City to city, across the world, creatives with healthy entrepreneurial spirits are shifting societal norms. Now, occupational choices are seemingly endless and if opportunities aren't there, new ones are being created by people who are willing to take ownership of their career lives. Among these young innovators is Gabriel Massalley — a Northeast D.C. native who graduated from Temple University with a degree in Architecture, currently holds a full-time job in the field, and spends his time outside of the 9 to 5 window building on his own business.
Massalley is the Creator + Owner of Status Apparel DC, a lifestyle apparel brand designed for people who embody the hustler mentality that defines what it means to have Status. It’s a way of life.
“Status is a word we used to say a lot in high school, but I redefined what it was. To have Status is to be innovative, a trendsetter, motivated, and other things like that. I feel like the people who support me either hold those traits, or they aspire to.”
Massalley originally got into the business of streetwear apparel in 2012, when he started making shirts (under a different label) to support his rap career. He had an understanding that people are basically like walking billboards and if he could get them rocking his stuff, that could be a form of promotion.
By the time he graduated college in 2015, he was receiving a lot of support for his apparel designs and knew that it was something he could make money from pursuing. Massalley took the next steps by buying equipment and officially launching Status Apparel DC.
“The apparel is just one part of it. With Status in general, I want to be someone who can bridge the gap between creatives and the customer base; like supporters and stuff... So I do events to shine light on other people and small businesses. That’s a big part of what I believe in — each one, teach one. It’s strength in numbers, for sure. It’s easier to do something with a group as opposed to trying to do some shit by yourself. That’s powerful for everybody because it’s going to help me and also help others; shine light on their stuff then shine light on myself. I just really want to bridge the gap and help people out — help my friends out, help people and support stuff that I think they’re doing good with... Just bridge that gap between the creator and the consumer for real.”
While making moves to establish this type of supportive platform, Status has also been working to give back to the D.C. community through philanthropic events. This past winter, they held a charity drive to collect clothing, toiletries, and other necessities for people in need.
“I feel like when you got some type of influence with a platform (and just in general too), you've gotta be able to reach back and help people out who don’t have the same resources as you. Especially giving back to the less fortunate, that’s a big part. My family, and just the people around me in general, have a good heart and want to help people out. If I have the means to do it, I want to do the same thing. It’s hard out here forreal, I know how it can get, so if I have the chance to do it... I want to help people out as much as I can.”
When it comes to the actual apparel production, Status Apparel DC's focus is to keep building with consistency. They also outsource for other people, and to keep up with demand, Massalley turned to his friends and family to help make it all happen. He makes all the graphics and designs himself and has other people sew, install tags, and help with other things while his mother handles the business aspect of it. This gives him flexibility to be hands on with everything and conceptualize for collection development.
“Each collection I put out is called Perfect Season. The meaning behind that is perfecting your craft and not being complacent. Everything you do, take it to the next level. I apply that to every execution; making clothing and just in general, upping my business. That’s a big part of growth for me — not being complacent with the stuff I’m doing. I’m reaching people and I’m reaching a certain point, but I’m always working towards being better with everything I’m doing.”
In previous Perfect Season collections, Massalley pulled inspiration from 90's classics like Super Mario Bros, Martin, and Rugrats to reinvent the Status logo on apparel. He noticed that people really gravitate towards cultural references like these because they have some type of familiarity with them. Those designs became kind of like conversation starters for people during vending events. Massalley also incorporates staple branded pieces into collections including a smiley face with a W up and phrases such as, "Never Settle" and "The Time is Now," that double as personal affirmations he lives by.
"I’m just dedicated. Status is my passion; my baby forreal. When I go to work, sometimes I’m there coming up with ideas on flash cards and shit or on post-it notes. I make sure I do my job well, so I don’t get fired, but I stay dedicated to it. When I get off and go home, I might chill for like an hour, and then I’m working on new ideas. I know that this is something that I own, and definitely need to take ownership of. At my 9 to 5, I know they’re good. At anytime they could be like, “We don’t need you no more,” for real. But with Status, I’m always going to be the owner. This is my thing and I gotta make sure that I’m building it up to be as powerful as my 9 to 5 at some point. Just gotta stay dedicated to it, I can’t be slacking on it. I gotta put as much time and effort into that as I’m putting into the company I’m working for because I got no ownership of that, but 100% ownership of what I’m doing."
After sharing ideas on future plans and projects (that will be revealed as they come into fruition), the claims of being dedicated to his passion are fully backed up. Massalley seems to have the "Dedication, hard work, plus patience" formula down pact along with some solid insight on balancing a healthy lifestyle throughout the process.
"As far as balancing my health, I definitely gotta sleep and shit. That’s the main thing. That’s also why I started expanding and letting other people do stuff, so I’m not tearing myself up too much and draining myself. Sleep is very important. Obviously, you gotta grind but you gotta work in some type of time constraints so you’re not burning yourself out. I’ve had times where I don't sleep, for real, but it’s not every day. Not sleeping is not good, and not taking care of yourself is detrimental — you can hurt yourself. I just find a balance of staying dedicated but not draining myself at the same time."
[these things take time.] the poetry book available on amazon.com.