Mel & Bishop specializes in making custom designs for those who have an idea, but are unable to execute it themselves. The Atlanta based brand was founded by Fred Jermel White in Tuscaloosa, Alabama during his college years. Mel & Bishop provides a variety of products ranging from vintage t-shirts, acid wash t-shirts, camo jackets, high waist skirts, custom leotards, t-shirts that have been customized, and more. The price range of the products that White provides ranges from $18-$75 depending on what your design needs are. White is even willing to work with his customers to help get the design that they want within their price range. White tells about how he created a garment for a customer using fake snake skin as opposed to using real snake skin so that it was affordable for her.

     

Fred Jermel White was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1983. In Florida, White spent a lot of time with his grandfathers who were ministers. When White was 9 years old, he moved to Atlanta, and now currently resides in Memphis.

The name of the brand “Mel & Bishop” has a bit of a sentimental meaning behind it. White’s middle name is Jermel, which is where he got “Mel”, and Bishop comes from the fact that both of White’s grandfathers were Bishops in their churches. White did this as a way to honor these important men in his life. During his college years, White partnered with a man named Ken Bishop, who showed him the ropes of Tuscaloosa. This just reiterated that this had to be the name of the brand even more. The original name of White’s brand was 3891 Exclusive Clothing Company. He came up with this idea because 3891 is 1983, the year that White was born in, but written backwards.

Fred J. White received the inspiration for his brand during his senior year of high school. That year, he was the Vice President of his school’s student government. For senior week, they had to come up with a different theme for each day. White came up with design your own brand day. His brand allowed customers to tell him what they wanted, and he would make it for them. This fueled the idea for White to actually start his own company. Urban culture has had a huge influence on Mel & Bishop, hence why White refers to himself and the brand as “The Urban Creatives”. The designer also takes inspiration from Miskeen clothing company and the “My Sweet 16” episode featuring Teyana Taylor. In that episode, Taylor went to various local designers to get outfits made as opposed to going to big name designers. Seeing this on TV revealed to him that there was a market for what he wanted to do, and gave him the courage to pursue his passion.

White didn’t take his idea of starting a clothing company seriously until his freshman year of college back in 2002. He realized that he couldn’t go to school, work, play baseball and while at the same time making the amount of money that he wanted. Working out of his room in King Hall Dormitory at Stillman College, White started doing customizations, DIYs, and even tailoring. His business helped him move off campus due to the fact that Stillman is a private school and females weren’t allowed in the male dorms. This rule prevented female customers from coming up to his dorm to request a custom made garment. So Fred J. White decided that he must move off campus in order to be able to reach all of his potential customers.

When White was in school, you truly had to know the locals to know what was going on in Tuscaloosa. White then made it his mission to get to know people within the community and to get involved. Tuscaloosa was the perfect place for White to get his business off the ground because it was an untapped market.  Atlanta was oversaturated with aspiring designers and stylists, and being the nearest big city, he would have faced similar issues in Birmingham.

The target customer of Mel & Bishop isn’t someone who is necessarily into fashion, but they are a creative person. Mel & Bishop customers don’t always have the ability to physically create the ideas that they have in their head, so they reach out to White in order to bring these ideas to life. Mel & Bishop’s ideal customers are also college students. The current generation of kids in college are really into social media. This heavy use of social media essentially makes college kids free publicity. Whenever there is a big social event, everyone makes sure to post to their Instagram or Twitter what they wore, and where they got it. For example, if an athlete’s girlfriend gets a custom shirt with her man’s name and number on it and she posts a picture of herself wearing it to the game, then all the other girlfriends are going to want custom shirts as well. More specifically than college students, Mel & Bishop’s target customers are black kids on predominantly white college campuses. The brand targets this demographic because black people are a unique culture, and White would like to uplift the people of this culture so they can express their creative style. Instead of going to the Supe Store and picking up a shirt that everybody has, these black college students can put in an order with Mel & Bishop. White also represents black culture in his creations by using African print fabrics as well as quotes on his clothing by black historians, such as Shirley Chisholm.

White intends on expanding the Mel and Bishop brand by getting involved in more spring fashion shows. Mel and Bishop will actually be in several fashion shows this spring on the University of Alabama Birmingham, Auburn, and Philander Smith College campuses. Mel and Bishop will be at UAB on the 24th of March. White says that he will also have more pop up shops for Mel and Bishop, which he did frequently on college campuses during football season. Being physically on college campuses is vital to White’s plan on expanding the Mel & Bishop brand. One misconception Mel & Bishop, is that Fred J. White is an Alabama fan who only makes sports team t-shirts repping the University of Alabama. This is not the case, the main reason that White makes so many  clothes for Alabama is because he went to school in Tuscaloosa and has made connections with numerous Bama fans. White actually claims himself to be a Bulldogs fan, being from Georgia. White wants all to know that no matter what sports team you rep, he’ll be willing to customize a shirt for you.

 

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About The Author

Fashion Major, University of Alabama, Chicago, Photography

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