A GQ magazine changed Kree Willyumz’s life.
As a middle schooler growing up in Gloucester County, he had suicidal thoughts. His appearance — braces, glasses, a bit overweight — bothered him.
But when he saw Michael Jackson on the magazine’s cover and flipped through the pages to see other well-dressed men, he decided to focus on his style.
Willyumz, now 27, began getting compliments at school and even from strangers while he was hanging out with his friends.
“This middle-aged woman just looked at me for at least like five minutes,” he said, recalling an incident that occurred at the mall. “All the sudden, she grabs this guy, pulls him over to me and says, ‘I want you to dress more like him.’”
High school classmates would pay Willymuz to go shopping for them. He thought of it as a hobby, until his older brother, Keith Reed Jr., pitched an idea to turn Willymuz’s fashion sense into a business.
In 2014, the brothers launched The Journi, a luxury service that allows customers to have clothes delivered to them, or transported to and from a tailor.
“We wanted to be like the Uber Eats of clothes,” Willymuz said.
The start-up focuses on speed and convenience. Clients can get same-day delivery within 30 miles of Center City.
It’s a nearly seven-day-a-week job for the brothers, who are the firm’s only employees. They work out of a van and an office near City Avenue in the Wynnefield Heights section of West Philadelphia.
The Journi partners with high-end stores and tailors. Customers range from actors and models working on photo shoots to lawyers, doctors, corporate executives and other working professionals who don’t like to shop for themselves.
Business dipped at the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, as events were cancelled; the brothers lost out on a gig with 20th Century Fox.
However, the courier model ended up working in their favor, Reed said, because customers were nervous about shopping when stores reopened.
“You don’t want to go out. No problem. We’ll take care of that for you. Pretty much, we’ll put our lives at risk for you,” Reed, 32, said half-jokingly.
The Journi also offers style consultations, and Willymuz was able to put together outfits with clients virtually.
“For some odd reason, people still wanted to dress up while they were in the house,” he said.
Willymuz described his style as diverse. Some days, he’ll break out the suit and tie. Other times, he goes casual and puts on a T-shirt.
“The main thing that I saw which I loved about styling was seeing people’s reaction and making them finally see the inner beauty within themselves, and that’s when we decided to call ourselves The Journi,” he said.
“Because it literally does take a journey for you to find that self-love and self-confidence,” he added.
Willymuz believes that, once someone finds that confidence, it allows them to shine.
“As I progressed on, I learned that it’s more so not about how you look, it’s more so how you make it look,” he said.