Clothing store puts Puerto Rican brands on the map

D’Lab by DMLO is an urban clothing store and e-commerce site focusing on brands from Puerto Rico

by Robin Dalmas

Fernando Torres, 34, has a passion for urban clothing, hip-hop, rap, and marketing. After working a variety of jobs including used car sales rep, rebuilder of train tracks, and credit report analyzer, he decided the best job of all would be working for himself.

“I got a bachelor’s degree in marketing, and I always liked business. And I always liked sneakers and fresh urban clothing, so I figured, why not sell urban clothing?”

In 2014, he launched D’Lab by DMLO, his online clothing store, while he was living in Miami. He has since moved back to his original home of Puerto Rico and opened D’Lab as a brick-and-mortar clothing store. There in Mayaguez on the west side of the island, he sells T-shirts, hats, and sunglasses to customers who are into urban music. “I love hip-hop,” he said. “When I was 16 or 17, I used to make money, and I only put my money into Sam Goody buying CDs.

”The D’Lab logo features a test tube and a flask, instruments you would find in a laboratory. “This is like my little lab where I don't just come to sell clothing; I work on a lot of projects that I have.” So far, the grand experiment involves collaborating with other small businesses to sell locally made clothing. “I focus on brands that are from Puerto Rico. I do have some brands from Europe, the States, and Central America, but I work mostly with brands from Puerto Rico.” None of the brands are mass produced. “Only small brands that are like mom-and-pop shops that are starting out. I like to work with people like me who are starting off, and help each other out.”

A silent business partner helped Torres get off the ground, and technology helps him stay lean and efficient so he can run the store by himself. He uses Shopify to run his online and brick-and-mortar store and manage inventory. Sales are rung up through the Shopify app, but customers who don’t have cash or credit cards can also pay using the Venmo mobile app.

The man who received his bachelors in marketing does all his promotion through Facebook, where he can target the perfect demographic: people ages 17 to 35 who enjoy online shopping or urban clothing. He also does email marketing campaigns through MailChimp.

Torres goes to trade shows in New York and Miami to check out the hottest new apparel. Ultimately, though, he buys most of his merchandise from a website called Brandboom.com. It’s a business-to-business e-commerce platform where he can see what wholesalers are offering. “I log in and choose everything I want to buy. They send me an email confirmation and we go from there. They process my credit card online and everything.”

For now, D’Lab is a lean startup. “Every dime I make I reinvest in my business. I pay my bills, but everything else is reinvested into my business. So it's going to take time, but I do believe in my dream.”

And for Torres, the dream is grand. He wants to eventually sell clothing, artwork, and maybe even smoking accessories such as vaporizers.

“I think my business is going to be the greatest urban boutique in Puerto Rico. The nicest. And I'm going to have the first urban boutique online store from Puerto Rico. I want to try to go all the way. I want it to be special. I want it to be great.”

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D’Lab by DMLO

Fernando Torres worked in a variety of jobs before deciding he should work for himself. He launched D’Lab by DMLO in 2014, molding his passions into a profitable e-commerce business that is now a successful brick and mortar.

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