SOUTH LOS ANGELES — On July 8, one day after the deadly police shootings in Dallas, Texas, fashion designer and entrepreneur Michael Jones found himself held at gunpoint by police officers.
Jones, 31, was wrapping up the filming of a promotional video for his “Is this what it has come to?” campaign. The campaign features bulletproof vests and is part of Jones’ 9Nation Republic clothing line which has made waves here and elsewhere.
Jones has chosen to market his vests during a time when the nation and world is in turmoil from senseless acts of violence.
9Nation Republic is not only a clothing line, but also a movement to foster a lifestyle that encompasses worldwide unification, Jones said. Its motto is “Every Creed, Race, Gender and all walks of life we are all 9Nation Republic.”
The inspiration for his brand came from watching a segment on both the Animal Planet and History channels in which Jones was inspired by the mixture of the animal kingdom and the rise and fall of great empires.
Jones wanted to find a way that he could use his talents as a way to make a statement in response to his inspiration regarding the division in the nation and the world. Thus the physical representation of 9Nation Republic was born.
The number 9 in the name symbolizes the beginning of the end. While “nation” is a representation of the strength, commitment and family for all people around the world to unite as one regardless of one’s ethnicity, background or sexual orientation.
Finally “republic” testifies to the foundation of creativity, imagination, desires and passion which allows people to create their own rules.
The 9Nation Republic clothing line includes hats, tank tops, T-shirts, jewelry and bulletproof vests. The vests being sold are a part of Jones’ “Is this what it has come to?” campaign which highlights the acts and threats of gun violence that are affecting lives globally. The vests are designed to reflect the mass shootings and police brutality happening in America and abroad, he said.
Through wearing the fashion forward bulletproof vests, Jones hopes to spark a productive dialogue about the issues that are plaguing the country and how change can be brought about. Jones has worn his vest in a couple of Los Angeles communities and has received diverse reactions.
Most notable has been the reaction he received a few weeks ago as he wrapped up filming for a promotional video for his vest campaign in Los Angeles. As Jones and some of his participants completed filming and were preparing to go to a Black Lives Matter rally, they were confronted and held at gunpoint by members of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Jones assumes that a call was made by someone in the community who grew concerned when they saw men in the community wearing body armor. When the police arrived on scene, the men were held at gunpoint and were detained for several minutes as police officials discussed whether Jones and his partners were committing a crime by wearing bulletproof vests.
Jones said he knew that since he was not committing a crime and since he was not a felon, he had the right to wear the vest. However, the police did not know the protocol for such a situation.
Once personnel from the Sheriff’s Department arrived on scene, they communicated with the police officers that the young men were not committing a crime and were to be released.
Jones, who described the incident as scary, said he feared that he was going to get shot by police, yet was able to remain calm and encouraged the other men to do the same throughout their detainment.
Their incident with police testifies to the mission of the “Is this what it has come to?” campaign.
Jones and his companions had no intention of provoking officers by wearing their vests. However, they did and as a result, a dialogue was sparked that educated both parties on the issues impacting the communities and the need for better communication between police and the members of the communities that they serve.
Jones has a vision of unity and hopes to unite communities and the world with the message of his clothing brand.
The goal of 9Nation Republic is to reach a broad audience and through the message of his vests, he is speaking on what he believes could become reality.
“Shootings are becoming the new normal,” Jones said. “So wearing vests is going to become a normal as well until we, the people all over the planet, realize we are all one and bleed the same blood, respect one another and value the beauty of human life.”