Sometimes, hardships are the very reasons why many end up taking a road outside that of legality. However, it is sometimes these very same people who later become leaders, motivators and movers within our society. In fact, it is rather evident that more needs to be done to highlight the few of this nature who become stalwarts within their communities, and the very few who can influence persons within the scope of the less fortunate and places of the garrison to strive for greatness. A person of such and one to admire, is a noble leader and entrepreneur by the name of Mr. Gary ‘Clapboss’ Richards. He currently hails from the parish of Clarendon, in which he was born, but experienced a life which brought him between sections of West and East Kingston. Transitions that all contributed and cemented his character later down in life.
Early Stages (Basic – High School)
Growing up wasn’t easy for Gary, as he explained ‘I found myself seeking refuge and love from my friends in most cases, as my family members were not always there to provide such. Consequently, I had to fight for survival for most times on my own’;Gary doesn’t regret this as the more he fought, the more he learned ‘self-dependency’, a attribute and trait that would be the foundation on which he built his life. In his early childhood years from 1990-1995, Gary found himself going back and forth between the parishes of Kingston and Clarendon, as his Mother didn’t had the financial strength to keep him afloat. It was during these years he discovered that in order to push pass the negative influences of these deleterious dwellings regarded as inner cities, he would have to ensure that there was some form of positive influences that he could emulate. He found his beacon of light from elders within the communities of west and east Kingston (7 Wellington Drive & 7 Bayans Streets, respectively). Given the context it’s not hard to imagine that Gary had to face some aspects of manhood from his early years. A test that brought him success while sitting his Common Entrance Exams at Ellison Primary, as his grades brought him through the gates of Excelsior High. However, this transition was merely short lived as he once again had to relocate to May Pen, Clarendon, where he started his schooling afresh, in second form, at Central High (more commonly known as May Pen Comprehensive at the time).
Central High brought him a mixed bag of experiences both positive and the negative; positive in the sense that he always excelled academically, a feat which most of his teachers found strange; and negative in the sense that he started to align himself with students who saw very little merit in academics. It was here Gary sought refuge in the sport of football an avenue to clear his mind and soul from some of the negative influences and evil that surrounded him at the time. As he displayed, and played the sport he expressed himself with great passion and admiration from the defense position. A talent that his close friend and teammate Kevin ‘Steel Ball’ Stewart at the time, saw the need to nick name him ‘Ferdy’ (shortening for the prestigious and most expensive defender at the time Rio Ferdinand). Gary further explained, ‘Football was like that shining light for me, I used it as a medium to escape my stressful reality, as I watched my mother struggled to make ends meet, due to the financial struggles that manifested daily, from not having a Father around to assist. I found myself playing with a lot of passion that sometimes was bitterness as I was still trying to figure out what was my purpose in life.’ A question which was still an anomaly in his brain even after high school came to an end. Rather successfully, his academic accumulations saw him acquiring five (5) CXCs inclusive of Maths (Grade II), English (Grade II), Human & Social Biology (Grade II), Social Studies (Grade I) & Carpentry (Grade I). This left most of his teachers proud as they were confident in his academic potential, due to the fact that he was placed second among his peers based on his average on several occasions. It was not foreign to them, especially his Carpentry Teacher to see him graduate as the top performer in the said subject and skill area in the school. Gary explained, ‘I always knew the importance of having a solid education, and extremely important in allowing me to gain the capacity to further my achievements later on in life. Hence, the reason I didn’t take my class time lightly. My peers, whom I consider to be brighter and have a more positive reality, also played a pivotal role as they motivated me daily to push through, even though I was around people who participated in the negative world.’
