In his late 20s and early 30s, Caleb Clark acknowledged his need for a creative outlet. I’ve always had a weird background in motor sports, in fashion, so I was working in a corporate gig as Creative Director when it occurred to me. I was sitting by a computer, designing stuff for other people, when I felt a need to make things with my hands. It was the year 2005, and Enemy 2 Fashion (E2F) was born.
His background in graphic design led Caleb to a career with a NASCAR management firm, but after having realized his brain was wired differently, Clark began working on an old sewing machine, at home once his children went to bed. His daily routine was filled with his day job at NASCAR, after work spending time at home with his wife and children, and then sewing. Id lug around that sewing machine stitching together fabric, he says. I started with bags and putting them up on my blogEnemy2Fashionand then other blogs picked the site up and shared it; they sold out.
It wasnt too many months later when a Japanese store contacted Clark and placed a large order. For us it was quite substantial. E2F was given six months to complete the order, and I did; all by myself, and thats when I decided to get the shop, says Clark. My hours were long. Id get home, shower, and go to work sometimes all night. Life hasnt changed much except Clark now spends his time working an arduous 18 hour day for his own company, E2F and on his other private brands.
Enemy 2 Fashion is an all patriotic sportswear studio. Most everything is made in the USA with the cotton coming from North and South Carolina. The design has a cool look about it; a timeless look. Clark, who has always collected vintage fashions and admits to having a thing for vintage military, buys from surplus auctions. I have been known to buy anywhere from 100 to 1000 military tents at a time. We started using surplus because its cheap, the seams are industrially sewn, and color variations are different. Focusing on WWII and Vietnam surplus, Clark repurposes military gear (tents and parachutes) and even zippers to create military inspired designs.
A lot of designs are inspired by the military uniform. The design is both classic and clean. The fashion is timeless. Every turn around the block sees a company like Gap, or Banana Republic producing a military inspired shirt with epilates and pockets, explains Clark. The basic work wear and Camo print are very popular in todays society. From the pea coat to pocket squares, and ties to boots, the military influence is all over, he continues. We produce bags, among other things, patterned after the U.S. military helmet bag. The graphics on each bag are hand stenciled.
Drawing from fabrics in history combined with the styles of his grandfather and his own personal edginess, E2F designs hats, tees, outerwear, footwear, bottoms, and accessories. If one was to classify these designs, theyd be Americana mixed with a bit of modern. Clarks personal aesthetic is Ancient as time; Modern as tomorrow. Its in the moment and in a modern space; its really good, the juxtaposition of it, he says. It also shows respect to reuse battle worn fabric rather than discarding them. The military influence stretches back to his grandparents and other family members who actively served. Clark has a huge respect for the military. He says, We give back to that community whenever possible. Its super important to me.
The Americana influence found in E2F is also found in Clarks other brands. His designs are manufactured in Asheboro, NC. With about 170 sellers in the area, he wanted to do something that would appeal to everyone. Thats how I manage the brand like Trophy, he says. Launching in Japan was a collaboration with Trophy. There are eight boutique styled stores in Japan that offer Clarks private label. Ninety percent of the business is in Japan, although its all made in America. It is a different animal over there for sure, he explains. Ive lived in Europe and traveled a lot throughout, but the images of people are similar. You all look alike. But in Japan, were really foreigners. Thats where the Japanese love for American made and the Americana style comes into play.
We specialize in making most of the items here in the states. If we go anywhere overseas, it would be more likely Italy or Portugal. But we choose based on our high quality standards. We strive for the best quality cotton (which comes from the USA), the best fabric, and the best stitch in order to make a garment that will last forever, says Clark. Not enjoying the feel of nylon at all, Clark uses the basic colors but will experiment with dyes. One of the items we are working on is a limited edition, all natural North Carolina dyed collection using tobacco as the color source. A deep brown cigar produces a dye that appears in shades of variegated browns. The end result is warm and appealing. As the fall and winter seasons approach, Clark modifies old designs and creates new ones. I love the designing part of the business. Not so much the business end; however, I do it. I keep track of the books, the taxes, and I pay the billsthe day-to-day hustle, but Id love to be just that guy who sits in his office and designs, says Clark.
Fonder, designer, tailor, husband, father, and businessman, Clark wears many hats. He is that guy who touches everything, looks at everything, and visits his factory weekly. He sleeps little, thinking its a waste of time. I dont think Im going to die tomorrow and, not that the things were doing are changing the world, but I feel theres stuff in me I need to get out. Ive learned to say no more often because the more time involved, the less time I have to create. Clark has learned to be more selective in how he spends his time often sneaking away once a month or every other month to a hotel in downtown Charlotte where he lets his wife know what room hes in, puts his phone on mute, turns off the lights, and gets the much needed me time that renews both his spirit and creativity. Who knows whats on the horizon for my family and I, he says, I love Florence, Italy. Maybe well live there, but for right now, Id just love a vacation.