Gators, buffs and furs are synonymous with Detroit’s iconic style. For many Detroiters, these are wardrobe staples, but as the city evolves, so has its style. Detroit native Bernard Bentley is part of a new wave of young fashion designers who are redefining the Motor City’s style.

Bentley, a former banker, sees his brand as a unifying force that can merge the energy and style of both native Detroiters and the city’s new transplants.

“With Detroit’s new birth, the city has so many opportunities and LoveLifeSwagger showcases where Detroit was and where it’s going,” said Bentley.

Established in 2009, LoveLifeSwagger is a lifestyle brand that tells a story of love, passion and hustle all while embodying ­Detroit’s grit and resilience.

“Detroit has one of the fastest growing small business communities in the country. I wanted to start LoveLifeSwagger, a lifestyle streetwear brand, because Detroit has such an amazing story. It’s a love story. It’s a story of hustle. It’s a story of individuality and a story of style.”

The line came out of Bentley’s passion for success beyond the typical 9 to 5 life.

“Working as a banker in the mortgage industry, I was unhappy and wanted to quit every day,” he recalled. “One day I went to work and didn’t do any work. I just sat and pondered all day about what makes me happy and I figured out it was three words — love, life and swagger.”

While deciding how to make this dream tangible, Bentley created a logo and promotional t-shirt that inadvertently gave birth to LoveLifeSwagger.

“People really liked it and wanted to buy it. I saw people wearing the t-shirts with Gucci shoes and other luxury brand accessories and I knew at that point I had something special. From there, it evolved into a full clothing line,” he said.

As the popularity of the brand grew, so did Bentley’s desire to expand. After acquiring retail space at 277 Gratiot Ave. in Detroit, he began to seek out ways to raise more capital for expansion.

Bentley was able to grow his business with the help of programs like the JP Morgan Chase Bank Entrepreneur of Color Fund and Motor City Match. Both provided the access to capital that Bentley needed to renovate the retail space and the financial boost the brand needed.

“I’ve been able to galvanize and get a lot of financial support from different businesses and non-profits. Detroit has a certain connotation that it doesn’t have the proper resources. But, the entrepreneurial spirit here is really strong. There are a lot of people getting behind that, donating and investing money in helping small business owners like myself get started and keep going,” he said.

To join the LoveLifeSwagger movement, stop by 277 Gratiot Ave. in Detroit or go to lovelifeswagger.com.

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