Celebrating 30 years and looking to the future – WWD

Celebrating 30 years and looking to the future – WWD

There is a short list of fashion companies that have reached 30 years in the business and an even shorter list that can chronicle the impact on culture they have had in that period of time, as Fubu can.

One of the creators of urban and streetwear, the New York-based company achieved more than $350 million in sales and operated up to 200 independent global stores at one point in its history. He managed numerous collections under his umbrella such as Fubu Platinum and tailoring, explored products like fragrances, was featured in museums and even had an entertainment arm.

This year, Fubu co-founders – Daymond John, Carlton Brown, J. Alexander Martin and Keith Perrin – are looking back on 30 years and charting their future through special commemorative products and a series of collaborations, including one with Forever. 21 launched in March, children’s brand Haus of JR launching in the fourth quarter, the upcoming movie “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, among others.

“Thirty years is something you can’t put into words,” Martin said. “Four African-American guys from where we come from and doing it at such a high level, you can’t put it into words.”

After a period of silence since operations began to slow down as early as 2006, when the group focused on other activities, Fubu kicked off its relaunch this year with new men’s and women’s clothing and accessories distributed by new partner Concept One. The company also opened licensees in Mexico City and Brazil to expand its global presence, which already includes South Africa and parts of Europe and Asia.

Fubu teamed up with Forever 21 in March to launch a comprehensive men’s, women’s and children’s collection across the U.S. and global retail chain, comprised of classic apparel such as graphic t-shirts and tracksuits, and accessories such as caps and bucket hats, in addition to of jeans, swimwear and chain belts.

This year’s fourth quarter commemorative product launch will revive past styles such as Fubu football jerseys but with new fabrics, as well as Fubu, FB and Fubu Sport signature graphic tees and sweatshirts, polo shirts, sweatpants and shorts. and font. The brand will also focus more on children’s products this fall through its collaboration with Haus of JR.

Part of the new demand is the 1990s trend that has recently resurfaced, but although the brand slowed down its US operations in the early to mid 2000s, it continued to operate in international markets such as Japan, Mexico, South Africa, some countries from Europe and the Philippines, said the co-founders.

“Our brand has always been side by side with music,” explained Brown. “You look at artists and they say they’ve lost steam in the States, but they’re getting more love abroad. When it comes to fashion, it’s the same thing. People may be out of it here, but the foreign market has embraced us.”

Fubu, magic show

Fubu co-founders at their second MAGIC Show in Las Vegas

So while this 30th anniversary isn’t exactly a comeback because some operations have continued, the new US focus is an effort to cement Fubu’s legacy as one of American fashion’s great success stories.

The quartet’s origin story has often been told. They first printed t-shirts in Hollis, Queens, New York City in the late 1980s, before establishing the Fubu brand, which stands for “For Us, By Us,” in 1992.

“Our dream wasn’t necessarily to have a clothing line,” Brown said. “We wanted to make a variety store. We had Fubu, but we also wanted to sell trendy things like T-shirts and water pistols. When J [Alexander Martin] came out of the army, he gave us the idea to make Fubu our own brand like sewing and jeans.”

John mortgaged his house to finance the brand and turned part of the house into a factory to produce the clothes before the company moved production overseas. The founders sought funding in 1995 and received investment from Samsung C&T America.

Over the years, Fubu has appeared in music videos, TV shows, and commercials, most notably worn by rapper LL Cool J in a 1997 Gap ad, where he wore a branded cap and referenced the phrase “For Us, By Us.” in your Lyrics.

At the brand’s heyday in the late 1990s, it amassed annual sales of $350 million across more than 5,000 specialty stores across the U.S. and operated up to 200 independent global stores in Germany, Italy, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. The company then expanded its offering to footwear and formal wear, such as tuxedos and suits.

“We followed demand from our consumers and many of our consumers weren’t kids,” Brown said. “They were professionals and couldn’t wear the same high school clothes.”

