in the tight-knit, open-minded community in Key West with his single mother, Josephine Hart, made him the man he is today.
“The people you went to elementary school with were the same people you graduated from high school with,” Curry said. “Everybody knows everybody basically.”
Growing up in a single-family unit not only gave Curry an appreciation and respect for family, but also planted the fashion seed in him at a young age.
“Growing up with my mom really gave me a sense of clothes because when she would go shopping she’d take me along cause I had no one else to watch me,” Curry said.
Academics and the arts also played a huge part in Curry’s life from the beginning of his learning stages, earning him an academic college scholarship in the fifth grade.
Some of Curry’s early career aspirations included getting his PhD, as well as pursuing a law degree and activism, which he’s still interested in doing today along with his designing dream.
“If I didn’t have to worry about money in life, I would be an activist,” said Curry. “I’d fight for education and civil rights…a Jesse Jackson-type figure.”
But don’t think for one minute that Curry is limiting himself strictly to the world of fashion design. He is in the beginning stages of having a book of poetry published, as well as putting out a photography book of his designs that would be photographed by fellow FAMU alumnus, Benjamin Petrose.
Some people say this brand of drive and perseverance is rare among college students, but it’s a quality that Curry’s friends treasure about him.
Tamara McKenzie, 23, a criminal justice student at Florida State University from Jacksonville, is a friend of Curry and said he is a very focused individual.
“He is a very laid back and a withdrawn individual, but he doesn’t let that trickle into his professionalism,” McKenzie said. “He’s very driven by the arts in general, not just the fashion thing…I see this as the beginning to open doors to other things.”
Curry uses his designs almost as a refuge from the crazy times in his life, even confessing that there have been times when he’s spent his last bit of money on fabric for his designs instead of food.
Putting his art before his immediate comfort is an act that doesn’t surprise Curry’s business partner Benjamin Petrose.
“Through all the hard times in life he [Curry] leans on his creativity in fashion to get him through it,” said Petrose.
Curry’s obsession with his fashion design should be applauded because he not only strives to be the best with his designs, but he also strives to be a pure original in the industry.
“I really try not to look at fashion too much,” Curry said. “Of course I like the lines that most other people like, like Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, Tom Ford and Phillip Lim, but other than that I try not to look into fashion magazines and such because I want to create my own thing.”
Finding individuals with the drive and perseverance that Curry possesses is like the proverbial “needle in a hay stack”, but it’s inspiring to know that this fellow Rattler’s star has only begun to shine.
“I don’t think I’m better then anybody, I don’t think I’m doing something that anybody can’t,” Curry said. “But when people see the things I do they find some kind of joy in it.”