(O.K. Carter for the Fort Worth Business Press, May 4, 2019) J.P. McDade first met Tex Moton when Moton was 16. Now they run a successful business that specializes in branding through caps.
It’ll never be easy to understand the sync between business partners “Tex” Moton – a nationally famed graffiti artist, muralist and apparel innovator – and Already Design Co. (AKA YUMS) CEO J.P. (John Patrick) McDade.
From their Elm Street headquarters in Arlington, they’re in the exotic design “gimme” hat business in a big, extraordinarily successful way. Clients include the Mavs, Hawks, Spurs, Thunder, Cowboys, Gulf Stream jets and a few hundred others.
They also dabble in tennis shoes and other custom-design brand builders such as key holders. Maybe 15 products in all, but the core remains headwear. Enough hats so that it takes five factories in China and a second Already Design office in Shanghai to crank them out.
It gets more complicated: McDade, 52, grew up in Arlington and graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington, followed by graduate school at Notre Dame. Yes, he’s also a white guy sans tattoos.
Moton, 41, grew up in Pleasant Grove, where – he says – he attended the “University of Hard Knocks” while plastering esoteric, flamboyant murals on walls with graffiti gang Infinite Crew, murals that were not always greeted hospitably by the establishment.
And yes, he’s a black guy with lots of tattoos. Street artists from Oakland to Chicago and Newark know his name. Recognize his work.
As an aside, he’s also the primary creator of the “Burn Movement,” essentially the premise that any graffiti artists can paint over an existing wall mural – burn it, baby – IF they’re persuaded that their creation is better than what exists.
Understandably, there are occasional heated follow-up merit discussions about this.
And that “Tex” business? Moton originally gave himself the nickname “Tec” for Techniques. Trouble was that everyone kept reading that “Tec” signature on his murals as “Tex.”
“So Tex I became,” Moton said. “I like it.” He prefers not to disclose his given first name. (It’s Howard, an unsympathetic Google search says.)
Time to back up a quarter century, historically speaking.
McDade, fresh out of Notre Dame and a fan of street art, kept noticing murals in Dallas with similar stylistic components that drew his attention.
Make note: McDade has a heart made for commerce with a creative bent, and in those murals scattered across the city he saw artistic capability with cash flow possibilities.
“I remember thinking that whoever this artist is, he’s doing some cool stuff,” McDade recalls. “I wanted to meet him.”
He finally identified the artist, tracked him down and knocked on his door in Pleasant Grove. Moton’s mother answered. McDade discovered that his mystery graffiti art genius was only 16 years old.
“I was actually afraid of him,” Moton said, a rough start for what would eventually become a collaborative enterprise.
But, the relationship made, the two stayed in touch. A few years later they entered the tennis shoe business, doing well enough to be sued by Nike. YUMS/Already Design eventually won in court. In fact, Already Design will re-enter the tennis shoe business later this year, although headwear is still its primary focus.
“We see a hat as a canvas for creativity,” Moton said. “I think that’s what sets us apart.”
The partnership allows both men to focus on what they do best.
For Moton, it’s all about focusing on creative pursuits – to remain an artist. But a profitable one. For McDade, it’s a visionary process of branding, marketing and growing the company. Art as fashion, fashion as business.
A recent interview of the two found McDade just returning from a national marketing trip and Moton – his style is hands-on – peering over the shoulder of a designer and offering additional tweaks. Both men are high-energy guys with complimentary, very different talents. Despite all their differences, they say, they rarely have disagreements.
“We just get along,” McDade said.
The partnership also allows Moton to continue his first great love – graffiti-style murals.
He’ll be found most weekends in paint-splattered clothing doing exactly that... His latest project includes a series of murals on an assortment of Front Street buildings near the YUMS office, which by the way is an acronym for “You Understand My Style.”
“So much so that people are coming down here to check them out,” Moton says. “It’s sort of like having a whole street as your gallery.”
On Mondays, though, he’ll be back in the Elm Street office with a new stream of headwear and footwear ideas. So far, he’s never had the equivalent of writer’s block.
Click here to read the original commentary by O.K. Carter, which was published in the Fort Worth Business Press on May 4, 2019. Photo by O.K. Carter.