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Meet Tasleem Lee of Lucky Criminal in South Central LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tasleem Lee.

Tasleem, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started sewing when I was 14 years old. My high school sweetheart at the time bought me a sewing machine for Christmas and forever changed my life. I can hear my mom’s voice now saying that I didn’t know how to make patterns but that didn’t stop me. I always choose to figure this whole making clothes thing out before I had any formal training. At the time, my older sister used to take me to the fashion district in downtown to buy fabric and she helped me to understand how to negotiate prices and never take no for answer.

I’ve always had a love for fashion design so I decided to leave LA after high school and I attended an art and design school in the Bay Area where I received my Bachelor of Fine arts Degree in Fashion Design. The program I was in focused on women’s apparel so my formal training is making clothes for women, although I can design for men. One thing that was missing in the program was business. Everything that I learned about running a brand came through seeking out internships, jobs, people, and experiences that could feed me the knowledge I need to grow.

After college, I left the Bay and came back home to LA since the scene for fashion there is not what I was looking for. I applied for like 100 jobs and didn’t get any of them (which now I understand why). So I had all this time and all these skills so I decided to put a business plan I created into action and I started my brand LUCKY CRIMINAL on the floor in my parent’s home.

At the time, I had a couple of internships and jobs that actually taught me some foundational skills that I am using today to push my brand to the next level. In the early inception of my brand, I was interning for a company that was selling at Neiman Marcus but I decided to leave because I witnessed some shady behavior and I honestly didn’t want to continue doing busywork that the owners felt was beneath them. I just couldn’t see myself in an environment with people who literally copied the hard work of luxury brands line for line and didn’t care to change their design processes or lack thereof. As a leader, I was conflicted and decided to direct my energy into my own brand.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
This journey has not been a smooth one at all. I would say I’ve experienced every emotion from disappointment to frustration to depression to fear. You name it I felt it. But overall, I wouldn’t trade what I’ve experienced for a picture perfect normal scenario. I respond better to challenges because it helps me figure out a way to overcome the obstacle so I’m prepared for the next battle.

In addition to all the emotions that I’ve felt I’ve been broke before like really broke. Everyone knows you can’t get your ideas out with no capital so I’ve been there and eventually I got the money to create some cool clothes and manifested sales and real supporters who believe in what I’m doing.

One thing that I have struggled with was difficult people in business situations. For example, I did a pop up shop with a brand during their grand opening. In my opinion, I did well because I was facing a fear at the time and I made some sales while challenging myself. The owners of the store were conducting their business in a way that was rubbing me wrong so during a meeting I discussed that I would no longer be apart of the store. Two out of three of them decided to slander me and say things to me that could have made me cry if I wasn’t stronger. So I sat there biting my tongue and listened to their stupidity and decided to use that energy to conceive my last capsule collection called BALL HARD. Now that I’m wiser, I see how every struggle I’ve faced has lead to me create something great out of it.

Please tell us about Lucky Criminal.
My brand is called LUCKY CRIMINAL and I make clothes for women. One thing that sets me apart is that I can make most of products on my website. I know how to cut and sew which gives me an advantage because if all the factories shut down, I’ll be able to produce products without interruptions.

Right now, I am most proud of a year-long project that I worked on with one of my friends who is also the lead photographer for my brand. We’ve been working together for three years now and we have a secret project and fashion show that we’ve been planning. Once this COVID-19 crisis ends, we are ready to show the world what we have been working on. I don’t want to ruin the excitement but I feel like this capsule collection and showcase we are working on now will elevate both of our brands and put us both in better positions. I took time away from doing pop up shops last year focus on this project and I will say it is worth the wait.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I will say endurance is most important to my success. The endurance that I possess has given me the ability to be patient and understand that my time is coming. I have an expectation to cross the finish line at my own pace. It’s funny because I like to run and I’m not a sprinter but I always make sure that I finish my goals no matter how long it takes, I never quit. We all have to face things in life and some of us quit but no matter what I have experienced, I’m stubborn enough to know that I will get the results I desire.

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Image Credit:
Photos take by Steffaney Price of Poetic Point of View

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