Anthony White // Spotlight Interview // Circle Of Inspiration
Anthony White personifies following your heart, and pursuing your passion. As a kid, he did it all: playing musical instruments, 'DABbling' in rapping, and writing slam poetry. Anthony is now the owner of a successful clothing brand in St. Louis called JON BLANCO. whose brand motto is "inspired by the world".
We sat down with Anthony and talked about his journey growing up a multiracial kid in Omaha, to present day as the face of a business with a larger purpose. Here is his story.
Describe who you are and what you do:
I run a local clothing brand called, JON BLANCO. We are a minimally designed clothing brand with a bigger purpose. Our purpose is summarized in our motto: "inspired by the world." For us, being inspired by the world has 2 elements: People & Planet. People are our inspiration. We believe that now, more than ever, it is incredibly important to get to know people who are different from you. This requires active engagement and a desire to understand.
My philosophy has always been: Everybody has a story, you just need to take the time to listen. Planet is the way we do business. We have integrated a number of sustainable practices into the brand and believe sustainability is no longer an option, rather, it must be a consideration in business decisions. In addition, we support an organization called One Tree Planted, which fights deforestation around the planet.
What is your background, and what drew you to your creative outlet?:
My educational background is in Business, Economics and Spanish, which is why my first job out of college was in banking.
The thing that occurred to me when I started my full time job in banking was that throughout all of my life I had some sort of creative outlet. My first love was drawing. Then I played the clarinet. After that, I began to rap, produced music and did slam poetry. I also did graphic design for a few years.
Although I do not have formal training in any of the arts, having creative outlets has been a necessary element of my life. It has kept my grounded and focused on developing myself.
When did you decide to pursue your passion? Was there a particular moment that stands out?:
About 4 years ago, I moved to St. Louis for my first job after college. About 6 months into my full-time job, I realized I needed a creative outlet. I tried a number of things, but ultimately landed on clothing after a day of struggling to find clothes that aligned with my personal style: minimally designed, affordable & with a deeper purpose.
At that point, I began working on my clothing brand on the evenings and weekends. Over the course of about 6 months, I laid out my brand's foundation and soon after began to tell my story.
Where do you draw inspiration from?:
JON BLANCO at its core is a mission-driven brand. The mission derives from my personal life's mission. In many ways, JON BLANCO is an extension of who I am.
For me, my inspiration began as a child growing up in Omaha, NE. I am the product of a multi-racial home, an ethnically diverse neighborhood and a curious personality. Many of my childhood memories take place at a neighborhood basketball court called, Rock Park. This was the place where all the neighborhood kids met up after school or during long summer evenings. Although it wasn’t perfectly built, nor kept up for that matter, it was perfect for me. It was a place where people from all backgrounds came to play. It became a proving ground where people got together, competed, struggled and shared in a common experience. Despite the cracking concrete on the court floor, the impact of having Rock Park was strength, endurance and vitality. This unlikely location was the foundation for new acquaintances and lasting friendships. Rock Park was a world in and of itself. It introduced me to new cultures, new languages and new ideas. It challenged me to reach new heights, literally and figuratively. This place will always hold a special place in my heart. It helped fuel my interest in learning about the world and where my friends come from.
This passion for learning has led me to study abroad twice, to visit multiple countries and to build and maintain friendships with people who are different from me, whether based on country of origin, religion or ideology. This continues to serve as one of the key pillars of my inspiration to learn more and bridge the gap between people.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned on your creative journey?
The biggest lesson I have learned on my creative journey is the importance of having grit and a strong brand foundation. The last few years have challenged me in many ways both physically and mentally. The thing that has sustained me is my passion for creativity and a long-term goal of wanting to see JON BLANCO's vision succeed.
It is the times where things don't go well where the grit is tested the most, however, having a strong understanding of what my brand is all about (brand foundation) helps motivate me to get back in the ring for another round.
What are you currently working on?
Currently working on building my social media presence, meeting people in person through farmers markets and pop up events and working on a new collection of items.
How does your work comment on current social or political issues?
This is a really interesting question. JON BLANCO is a human-centric brand, meaning we see people for who they are: human beings. We emphasize understanding the other's life stories. One's background and experiences is what generally influences one's beliefs. We believe in today's world, there is too much "wall building" and not enough "bridge building."
Our brand's mission is to build bridges between people. People have much more in common than what may appear and we believe it is extremely important to cut out the middle men (politics, media, etc..) in order to truly get to know your neighbor.
What did you learn about yourself in 2020?:
2020 was tough for JON BLANCO as I know it was for many other brands. 2020 tested my mental endurance and there were plenty of times where I felt like I should just "move on." However, I would always go back to my brand's mission and I would be reassured.
Rather than giving up, I used 2020 to reassess myself and my brand in order to make the necessary changes to improve both. In 2020, I learned I was more resilient and optimistic than I thought I was. 2020 ultimately helped ignite a bigger flame within me, making me more inspired and focused than ever.
What words of advice would you give to creatives that are getting started in your same field?
If you are starting a clothing brand, my biggest advise to figuring out what motivates you. The brand foundation and motivation may be difficult to figure out at first (and to be honest, it will likely change some over time), however this brand foundation and motivation is going to help sustain you and keep you grounded when you are dealing with business challenges such as a bad business deal, a bad pop up event, messed up inventory, social media difficulties or a pandemic like COVID 19.
What does the term self-belief mean to you?:
Confidence in one's self to accomplish something OR knowing when to ask for help in order to accomplish something (you can't do everything on your own!)
Shout out someone or multiple people in your Circle Of Inspiration. How have they inspired you? :
So many people have inspired me to do and be better. Specifically, my mom and brother. My wife has inspired me to be more selfless. She has given so much of her time to help me with my brand. I couldn't do it without her.
Local STL brands like HOMS, Emblem, Melio Design, The Poser CO, Series Six, Profield Reserve, etc.. continually inspire me to improve my brand and create better apparel. The entrepreneurs I have met from many of the brands inspire me to invest in myself, in my knowledge and in networking.
St. Louis is a huge inspiration of mine. I never would have guessed when I moved to the city that I would love the city so much, but I am super proud to call myself a St. Louisian and believe in the city's potential. There are so many incredible people here in St. Louis that are ready to support you if you make the effort.
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Love the journey of following your heart and pursuing your passion. HOMS Spotlight Interviews are part of the Circle of Inspiration Artist Community founded by Karl Schmitz.
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Photos sourced from Jon Blanco social media