Around the campus of Marist College, it’s not typically difficult to distinguish a student-athlete from the rest of the student population. Sporting the grey, white, and red, through the distinctive sweatsuits, backpacks, and jackets, the athletes are dressed head to toe in Marist pride, especially while in-season.
Yet, out of season, no one would catch Marist men’s basketball sophomore forward Javon Cooley red-handed in the school’s colors. Rather, you could catch him in one of his many sweatshirts, especially his favorite Supreme hoodie with Miles Davis featured on the front.
“You gotta let the folks know that you know how to put it together,” said Cooley.
Or now, he is more likely to be showing off his new clothing line, Chain Reaction.
Chain Reaction’s first drop was on November 19, 2021, selling almost all of its products of a t-shirt, trucker hat, and messenger bag. Cooley worked out of his dorm room, designing pieces from materials sourced overseas. It was about making room and making time, as this dropped right around the start of his basketball season. “It’s just time and organization,” he said, addressing the workload and the process of shipping out orders.
However, this isn’t a story or brand that is simply about clothes. It’s more about the message Cooley is sending through his fashion sense and brand.
Throughout his childhood, Cooley didn’t always have the newest of the new, often wearing hand-me-downs to school and around friends. This is a message that resonates with many and influenced Chain Reaction’s business mission statement of expressing yourself and showing who you are through clothes.
“I’m trying to just go big and do it for the communities that need the opportunity to show people that it’s okay to express yourself because there’s a lot of people that might have self-doubt,” he said.
Cooley is not a fan of the comparison atmosphere that the world is in, thanks to social media, he said on teammate Terrence Echols’s podcast, “Echols Unlimited Podcast.” This realization came to Cooley over quarantine during the height of the pandemic, seeing the toxic parts of the world. It forced him to learn more about himself, think about things differently, and value time.
“I was sitting on it [the fashion line] for a while, but I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do. I know that a lot of us can relate to this — not knowing the type of reaction that you’re going to get when you put something out into the atmosphere. I just took the chance.”
This is not a newly sparked interest since coming to Marist — ranked 38th globally and 11th in the United States for its fashion program– which Cooley only found out about upon being a student at the college, as he committed for basketball reasons. The Chicago native had his first sense of a fashion spark in seventh grade when shoes were the talk of the town.
From shoes, came basketball shoes, followed by “crazy fashion,” as Cooley called it when referring to what he was introduced to in high school through music. He took note of the two brothers Ayo and Teo from Atlanta who dance to many different hip-hop artists’ music, bringing the music to life while confidently strutting around in a variety of clothes, from backward pants to a toy chain hanging from a pair of pants for added style.
“They were playing other people’s music and [it] gave them the chance to promote themselves while expressing themselves in different ways,” said Cooley. “That’s where I got inspired and I just kept digging and digging.”
Aside from musicians, those close to Cooley’s heart have influenced him too, including his mom and friend Travis. Growing up, Cooley’s mother has been a creative presence, constantly drawing and curating new ideas. This has come to influence Cooley and show him as a young boy that he could do anything he set his mind to.
The apple doesn’t fall that from the tree, as she has her own clothing line, Smile, going on now for two years.
Travis was Cooley’s childhood partner in crime. Cooley would wake up, and run over across the street to Travis for a day of skateboarding, dirt bikes, or even shoveling snow. It was through their hobbies that he was introduced to skatewear, which influences his line and fashion sense today.
Since coming to the East Coast, Cooley has seen more confidence in one’s way of dress and creative freedom in the atmosphere, especially in New York City.
“That’s what I love most about fashion–just being able to express yourself. It’s just showing who you are without even having to open your mouth,” said Cooley. “Everybody is different and that’s what I like about being out here because the fashion is very diverse. Fashion is very diverse out here, and I’m thankful to even be out here.”
Cooley has found himself blessed to be where he is in the world of basketball and fashion, and simply being a student at a higher education university. Where he grew up in Chicago, few neighbors, friends, and people of the community went to college. He is the first of his family to be on a college campus, period.
“I am the backbone of my family and community,” he said. “I’m trying to provide for my people, just influence someone that they could look up to and just be like if he did it, why can’t I do it?”
The next Chain Reaction line of clothes is in anticipation and Cooley has expressed he wants to “go big”, but there is no date yet on when buyers can expect the drop. What we can expect, however, is the continuation to draw inspiration from people and things that made Javon Cooley, well, Javon Cooley.
“It’s going to all relate back to me,” said Cooley.
For instance, Change Reaction could have a line of skatewear from Cooley’s background in the sport. In addition, he enjoys World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), basketball (obviously), and his favorite musical artists are Young Thug, Kanye, and Michael Jackson–who is from Gary, Indiana which is 15 to 20 minutes from Javon’s hometown.
“It’s all in the works,” he said with a sly smile, expressing his excitement.
And he has been proving his ability again and again throughout his sophomore year. In the upcoming weeks, he will be a model in the fashion show, SNR, along with being featured in the Marist fashion magazine, Measure Magazine. Furthermore, he has envisioned “going big” in Chain Reaction’s future, eventually owning a storefront, going on tour, etc. In the next two years of his Marist career, he hopes to sell his products through MPorium–a student-run boutique on campus– and have pop-up shops on campus.
Cooley wants to show his influence in fashion to influence others to do whatever it is they have dreamed to do. It’s one of his biggest goals, to showcase this to his communities as well as others. In other words, he hopes to create a Chain Reaction.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane
Photos from Javon Cooley