Senior DJ Neely steps into leadership with his own clothing company


Wanting to inspire others through clothing, DeAndre (DJ) Neely, Jr. created his own clothing company called Essere Tafari.

His clothing line features a logo with a vibrant grey elephant wearing a royal crown. Essere Tafari translates to “become he who inspires.” “Essere” is Latin for “be/become,’’ and “Tafari” is the name of an Ethiopian king, meaning “he who inspires.” The influential translation is his company’s slogan, which reflects what his company stands for.

“It inspires me to be the best version of myself and help the people around me become the best version of themselves. Hence why ‘Essere Talafarai’ means ‘become he who inspires’,” said owner Neely.

Essere Tafari consists of t-shirts, bucket hats, and hoodies at the moment. Neely is looking forward to expanding his horizon to making pants, shorts, socks, and way more with his designs, so stay tuned.

“It’s usually at the top of my head, or I see something that I like and I draw it out and alter it, and from there I sew it,” Neely said.

Neely advertises his attire through the people around him, such as friends, family members, coaches, and teachers. He is working on more ways to advertise, so also look out for that.

“I play footba]ll with Neely, and he was telling me about his brand when we were hanging out. He showed me some pictures of what he has and what it looks like, and I liked what he was selling and wanted to support his business,” said senior Nickolas Green.

In the meantime a way to keep up with Essere Tafari is through keeping an eye out for the logo/name around the school on students’ and staff members’ attire, also of course by asking Neely himself.

“I make things and wear them every day. I have friends wear things and family wear things,” Neely said.

To prepare for his business, Neely had to think about a brand logo, and once again he wanted to be different. Not wanting to pick a logo that embodied traditional animal logos, he thought of a elephant. He then began to design garments himself, and after some time he got a job at a embroidery store near Gurnee Mills where he learned more about the basics.

“I remember him working at a sewing place and him learning about everything that has to do with materials. I was proud of him, that he made it so far and learned so much from fashion business/brands. It started off slow of course but will progress overtime,” said sister Isis Mitchell.

Growing up, Neely knew that he wanted to be different. In elementary school, students are often asked what they want to be when they grow up. Most students state generic ideal jobs such as doctors, firefighters, and police officers. But, Neely, knew he wanted to be different from others. Growing up watching his brother dress himself and being intrigued by what he put together to make an outfit, Neely became inspired to create clothes himself. Therefore he wouldn’t have to worry about going out to get an outfit that he envisioned and couldn’t find part of, partially ruining his idea of an outfit. As a student athlete, Neely finds it easy going to balance his business and school. He advises others who also want to do the same to use the resources available to them, such as building their classes around what they want to do. People who have bought from Neely enjoy his clothing and its quality. His supporters have great hope for him and his company.

“I’m surprised that it has been this long and has as much support as it does now. I would like to tell Neely to never give up on what you start because you started for a reason, and to find a balance between your business and your life. It may come with challenges but it’ll be better in the future,” Mitchell said.

“I like to go fishing and I really like bucket hats, so that was my first purchase. And the quality of it was really nice. I would recommend this brand to anyone that is interested in hoodies and bucket hats and his style of clothing. Neely is very good about marketing his projects and getting the word out. He has great ideas to make his brand grow well along the road,” Green said.

Look for Neely’s bucket hats, hoodies and t-shirts at the moment, and to keep up with on students and staff members’ clothing. To purchase, speak to Neely, the brand owner himself.