WMU student Joshua Maye encourages Kalamazoo to “Keep Smiling!” with apparel

Keep Smiling! Apparel is an original, Kalamazoo-based clothing line created by Joshua Maye, a junior in WMU majoring in youth and community development. Keep Smiling! Apparel started about a year ago and is now available online and at festivals around Kalamazoo – all developed by Maye himself. His main motivation behind the line was based upon generating positivity through his designs.

“I think there’s a very strong lack of like positivity in the world and my goal is just to spread more of it”. Maye said. “...this is the best way that I know how to do it because I really love clothes and fashion and stuff and so being able to put positive messages on clothes is first of all, my way of spreading that positivity and also it’s kind of like a dream come true – that’s like two of my passions combined.”

When creating the brand, Maye thought about the name in explicit detail to ensure it depicted the brand’s identity accurately.

“I think the ‘keep’ is actually very important because it’s not just like ‘smile right now’. Keep smiling, continue smiling, forever, never stop.”, Maye said. “When I was a senior in high school, I was voted best smile in my class… even those couple years later, still just inspired the idea, not behind the positivity but behind the name just because like that’s something that really resonated with me…” Regarding the exclamation point in the name Maye says “…it stands for like the detail and… the thoughtfulness. When it's written without the exclamation point, it kind of seems not as complete to me.”

Maye has a multitude of factors that helped influence his design process and that added to his support system.

“One of my biggest inspirations is this artist from Chicago. His name is Joe Freshgoods and he owns a store called Fat Tiger Workshop,” Maye said. “They’re very skilled artists and so the way that they sort of like turned down wholesale and just went towards opening up their own shop in downtown Chicago and just doing their own thing online and in their own store. That was very inspiring to me. My brothers are pretty big, they’re just like the greatest people I know, I have two. They just always just keep me grounded.”

With Keep Smiling! Apparel being a new business, Maye sees a lot of potential in its expansion.

“My biggest goal right now is to open up a physical store. This is probably the last festival that I will be doing in 2018 because it’s going to start to get cold. I would love to travel like I know I would love to go to different Prides.”

Transferring from Grand Valley initially, this is only his second semester here at WMU. Being a transfer student, he had his own opinions about WMU’s art scene.

“If I didn’t go to Western, I would probably still be at Grand Valley, and I would not get to experience Kalamazoo the way I’ve always wanted to,” Maye said. “So Western has inspired me and supported me because Kalamazoo has inspired me and supported me. Western though, I think just has an amazing feel like there’s art in lots of places on campus, just on its own, not even in just art buildings.”

Keep Smiling! Apparel is a relatively new and fresh clothing line with lots more to look forward to.

“I just released my Fall collection two weeks ago. In a couple weeks, I’m planning on starting a production on like… ‘Fall Collection Part 2’.”

Maye understands the hardships that come from following your passion and has advice derived from doing just that.

“There’s no reason not to do things your way and that’s where my brand is coming from”.

You can shop Maye’s collection at https://keepsmilingapparel.com/.

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