‘If you build it they will come’
All dreamers are welcomed at ICD studios in downtown Shelton, said Flahn Manly who is the store and brand’s owner/founder.
“This is a space where creativity is encouraged and appreciated,” said Manly.
Colorful paintings and racks of clothing fill the windows of the cozy studio located on Center street. Manly said all of his clothing and artwork is done “in house” by him.
He said he initially wanted to do a big marketing campaign for when he opened his shop back in October of last year, but has since changed his mind.
“When I first was opening the shop I wanted to do a lot of promoting for my line and art work. I wanted to have fliers and a billboard, but I’ve come to realize that my work speaks for itself,” said Manly. “When you walk by and see the work in the windows, I have had a lot of people just come inside and to have conversation.”
People told Manly his idea wouldn’t work and his brand didn’t have a place in Shelton.
“That was a lie,” said Manly. “Every business here, belongs here. Nothing else around here is like what I have going on here so I’m carving out my own space.”
Since the age of 12 Manly chose to express himself through his artwork and clothes. He said he recalls creating his first t-shirt design by simply drawing with permanent markers on a fruit of the loom shirt and wearing it to school.
At his current age of 27, he now strives to inspire the youth through those same forms of expression.
Manly said settling in Connecticut, after moving around the country a lot because he couldn’t stay out of trouble as a child, ultimately helped him focus on taking his brand to the next level and opening up his first shop.
“Moving here forced me to focus because I was all on my own at 18 years old,” said Manly, 27, who currently is a resident of Bridgeport.
The brand Incomplete Designs or Team ICD was inspired by Manly’s passion for art back in 2003.
“The name came about because I have so much passion for what I do, which is create, but my father never really approved of my work. Although I really love what I do, as a kid, I was never really able to finish a design because I had to hide it from my father. He was a scholar, so I had to hide my drawings because I was supposed to be studying.”
Manly said his passion for art has helped him grasp some important life lessons as well.
“Life is all about progression,” said Manly. “No matter what you’re doing or interested in, if you’re investing your time into it you should want to continuously get better at it. Looking back at older pieces of clothes and art I created I see progression from where I started. Fail. It’s okay to fail and you can’t be afraid to fail. I own all of my failures and never pretend to be perfect. We have to embrace our imperfections and failures to truly grow. My motto is ‘be you, not them’ because you’re an ambassador of your own brand.”
He added that through his experiences as a designer and artist, he hopes to inspire the youth to pursue their dreams, no matter how farfetched they may seem.
“I really want to show the youth that they can chase their dreams at an early age and they can turn any negative situation into a positive,” said Manly. “My father thought art was a waste of time, but now I’m here in my own store.”
Manly clarified that it has been a long road up until this point and he encourages kids to start pursuing their dreams as early as possible.
“My main goal was to get my store up and running by the age of 30 years old and I am 27,” said Manly. “I reached that goal so now it’s on to the next one. I hope that when someone hears my story it inspires them to chase their dream or goal. You’re never too young.”
Matthew Mallozi, DJ and ICD member, said he enjoys the support system that comes along with being a part of Manly’s “team” of dreamers.
“I love hearing about new and fresh ideas from other creative people, it helps he to create new material. Being able to get those other perspectives helps me stay fresh,” said Mallozi.
David Atkins, ICD member, said being a part of ICD has inspired him to build his network of artists to see other creative perspectives which helps him further develop his own.
“We all bring something to the table which adds to our goal of achieving success,” said Atkins. “Sky’s the limit for us.”
Manly said his team is looking to expand and always welcome creative people who have a dream of their own. He advises anyone interested to stop by the store during its hours of business.
The store is open from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m until 11 p.m on Saturdays, and is closed on Sunday. For more information on Incomplete Designs (ICD) you can visit http://www.icdcreativestudios.us/ , download the mobile app by searching ICD Clothing in the app store, or by following their instagram page ICDcreativestudios.us.