After High School
Responsibilities came flooding from every angle during early adulthood for young Mr. Richards, as things such as being a father at the age of nineteen (19) plus having a house of four siblings to take care of caused him to be under tremendous pressure. This experience led him to have sleepless nights from hunger, and headaches from depression as he and his mother had to sacrifice what they had to ensure that the younger ones were fed; headaches from not having enough to ensure ends were met and all mouths were fed. These struggles led him to seek options in places that were outside the realm of legality, as he saw himself drawing nearer to his friends who were gangsters Gary explained, ‘I found myself drifting as the unpleasant feeling of not having enough played on my mind daily, I was forced to grow up early with little guidance, love and comfort. Some of which I found from my friends who were not always leading me in the right direction or telling me the right things.’ Although he started playing football professionally during this time, for the likes of Humble Lion and Wadadah F.C., Gary knew that these were only short stints as his income was just too little to feed himself and family thus he was forced to turn away from football and started working for various supermarkets.
Restlessness and in-settlement was however just too much for him to handle, as his will withered and withered from withstanding the sub-conscious pressures of seeing his friends obtaining things easily. This somehow influenced Gary to start to think along that line, which then caused his life to take a major turn, something that he still gives thanks for he didn’t know that one negative turn could cause his life to have changed for the better.
Conviction to Prison
Being led a stray by the negative influences of his peers, who embraces the evil world was now at the
forefront of the brain of young Mr. Richards. That narrative of wanting things fast and easy became his also. Thus, those made him gravitate to try things that were aligned with criminality. Gary explained, ‘I was somehow moving too fast, I broke the rule wanting things too easy. Although my life was rough, I had more than enough potential to take time to steadily grow myself by obtaining a better job or acquire some training and skill. But somehow the pressure was too high, at a wave length for me not to see things in its rightful nature.’ Hence, on the Friday of May 7th 2004, Gary got convicted for being in possession of marijuana in the Cayman Islands and was sentenced to three (3) years in prison. An experience that left him nervous and frustrated, he now had to deal with aspects of adapting to a new environment without his family and friends in a foreign country. This left his family and friends distraught and heart-broken everyone knew that Gary wasn’t of this nature and there was a far brighter light in him to exude in more positive fashion. Gary went on to note, ‘Seeing the reaction from my mother brought tears to my eyes, she was the only one that gave some form of positive support that I desperately needed. I somehow found the strength to accept the situation; however, as I knew that I had to change my life by doing great things after.’
At first glance, hearing of a person inside prison meant countless nights of stress, loneliness and fatigue from being away from your family and friends. However, Gary found refuge in reading and clinging onto prison officers who mostly gravitated towards his hunger to change and start anew. This led him to accept his rehabilitation and enabled his pursuit within the field of sewing. A passion that he discovered and embraced with an opened heart as he knew there was always a connection from then due to the fact that he was always fascinated with reconstructing his step-father’s old garments by using concepts of his own. Gary used his rehabilitating time wisely to pursue a diploma in dressmaking online with the Penn Foster University as inmates would always be amused by his ability to sew and make designs of his own. Gary explained, ‘I was somehow finding a new breath of life and connection with my sewing, as I could see myself finding a whole new purpose and outlook on life. Every garment had my full focus and attention, and came right from the depths of my heart. Hence, I found myself grasping things very easily.’ Gary found himself reconnecting the dots in all the right places and pushing himself towards creating the change that he so badly needs to isolate from all negativity when his stint in prison came to an end. Something that would eventually happened when he was a free man on the 23rd of February in the year of 2007.
Being equipped with a new mind-set, perspective and fresh string of ideas, Gary landed in Jamaica a brand new man. His urge to start a new and revolving life around his new found skill and passion was now the most pivotal objective of his. As a result, he partnered with Navardo Richards, CEO and co-founder of Leobrium Fashions in the May Pen market to further exploit and show his skills. Navardo openly showed and taught Gary the ropes in order to ensure that he was fully equipped with the necessary attributes needed to excel. A gesture of which he still expresses highly with appreciation and love. Gary explained, ‘I knew that I would need all the positive guidance and support as most of my friends from the other world was either dead or in prison. Hence, Navardo was like a brother to me and gave me the right foundation to set my new career on the right note.’ With this new found light, Gary started to gain new friends of a far more positive nature, new goals also came in mind which were sparked heavily by this change in environment. Although this process came with great struggle as he was somewhat unknown to the public as a Fashion Designer at the time, Gary knew that he had to be patient and accepted this phase as a path of growth and fulfillment. He was extremely focused and committed on establishing himself within the fashion industry. Thus, he took the opportunity to slowly master his skill and art throughout this time as the few customers that he had begun to immensely praise and admire his work and told many others about him.