Perrin noted that the founders’ personal styles also played a role in expanding their offering for Fubu. “Once we created our brand and wore our clothes, it was all we wanted to wear. Wall Street guys used to approach us and say I can only wear Fubu on the weekends, but if you make a suit I’m all for it. We had the number one tux for colleges and weddings.”

The company also launched a women’s line under license from Jordache, which Brown said Fubu “launched in a big way with Macy’s.”

Founding designer Daymond John and Elliott Lavigne of Jordache pose with a model from Fubu's debut women's sportswear collection for fall 1998.

Founding designer Daymond John and Elliott Lavigne of Jordache pose with a model in a look from Fubu’s debut women’s sportswear collection for fall 1998.

“We got a lot of support from women,” he continued. “What I see online, it looks like women have really embraced our brand in a way.”

At the turn of the century, Fubu introduced a “Platinum” line offering “novelty” products, according to Martin, featuring things like cartoon characters of real-life figures like the Harlem Globetrotters and the late Muhammad Ali, and fictional characters like Fat Albert and the junkyard gang. The company also produced a collection for the NBA before retro shirts became a trend and launched fragrances with Inter Parfums Inc.

As far as the brand always associated with music is concerned, Fubu established a multimedia arm in 2001 called FB Entertainment and operated a record label called FB Records that produced a compilation album called “The Good Life” on Universal Records and a 54th Platoon album called “Everything or nothing”. Both albums charted on the Billboard 200.

But the overexposure ended up hurting Fubu, and the markdowns impacted the brand’s perception among consumers. As streetwear shifted to international and skate brands, Fubu pulled back from the US market in 2006, switching to a new line called Crown Holder, which operated for three years and topped $20 million in sales. Then, Fubu resurfaced in 2010 to cater to “a younger and more diverse audience than the original lineup,” as WWD reported in 2009.

Efforts to maintain momentum were still somewhat subdued, but Fubu again enjoyed success on its 25th anniversary in 2017, releasing a capsule collection with Urban Outfitters and collaborations with Puma, Ebbets Field, Chalk Line and Pyer Moss. In 2019, the brand was relaunched at Century 21.

Between Fubu’s first US departure in 2006 and this major milestone, each of the co-founders explored other activities. John has been a regular guest on ABC’s award-winning reality show “Shark Tank” since its debut in 2009; Perrin operates Fubu Radio, an Atlanta-based station that began in 2015 and is available 24/7 via the app; In April, Martin launched For Us By Us Network, a U.S. video-on-demand streaming platform made with Verizon and Comcast, on Amazon Prime, Apple, SamsungTV and Roku, with shows like “Making of Saucy Santana” starring great names. rapper Saucy Santana recently appeared on Teen Vogue.

“Everything we’ve done is a natural ripening,” Martin said. “We started out as kids just trying to figure it out. We were entrepreneurs back then and we started when it was super hard.”

Fubu co-founders

Fubu Carlton Brown co-founders Keith Perrin, Daymond John and J. Alexander Martin.

Fubu is not often mentioned alongside companies like Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein, but its impact on American fashion and culture is more than relevant and necessary to consider. When you look at the heights that streetwear has reached, taking on top global luxury fashion houses through collaborations and art direction, and used as rebranding or marketing tools for other industries such as automotive companies that turned to the late Virgil Abloh to add a design touch. Mercedes-Benz, and the same for Ronnie Fieg for BMW and Teddy Santis for Porsche, you can trace this back to Fubu and the urbanwear pioneers.

“We believe we have as much credibility as any brand on the market,” Brown said. “We feel we’ve done enough to earn our right in American history. We know we are comparable and we have history and longevity, but it took time for some people to place that value on us like other brands. It’s nothing new for us, but it’s always been that way. I think people need the documentary and the movie [though there was no word of this being in the works]. Seeing it and getting some visuals would be impactful.”

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