Streetwear brand 95 to Infinity has amassed an online presence since designer Sina Shah founded it in 2014, and now he’s looking to broaden his market.
Streetwear isn’t what most think represents style in the D.C. area, but most people aren’t Sina Shahcheraghi (Shah for short). Shah, currently a senior at James Madison University, is the designer and creator behind 95 to Infinity, a luxury streetwear brand he started in high school and has since expanded with an e-commerce presence.
In 2014, Shah launched the brand by printing T-shirts and selling them from his car. He continued to build it, but in 2016, he realized the line needed a makeover and more definition. He built an e-commerce store, marketing plan and business model. A redesigned website launched in October of last year, and by early 2017, it gained more traction with the help of photo shoots, a launch party and an eager market of JMU students.
The brand’s name is derived from I-95, which runs along the East Coast with D.C. at its center. In Shah’s eyes, it represents the East Coast—specifically D.C.—and hip-hop culture.
“There are a lot of L.A.- and New York-based brands—but most in New York aren’t really streetwear, they’re more like skatewear … On the West Coast, it’s more focused on surfwear,” Shah says. “I wanted something that really encompasses luxury hip-hop culture, more in this area than anywhere else. I want people from here to relate to it, but … it’s not a hyperlocal thing. I just want the brand to be representative of D.C. and the East Coast.”
Shah’s interest in fashion began in middle school when his brother passed down clothing to him.
“He was pretty into streetwear, and he’d give me his old T-shirts when he grew out of them,” Shah says. “I just started wearing them and loved it. It kind of defined me.”
Once he began buying shirts himself, Shah realized making his own might be a better investment. However, over time, that money-saving tactic grew into the broader concept of 95 to Infinity.
“I just wanted to make my own clothes and make some money off of it, but that vision kind of transcended into, ‘I just want to make something really cool,’” Shah says. “I want to make a cool brand, and I want to see people wear it.”
Shah gathers most of the inspiration for his line in urban spaces, specifically walking around D.C. and traveling to other cities. He takes photos of those places as references and keeps other inspiration in a black leather notebook that he carries everywhere and anywhere inspiration might strike; that inspiration can drive new T-shirt and hoodie designs. Shah is also inspired by fellow designers, including Kanye West and Nicky Diamond of Diamond Supply Co.
Shah often works on his designs at home, but this summer, he is working in a business accelerator—a program where small and up-and-coming companies get help growing their models and access to resources like office space—at JMU. Other times, he works at a makerspace at JMU where his entrepreneurship club meetings are held.
Being the manager of an entire brand can be stressful, but Shah’s realistic planning process keeps him grounded.
“It can be very overwhelming at times, but the best thing I do is think long-term: What are my goals for the next five years, 12 months or three months? I create a timeline and work backwards,” Shah says. “Gary Vaynerchuk, a speaker on e-commerce, made a good point. He said clothing brands are like a brick wall. Every piece, every step, every accomplishment is just another brick in the wall. It’s not like you’re going to get everything done at once; you’ve got to keep picking away at it.”
This summer, Shah plans to launch a new line followed by another in the fall, and he hopes to expand by having his clothes carried in streetwear boutiques and online retailers. He’d also like to one day have a store and see D.C. celebrities—basketball players and hip-hop artists—wearing his clothes. But right now, he’s just excited to see his classmates sporting his line.
“Honestly, just walking around campus and seeing people wear my clothing is a great feeling,” he says. “Out of 20,000 kids, every time I meet someone, [and] they find out [I made] 95 to Infinity, they say, ‘I’ve heard about that.’ That’s so cool. What are the odds?”