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Fashion Mon Feb 13 2012

Heart of Man: Fashion, Finance & Philanthropy

HOM1.jpg

For Marcus Noel, fashion is more than just about style and appearance--it's also a movement. Here, the Maryland native (now residing in Chicago) and former JP Morgan Chase financial analyst talks about Heart of Man, his fashion line with a purpose: helping and mentoring disadvantaged youth.

Professionally, you have a finance background--when did you leave that industry to pursue fashion full-time?

I went to Morehouse College and studied finance. I took a trip to Beijing, China in my senior year and when I was over there, I saw the level of poverty. I spent a lot of time in their silk market where there is tons of garment production and fell in love with that process.Two years ago, I was sitting in my room and noticed I had lots of sweaters and thought to myself, "What if I made my own sweater?" But then I later thought if I made my own sweaters, I wanted to have a social factor to it.

You work a lot with kids in the community through your foundation, Heart of Man Project--tell us about how that all got started.

I've always mentored. I love kids and am very passionate about education and closing the achievement gap. I thought that if I design clothes, I could take a percentage of it, put it into a nonprofit and have that nonprofit help out kids.

In many instances, especially where urban youth is concerned, foundations tend to lean towards sports or entertainment; tell us why you decided to use fashion as a catalyst to give back.

Basically, I want to use clothing and fashion because they're both something that culture gravitates to. I figured if I could get the masses to rally around my clothing, then that's money I could use to put towards social good.That's where my idea came from.

When you come across youth--those affiliated with Heart of Man or otherwise, do they express interest in a career in fashion? If so, how do you advise them?

When mentoring kids, I'm a huge fan of not really telling people what to do--I just encourage them to go after what's already inside of them. I just encourage them to follow their dreams and to truly find their passion.

[Diddy protégé] Fonzworth Bentley is connected to Heart of Man--tell us how that relationship came about.

Bentley and I both attended Morehouse College. I was in New York and we connected at a public relations event when I got a chance to talk to him in private. I told him I wasn't really happy in finance and I then just told him what I wanted to do. He had always been that soundboard for me and he took me under his wing as his mentee, so right now, he's both my mentor and supporter. What really got him on board with supporting me is that he was actually seeing me live out my ideas--not just talk about them.

Tell us about the Heart of Man line--what kinds of clothing are in the collection?

Right now I have sweaters and bags for both men and women, for professionals in the 25-35 age range. Moving towards spring, I'll have hats, bags and trench coats. I'll also have kids' accessories coming later.

How would you describe your creative process? From where does your inspiration come from?

My inspiration comes from the past and old clothing: I love vintage items; the 20s, 60s and early 50s are probably my favorite decades. But for the spring/summer, I want to focus on the 1920s and do something surrounding the industrial revolution, like denim and pieces that look like they've been worn in factories years ago. I'm a huge fan of that. I also like looking at old movies like Casablanca and seeing the suits Humphrey Bogart wore. Classic style and culture are a great inspiration for me.

What's next for Heart of Man?

From the fashion side, I'm going to expand the product mix; my goal is to definitely be in five or so boutiques this year. Right now, I'm in two in Chicago--House of Trend and The Denim Shack. From the foundation side, in April, we're putting together a forum, focusing on all male schools, to teach young men etiquette and professionalism, as well as introduce a curriculum (history, geography, etc.) through clothing that pulls their minds from the material side of clothing to the value and educational side of it. We want to teach them things like what are the fabrics? Where do materials like cotton and linen come from? Which countries produce it? Where are these clothes made? That's what I see for the future of Heart of Man.

For more on the Heart of Man Project, visit the website.

 
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Cinque / February 15, 2012 12:33 PM

This is so cool! I'd like to meet him and support his efforts!

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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