Against all odds – Malik Martin’s going places

Malik Martin, who grew up in East Hartford, Connecticut, the child of Ghanaian parents, started putting fabrics together in preschool.

As president of the Class of 2023, he is majoring in fashion design and retailing. He developed his passion at a young age and pursued his dreams despite the adversity he faced. 

As a child, Martin also enjoyed reading and doing homework as education was prioritized in his household.

Martin initially wanted to attend Johnson & Wales University and said he put his fashion dreams on the “backburner.” 

He said he still pursued fashion independently “behind the scenes” as his parents were not supportive of his career path.

With the help of a high school teacher who graduated from FSU, his parents eventually encouraged his professional goals.

He said, “I thought, if I was actually going to do it, I am going to do it with all I have.”

Martin felt he was at a disadvantage living in Connecticut as, “It’s hard to be a designer

in Connecticut because it’s not as rich in fashion and diversity.”

He said he chose FSU because of the location and it’s strong fashion program.

“I heard they were the number one fashion department in the whole of New England. It speaks volumes that it’s better than New York. I decided to go to the number one,” said Martin.

He served on the board of directors for The Connecticut Youth Forum, a community outreach program for teenagers, in 2015 until he stepped down in spring 2020. 

The program gave him the opportunity to have dinner and speak with former First Lady Michelle Obama and the Prime Minister of Australia.

“When I interviewed them, I asked them the reason behind some of their decisions, and I tried to apply their advice to my own life,” he said. 

Martin said he recognized the significance of the interview as others his age did not have the opportunity. 

Another opportunity Martin said he is grateful for is being one of the first African American class presidents at FSU.

“I feel like I have always been a leader in whatever capacity I am in. I am excited to be president

because it gives me a sense of leadership I know I have,” said Martin.

He said with the current racist climate of our country, it is imperative the school represents

diversity.

“If students don’t see people who look like them in a position of power, it shoots down their

dreams and aspirations to get those positions,” said Martin.

He discussed the death of George Floyd and how it impacted him.

Martin said, “It was also a call of reckoning for people because a lot of people like to think racism doesn’t exist.”

He said as a Black man, he needs to be extra cautious in public.

He said he does not have the luxury of walking around in public because people could be threatened by him.

“I have been careful walking around since age zero. It’s a tough situation to be in and it’s even

tougher to live a life out of one sector of fear just because we still have racism,” said Martin.

Although only a sophomore, Martin has developed his own clothing brand, Imani.

“I wanted something tangible that I could develop over time. I came up with the name Imani

because Imani means faith,” he said.

Martin added, “My faith is something that is very important to me and it’s something that has

remained solid and grown stronger over the years. Having faith in whatever situation is

something a lot of people can resonate with.”

Martin’s goal is to be the Chief Editing Officer for British Vogue. He said his choice is British Vogue because it is more fashionable than American Vogue.

“There is actually a Black guy named Edward Enninful who is the current Chief Editing Officer of

British Vogue. He gets to write and style – what I want to do!” he said.

Martin offered advice to FSU students in the fashion program.

“Be honest with your work. Everyone has the opportunity to learn and everyone is always

growing. Also, step outside the box.”

He discussed what he is most grateful for in his life.

“I am thankful to be in the spot I am now because during high school, it was completely horrible.

I had a drinking problem because I did not know how to cope with mental health. I definitely

push therapy for any and everybody. Just talking to someone is very helpful,” he said.

Martin said he is also grateful to the FSU community.

“I realized if someone truly wants to support me and my craft, they will do it because they want

to not because someone asked them to,” he said.

“It wasn’t easy getting here.”