Black Business Month: Meet the Detroit visual artist creating unique prints, shirts & more

Posted at 6:22 AM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 06:22:10-04

August is National Black Business Month, and we're introducing 7 Action News viewers and readers to a thriving local Black-owned business.

From hospitality to beauty, home services and retail, all month long, we're shining a light on the struggles and triumphs of these businesses and their owners.

Related: Celebrating Black Business Month: Skinphorea celebrates grand opening of new Detroit location

Visual artist James Morris wants to talk to you in any way he can. It's often through his work. You've likely seen his pieces being worn around the city. What you may not know is that they're created in his 132-square-foot home studio.

Morris started Definitive Style Exclusive (DSE) in 2008. He fused together his visual art, graphic and clothing design with a brick & mortar shop in Downtown Detroit at Broadway and Grand River.

It's a neighborhood his grandmother also had a thriving gallery in for decades, so art and a love for the city are in his blood.

“The basis of DSE is creating conversation through design and imagery," he said. "The goal has always been to create pieces that stimulate the mind and get someone to look at it and say “hmmm..”

One piece, aptly named "Unapologetic," reads "I'm Black, get over it."

“That stems from just sitting in my shop and seeing people who would look at the work, look at the shop, and then see me and them immediately walk off," he said. "So eventually it got to a point where that phrase got stuck in my head.”

DSE sells other items like bags, jewelry, pins, candles and new collage prints.

“They’re all based on people who have had influence in my life," he said.

Many of them are Black leaders and Civil Rights icons, like a striking limited-edition James Baldwin print.

Morris created all of them, and eventually found that having a store took time away from the actual creating because he had to be there. In 2018, he ditched his physical store and moved everything online, so even before COVID-19, he was doing the bulk of his work at home.

“I love creating home just because it’s comfortable. What online did for me was allow me to reach that larger audience," he said.

He's now sold in nearly all 50 states and 17 countries outside of the U.S.

“There may be pieces that maybe only so many get. So from an entrepreneurial standpoint sometimes it’s not necessarily the most popular but at the same time it’s something that’s necessary," he said.