In a recent interview with Sylvia Burley of Hip Hop Enquirer magazine, co-founder of FUBU Carl Brown, one of the biggest urban fashion lines of the 90’s discussed their new hair care line, Natural Style by FUBU, and the conversation covered everything from who owns the brand (don’t believe the hype) to why it makes perfect sense for a fashion house to get into the hair care industry.
Carl Brown’s creative vision helped revolutionize the sportswear industry . As Co-founder, of FUBU–”For Us, By Us”—Brown help create a distinctive line of jerseys, jeans, outerwear, and a host of other related gear and accessories with a decidedly urban style to them. FUBU’ s phenomenal success has made mainstream apparel companies realize the potential for fashionable sportswear that appeals not just to trendsetting urban youth, but to copycat mainstream teens as well.
Raised in Hollis Queens New York, Carl is Co-Founder of a company that earned $350 million in revenues in 1998, placing it nearly in the same stratosphere as such designer sportswear labels as Donna Karan New York and Tommy Hilfiger. FUBU signed a deal with the National Basketball Association (NBA) to make FUBU “NBA” gear, and launched a separate line of women’s apparel called FUBU Ladies. Not surprisingly, despite his incredible success, Carl remains humble. He told New York Daily News that the most cherished perk of financial success “is being able to control your destiny day to day.”
FUBU (For Us, By Us), founded in 1992 by Brown and his partners J. Alexander Martin, Keith Perrin, and Daymond John (who has become a household name thanks to the ABC series Shark Tank), started out as an urban-style casual and sportswear line, but has grown to include a suit collection, eyewear, belts and shoes.
Brown insists FUBU, which has grossed as much as $350 million in annual worldwide sales, is still going strong in the states and he and his partners have retained full ownership of the company. He believes what confused people is their manufacturing and distribution deal with Samsung which allowed them to expand overseas.
“No, we didn’t leave the US market. I think that when it comes to fashion, especially trends such as FUBU…there’s a life span so, while we were at the top of the food chain, we made a lot of investments and did a lot of licensing deals on the international level because we knew that our window was limited. We didn’t pull out, we still do huge business with Walmart. I think at this point, if not their bestselling shoe, we’re in the top two. So, we still do some limited business here in the United States.”
“We never really left as a corporation, our name just hasn’t been in the forefront. We own COOGI which has had a very long run the last ten years and we’ll be re-launching that in the next year. We own a stake in Etonic sneakers that’s launching this fall, we’re doing a soft launch now. So, we’ve had shares in several different, big ventures, but obviously when people think of us four guys, the first thing they think about is FUBU, which is fine, and we love FUBU, but we do have our hands in a lot of other things.”
“I appreciate you addressing the ownership part because although it may not be important to some people, to us it means a lot because we put our blood, sweat and tears into the brand and to say that someone else owns it kind of hurts and takes away from what we worked for. So, we do own the company. Now, if anyone wants to buy it… (laughs)”
The newest venture, Natural Style by FUBU, is Brown’s brainchild, and having seen how lucrative the hair care industry can be due to a previous partnership, he is hedging his bets that there is room for another hair care line, especially one that is black owned.
“Natural Style by FUBU is geared towards African-American women and we feel that the ingredients we have will work for you whether you’re wearing a wig or extensions, or you wear your hair natural or permed, or you’re in transition. The Miracle9Complex is our signature formula and is a blend of natural oils like Shea butter, olive, coconut and jojoba oils, and pomegranate.”
“For men we have a pomade, a 3-in-1 body wash that is also a shampoo and conditioner (so guys don’t need 3 and 4 bottles in the shower) and a lotion that is also a conditioner.”
Brown says fashion house FUBU’s foray into the hair care business makes perfect sense, hence the tag line “Hair is fashion, and fashion is our heritage.”
“I see a lot of people asking why FUBU is entering the hair care market when we’re a clothing line, which is a fair question. You have to evolve as a corporation, and we always said hair… when it comes to fashion, they are connected. Hair IS fashion.”
Be sure to check out FUBU’s newest business venture by clicking here.
Follow Carl Brown on twitter @DaRealCarlBrown