Fashion | October 18th, 2023
FAMU Alum Sparks Fashion Trend with Rattler Fans
By: Jaden Bowen
Florida A&M University alumnus Chazriq Clarke was a prominent personality on campus before his graduation in spring 2022. He is still known to the student body today as Chazam, pronounced Cha-Zam, a lively spirit who loves to represent his HBCU.
As a testament to his pride in being a Rattler, the former King of Orange and Green took to his entrepreneurial side and created what would become a flourishing fashion trend on campus: Chazam Fans.
“I actually have been fascinated with hand fans for a long time, primarily because I am not a huge fan of sweating,” Clarke said. “But in 2021, I bought my first one on a summer trip to Busch Gardens with friends, and ever since, I began collecting them.”
What began as a small LLC selling folding hand fans in various colors turned into something more meaningful.
While most leave their memories of their time at college in the rearview mirror, Clarke has never shied away from letting everyone know that he is a Rattler through and through. So when his business began to take off, he shifted his creative direction to produce a fan designed specifically for his alma mater, curating the “FAMU Rattlers” Chazam Fan.
“As a former King of Orange & Green and a graduate of both the School of Business and Industry and the FAMU Essential Theatre, I knew that after college, I had to give back to the institution that molded me into the individual I am today,” Clarke said. “I Love FAMU and hope that our beloved institution continues to grow and soar to new heights, even beyond being the No. 1 HBCU for five consecutive years.”
Clarke’s verified social media presence has allowed him to promote his fans and take his self-made business to the next level. His connections to his friends, former classmates, sorors and advisers on the highest of seven hills gave him the support to build something very early on.
Senior cardiopulmonary science student Hayley Giannuzzi has known Clarke since her freshman year. She recalls him constantly bringing joy to other people. She has been “super excited” to support Clarke and is frequently seen sporting his Rattler fans on her Instagram page.
“It’s been amazing because I’m so proud of him,” Giannuzzi said. “Like I said, he’s been a friend of mine for a long time, and to see the success that this endeavor has brought him is filled with [a] sense of pride that I can’t even explain, like, he’s just doing this because he wants to and he’s just creating an amazing thing for HBCUs, so I’m super proud of him. I can’t wait to see what comes next.”
Uplifting unrepresented spaces, like HBCUs, was one of Clarke’s goals when he decided to move forward with his Rattler Fans.
Taking nearly a year to get his business up and running, it surprised Clarke to see how quickly his fans became popular, and the support he’s received from people has been overwhelming.
“As the creator, it truly is humbling to see many Rattlers – current students, alumni, family [and] friends – take a liking to the FAMU Rattler Chazam Fan and other Chazam Fan products,” Clarke said. “I have to thank God foremost for even giving me the vision to create something like this and for how much it has grown. I also have to thank the countless people who have supported and shared our fans to [contribute] to their growth. I wouldn’t be here without them, and it’s a feeling that is truly indescribable.”
Rattler fans rapidly grew in popularity on FAMU’s campus and are often seen during Set Fridays and football games.
Malachi Gibbs, current King of Orange and Green and a senior music education student, fully supports Clarke, who previously held his title, and has been seen promoting the Rattler fans along with the other royal court members.
“I would have to say that it is an honor to follow in the footsteps of someone who has sparked a trend that is nationwide,” Gibbs said. “He is a great role model, and I am glad to call him not only my predecessor but my brother.”
Recently, Clarke’s fans have been seen in the hands of both mascots, Venom and Lady Venom, and even FAMU’s president, Larry Robinson.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I love and respect our president, Dr. Larry Robinson, and have often jokingly referred to him as ‘Dad’ during my time in undergrad at FAMU,” Clarke said. “I was able to personally gift him a FAMU Rattler Chazam fan, which he shared that he would give to his wife, First Lady Sharon Robinson. It was truly a beautiful and unexpected moment for me.”
There is a rich history between hand fans and Black, LGBTQ+ and ballroom cultures that Clarke was familiar with. The concept of folding fans became more mainstream in 2022 after Beyoncé released her seventh solo album, “Renaissance,” which sold folding fan merchandise to promote the 11th track on the album “Heated.”
Clarke describes this as one of his many inspirations.
“Some of my inspirations come from my experience at FAMU and my own closet of FAMU paraphernalia, which features many other products by HBCU entrepreneurs such as Ashley Jones’ Tones of Melanin, who was one of my biggest inspirations to start my business,” Clarke said. “Attending Renaissance [World Tour] in August truly inspired me to keep going. When I first heard ‘Heated’ in July of 2022, I was happy to have already been using fans and didn’t even know how mainstream they would become.”
Now, Clarke intends to expand his business.
He recently dropped a fan design for Howard University’s Bisons, the mascot of the HBCU where he is continuing his education, and they are now available to order on his website along with other Chazam Fan products for either $20 or $25, depending on the design.
“It has definitely been a great way to express myself creatively, seeing that it combines three of my favorite things: fans, fashion and creativity,” Clarke said. “When I was younger, I always dreamed of being a fashion designer, and although I’m not entirely sure if Chazam Fans count, I’m really happy to have a creative way to express myself and to be ‘Chazing My Dreams.’”