For us, by us.
You’ve heard the phrase, you know the story, you remember the brand. Yes, F.U.B.U. may have been the first brand to basically tell everyone that this fashion line is for a particular audience and yes, you’re wearing clothes meant for others, yet, you find it stylish without realizing that it wasn’t initially meant for you.
Who would have thought that a blatant form of marketing would have hit the way it did? Do you remember the first official spokesperson of the company, LL Cool J? How about F.U.B.U. getting free advertisement on a commercial without anyone realizing it? Yes, that F.U.B.U. cap worn by James Todd Smith while endorsing and appearing in a GAP commercial is classic!
Now, meet one of the four men responsible for the company that encouraged countless other entrepreneurs to chase their dreams in fashion. Yes, you may see the “shark” Daymond John weekly on ABC, but, don’t get it twisted. Co-founder J. Alexander Martin is still on the scene and still making it happen!
BlackEnterprise.com: Let’s go back a few years. Did you and your partners in F.U.B.U. have any idea how successful you all would be? And I mean to the extent of how popular you are and, of course, the financial benefits?
J. Alexander Martin: In order to answer that question you need to go back to the origin. I quit Macy’s and said, “The day I step back in this place I will be selling to you.” So I guess I knew something they didn’t. I was accused of possibly hiding a $19.99 tie when I had access to ties worth over 5 times more. Not only did I sell to them, I was the first urban company to grace their windows. Somehow I knew my destiny was to be in fashion in some capacity. To the magnitude of being in textbooks, having a waxed figure in the great waxed black museum and receiving an Essence Award, maybe not.
Could you tell us what you are working on now?
I am working hard on giving back. I mentor entrepreneurs. I work diligently with the National Black Chamber of Commerce to help finance small and medium businesses. I created a show called “Afashionmind,” that brings entrepreneurs and established businesses together to invest and consult them.
What do you attribute your longevity in the business to?
My creative directing ability attributes to my longevity in fashion. My innate ability to foreshadow new trends as well as create them keeps the business flourishing.
I’m sure many didn’t know you had a military background and served in Desert Storm, how did serving in the Navy help you when it comes to business?
There’s the methodology of paying attention to detail. I attest is the only thing I learned while there. Second was the the traveling which opened my eyes to the world. I have a entrepreneurial spirit which is counter-intuitive to the military.
When you are making business decisions nowadays, given your experience, what determines a good solid decision for you, what is it based on?
Business decisions are based on the facts at hand. The ability to assess a situation and react is key in business. I read a lot, I also have years of experience in business under stressful situations. A great mind sees a problem as a solution, a failure as an achievement.
What have you done, that you were told you couldn’t do, that you did, that you sometimes sit back and think to yourself, “Wow, I pulled that off!?”
Every season I have to create a line. I have to create it from concept to design and ultimately retail. Every season I have to top the previous season. Creatively, you take 1 look, photo, color etc., and create something the masses are going to like a year in advance. After it’s in the stores and is selling, I give sales the “I told you so.”
I see on your Website, AFashionMind.com, you use the tagline: “We do things the old Fashion Way.” I’m sure there is a meaning behind it, would you care to share?
Afashionmind is a way of thinking. Seeing fashion in all things and situations and carrying yourself with ‘a fashion mind.’ I was raised that you have to be able to go uptown and downtown. I walked into a room and everybody paused. It’s not necessarily what I wore, but how I wore it. A woman had grace and style. Those are the old-fashion attributes that contribute to ‘Afashionminded’ sense of style.
You tend to give back to the community, can you tell us about “Made For Men” and also speak about the type of things you do to give back?
I am on the board of Career Gear. It’s a foundation that supplies suits to men entering the workforce. It also provides training to help in that transition. I personally mentor those who reach out to me via social media, email and public speaking engagements.
As if you haven’t done enough, what’s J. Alexander Martin doing in the future?
In television, I have a few projects in the works. I am also putting together a menswear line. I also can’t forget the book entitled Afashionmind of course.