Editor's note: This story was written as a part of the Observer's Explorer Post program, which gives high school students the chance to learn about journalism.
“Believe in your flyness” is the slogan of HtDogWtr (Hot Dog Water) a clothing line established in 2006 by owner Jeffrey Lee, a native of Charlotte. At age 5, Lee’s mother taught him how to sew, stating he really enjoyed it and he made his own custom outfits and his own alterations. He grew up in the west side of Charlotte in the Double Oaks neighborhood on West Boulevard.
Lee graduated from West Charlotte High School in 2003. His former Fashion Apparel teacher, Lorie Williams, said he was an energetic, active and trend-setter student at the school. She loved his positive attitude and his hard working ethic.
He attended college at North Carolina A&T and graduated in 2007 with a degree in Fashion Merchandising Design. Lee took it upon himself to start his clothing line, HtDogWtr. He got the name from reminiscing on his childhood when his grandfather would have family gatherings and make hot dogs for the children. The kids would want a drink from the cooler, and his grandfather would say, “Get one from that hot dog water.”
His main inspiration is providing and bringing something different to the fashion world. He said he always had faith in God and always kept the mindset of never giving up. He funded everything himself, and in 2005 met his soon-to-be-partner Cory Williams II, aka “2E,” at a mall in Greensboro. The two have been friends ever since.
2E, who has been with HtDogWtr since the beginning, is the graphic designer and does artwork on T-shirts. He describes Lee as an outgoing, self-motivator and a genuine person.
The first celebrity to ever wear his clothes was former NFL Carolina Panther player Muhsin Muhammad. Lee says he got other celebrity clients by approaching them and making himself available when they were in town. He has a variety of celebrity clients including Fantasia, Ludacris, Kevin Hart and Usher. His clothing prices range from $20-$60, and he makes boys and girls T-shirts, coffee mugs, hats, stickers and jewelry cases.
HtDogWtr also helps with other countries in need of safe drinking water and assists with breast cancer awareness. Lee said the company also recently established a baby clothing line and now has a second office in Atlanta.
Lee said he will never be comfortable on where HtDogWtr is standing, and he will always want to work his way up. A quote he lives by is his slogan, “believe in your flyness,” he believes everyone should have their own unique style.