Downtown Shop Owner Makes the Best of Tough Times

C. Harold Pierce / el Don

By: Mahdee Gill

Occasionally, a tired cliché can be the foundation for a fresh beginning. One clothier has taken a friendship with a former colleague and a repetitive exclamation from a pal from college and created a retail business.

Shay Palmer started Tough Timez Apparel in the East End of Downtown Santa Ana. While employed as a sales representative, he befriended a colleague who had expertise in the fashion industry. The two collaborated and pooled their resources and a clothing line evolved.

“A friend I met while employed as a telemarketer used to make his own t- shirts and we put our money together and started Tough Timez, Palmer said.

While attending junior college, he would share setbacks he endured with a friend. No matter the predicament, he would say the same thing in response to his dilemma.

“I had a friend while attending Irvine Valley College who would always say, ‘tough times’ in response to my problems. It didn’t matter whether you failed an exam or your girlfriend left you, he would say ‘tough times,” Palmer said.

This mindset guides Shay as he contends with the economic challenges that retailers and consumers are both experiencing. He encourages people to look beyond their circumstances, be resilient and remain composed.

“My motto is to live beyond the struggle. I’m doing it and I want others to do it, because not having large amounts of money does not stop me from designing good merchandise,” he said,”.

To combat these obstacles, he couples his passion for fashion and a desire to produce premium street wear similar to brands that have vanished.

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“I didn’t see any styles that were cool to me anymore, and seeing my favorite brands like Enyce, Akademiks, and P.N.B. Nation fade out I wanted to reinvent attire reminiscent of them,” said Palmer.

The designs on his shirts range from bright colors with typography similar to graffiti to plain tees in various colors with the “Tough Timez” embroiderey.

To distinguish himself from his contemporaries each piece is designed by style exhibited by people he observes and encounters.

“I operate like a personal stylist and pay attention to how people dress and aim to create pieces that are synonymous with the images I encounter,” he said.

Fashion students looking to break into the industry should find lines that they consider successful, consult with them and be willing to step out of their comfort zone and travel to places where new clothing is sought after, Palmer said.

“You need to have 8 designs for a collection, fourteen shirts per design and a line sheet. I remember when I got my plan together and traveled to Haight Street in San Francisco despite the fact I had never been there in my life,” Palmer said.








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