Caleb Clark, 35, originally moved to Charlotte for a career in NASCAR as a creative director. His side business making clothes and bags took off in Japan, and he eventually phased out the NASCAR job. That was more than seven years ago.
“Enemy to Fashion” is both an apparel brand and the name of Clark’s company that designs and manufactures clothing. Clark’s staff of eight supports the Enemy to Fashion line as well as serves as the shadow designers for 15 other start-up and corporate brands. They operate in a cool space above NoDa’s Pura Vida and Fu’s Tattoo on North Davidson Street.
Clark is a fan of quality and how things are made, but other than that, he doesn’t care what he wears. A friend once jokingly called Clark an “enemy to fashion,” and the name stuck.
We met in Clark’s office for the C5 Entrepreneur Series.
Why is Charlotte a good place to start a business?
Originally we thought we would be here for three years and then we would move on. We absolutely fell in love with the city. It feels like home. It is home now. Being in the fashion world here, I would have to say there are probably no other business like ours in the city. There are some people doing a portion of what we do, but not anyone doing what we do here.
Sometimes, it can be a bit lonely, but some creative people have come out of the woodwork and found us.
Who has been your biggest influence?
Growing up in California, I started a business at a really young age with a buddy of mine who was a little older. His name is Damian Poon. I doubt he even knows what an impact he had on me.
He is super successful now in California and we still keep in contact. He taught me so many little things – how important details are. He is part of the reason I tell people to keep it analog — write a thank you card, send a gift.
How do you begin each day?
I have been trying to get up earlier and earlier. I get up pretty early, like 6 a.m. …I hang out with my kids before they get picked up for school. I usually make some form of juice and go to work – a one-minute commute by car or three minutes if I walk.
What do you see in your future?
My overarching plan is to keep the design business going, but the goal is to own a handful of brands, like four or five, that do $3-5 million each, rather than investing in just one brand.
This year, we are trying to open a retail store in Charlotte. We have been working on it for a while trying to find the perfect location. It won’t have anything to do with our brands; completely different concept.
Where do you go in Charlotte when you need to chill?
I am in the middle of rebuilding a 20-foot teepee in our backyard.
I go to Crowders Mountain quite a bit with my family and sometimes by myself. I really like that place.
…I really love Earl’s Grocery a lot. I wish the owner would open one in NoDa. I constantly bother her about that.
Photos: Katherine Kirchner, Vanessa Infanzon