Formulation of the CLAP Fashions Brand
As time went by, Gary began to engage his mind with the idea of building a clothing brand of his own. This became not only his dream but a mandate that he pledged onto himself, as he would carefully and tediously direct his mind towards formulating a name to suit his unique style and passion. While in prison, Gary knew that he wanted to present his work to the world but however, as many would know, doing this would take immense work and dedication. He began to search his mind and spirit daily to discover this name. Gary explained, ‘I knew that I had the skills to structure clothes differently from what people were used to, especially Jacket Suits, I was really talented in that field. Thus I took the time to create a cut to embed my mark on all garments that I made.’ One day, after altering a garment for one of my friends in prison, whilst being overly impressed he shouted to Gary with admiration, ‘Yo Gary dah one ya CLAP!’ A word that stuck with him ever since and manifested into a name many people knew before as “CLAP Boss Fashions”. With Gary giving meaning to the acronym CLAP as ‘Celebrating Life And Party.’ Gary noted, ‘The aim was to develop a name that would resonate easily with the people, I wanted to express my love and admiration to the people, thus formulating a name that would express the value and nature of my brand.’
However, in the year 2012 after long evaluation and assessing the image and goals of the brand with
his close friend and business associate Xavier ‘Ras Pizzle’ Campbell, Xavier expressed to Gary that the brand name would only target a specific demography of customers. With this being of utmost importance, the two came up with the idea to re-formulate the acronym ‘P’ to mean ‘People’ instead of Party. This made the brand far more universal, as it resonated with its rightful and deemed purpose among the people. To date, Gary as met many who has helped him to carefully re-strategize and market the brand, and has gained many customers within the parish of Clarendon. Gary empathized, ‘It really warms my heart to see the strives that I’ve made throughout the years and the people who are wearing the brand daily today. I can’t express enough of how thankful I am for the support and love without discrimination or hate; the people make me who I am today and I am extremely grateful.’ Currently the brand has adapted our own brand ambassadors in Aljuareo ‘Strykk’ Honnigan, Reinard ‘Prablem’ Bryan, Kenardo ‘Militant’ Patrick & George ‘Bryko Blaze’ Wilson. And also, the business employs four persons and sells products such as bucket hats, pants, shorts, T-shirts, skirts, jacket suits and shirts. The brand is certainly poised for notoriety and success both nationally and internationally as there are plans to established an online store via a website and launch its own branded brick and mortar store soon.
Words of Encouragement to the YOUTHS
It is hard not to realize how much Gary has reincarnated and restructured his life. His strength and determination is certainly something to admire and emulate as a role model for many. His accomplishments and achievements over the years as made the brand a recognizable name among most patronisers and will only get better as time progress. His quest to attain greatness is something that should inspire the youths of today’s society to never give up and most importantly that there is always time to make a change. Gary exclaimed, ‘It’s extremely important to always make the right decision without haste or pressure. There is no half and half between good and bad. Thus, it’s important to always stay on the right path as this will prove vital in you being successful.’ Something that he now cherishes as he has seen how much his life has changed over the years, especially when he decided to be associated with the right people.
Where to find CLAP Fashions?
For all your Garment Customization and Alteration needs, visit CLAP Fashions at 18 Harris Street (Off Manchester Avenue), May Pen, Clarendon. You can contact them at 1 (876) 566-7828 for more info.