Huffpost Black Voices

Boris Kodjoe On Giving Back To The Community And Dressing For Success

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BORIS KODJOE
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Boris Kodjoe bared his soul for the ladies in the early 2000s and sat down in 2010 with Black Voices to muse on style. With two films and a flourishing clothing line slated to round out the year ahead, Kodjoe's determined to maintain his stride.

How he does it was the question of the day when HuffPost Black Voices caught up with the actor-turned-designer and family man. The answer? With a socially conscious mind, and two ladies (if you count his 7- going on 27-year-old daughter) and a 5-year-old son at home to keep him honest.

Busy as he may be, however, Kodjoe never forgos his style. "You have to leave your house looking like you are ready to meet the person who can change your life," he says, a motto he impresses on young students and channels in an effort to maintain his own perpetual swagger.

Here's what else Black Voices discovered at the core of Kodjoe's enviable appeal.

On his clothing company ALFA:
My brother Patrick and I have developed ALFA based on the fact that 96 percent of American men have never worn a custom shirt or suit, simply because it's unaffordable. Custom shirts routinely go for $150 and up, and suits go for $1,800 to sometimes $6,000 a piece. It's just not realistic for anybody. Our suits start at $179, shirts start at $30 and our jeans start at $50, which is unheard of for a handmade custom garment.

On keeping the collection affordable:
We own our factories in Thailand and we have a partnership with a great manufacturer from there. We have this revolutionary 3D software that allows our customers to design their own garment from scratch with over 300 fabrics, picking everything from collar, cuffs, buttons, suit lining, piping -- absolutely every detail. And there's a special page where you learn how to figure out your own measurements with the help of a very specific video. The website will keep your stats for future purchases and 21 days later your shirt or suit arrives.

On what's next for ALFA:
In two months we'll launch the ALFA Initiative. We're living in a time when everyone is facing economic challenges and one of the government's agendas is financial literacy. So we figured what better way to empower people to supplement their income then to make them Alpha consultants? We're offering people to come on board to be part of our team by selling the Alfa garments and making great commissions, thereby supplementing their incomes.

On his wife's new beauty venture:
My wife just launched Save Your DO and figured out a way to solve the issue for primarily African-American women trying to work out but maintain their hairstyles. She came up with a three-layered hair wrap to use while working out and then allows you to look great once you're done. Apparently that's a huge issue within the African-American community, especially when the surgeon general released a statement urging women to not allow their hair to keep them from taking care of themselves.

On developing socially conscious companies:
Everything we do in the Kodjoe household has a socially conscious undertone, because I believe when you're in the public eye, it's not only a privilege, it's also a responsibility to take part in making your community a better place. My wife, Nicole, and I started the Sophie's Voice Foundation in 2008 after my daughter Sophie was diagnosed with spina bifida. Every company that we start and launch is always a way to infuse our foundation with financial power. So all the proceeds from all of our products go to Sophie's Voice Foundation.

On working with The United Negro College Fund:
UNCF is a partner of ours, and we were able to be a part of their college tour this year, which was a great experience. We developed a concept called Brand U and what we've been trying to communicate to the young students is that they are a brand as a person -- brands aren't just companies. Everyday you step outside your door, you represent yourself and your family by the way you dress, the way you speak, the way you look. Therefore it's important that the way you present yourself coincides with the way you want to present yourself.

On one of the best pieces of advice he has been given:
Sidney Poitier once told me that when you're in the public eye, you have to dress, behave and treat people -- especially fans -- the way you would if they were your boss.

On his personal style:
My style is influenced by the culture I've been a part of growing up in Germany, my father being African; it's all part of the culture that goes into my style and how I carry myself. I've looked up to people like Steve McQueen, Sidney Poitier and others who have transcended style through the decades. I like a timeless classic style with a kick to it. I really appreciate when men dress well because it communicates confidence and integrity.

On how his wife is influencing his style:
I think women in general have an influence on men's style, since we dress for women half the time. But, yeah, my wife checks me. When you're a father of two, you're a working dad, you're working out and juggling so many different things. Sometimes I run out of the house with flip flops and tennis socks, but Nicole will stop me and put a pair of nice pants on me and a dress shirt. She definitely influences my style.

On his daughter's particular style:
My daughter turned seven last week and we discuss her outfits every single morning. Whatever we lay out for her is absolutely unacceptable. So she goes back into her closet, pulls out 10 other options, tries them on, goes to the bathroom, looks at herself -- it's a whole process. It has nothing to do with her upbringing. I'm bald because of my daughter: all my hair fell out from dealing with my daughter. She's funny when it comes to her style.

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