We worked long and hard to track down some of the feature and cover story subjects of earlier issues of black enterprise. Some you met for the first time here; others you got to know on a more intimate basis through our pages.
It’s a diverse group that includes one of the nation’s hottest clothing manufacturers, a financial wizard of a Fortune 500 corporation, the mother-and-daughter management team of a leading black haircare company, and a politician with White House aspirations. Many have had to wrestle with hardship since you heard from them last, but most are still going strong, delving into new career opportunities and launching bold ventures. Here’s the low-down.
Known for: The top brand in urban apparel B.E. milestone: The 1993 BE 100s Company of the Year What happened: Forced to shut down the company’s manufacturing operations
What’s next: Principals are trying their hands again in the apparel industry
Cross Colours. Ever wondered what happened to the bright yellow and green logo of Cross Colours? It adorned everything from bomber jackets to baseball caps. One of the first companies to make urban gear fashionable from the ‘hood to the ‘burbs, it burst on the scene as something of a supernova:
A member of the be 100s Freshman Class of 1992, Solo Joint Inc., the parent company of the Cross Colours line, grossed $15 million in sales. In one year, the revenues of the concern (renamed Threads 4 Life Corp. d/b/a Cross Colours) soared to $89 million, a whopping 493.3% jump. The red-hot apparel manufacturer had risen from No. 80 on the 1992 be Industrial/Service 100 list to No. 10, earning the distinction of being the be growth leader and the be 100s Company of the Year in 1993.
“Basically it was like hitting the lottery. It just exploded overnight,” says Carl Jones, the founder and former president. “It was just overwhelming, and the supply could not keep up with the demand.” By 1995, the company had fallen off the be Industrial/Service 100 list. (One Threads 4 Life spin-off, Karl Kani Infinity, is No. 32 on the be Industrial/Service 100 list.)
Soon after reaching such lofty heights, Cross Colours came crashing down. When the company’s biggest customer, retailer Merry-Go-Round, went bankrupt, the company shut down its capital-intensive manufacturing operation, laying off nearly 200 employees. The management then sold the Cross Colours name to other clothing makers.
But, the brand Cross Colours is still around. New York-based Stage II Apparel Corp. acquired the trademark in May 1999, and a new Cross Colours line is slated to debut in 2001.
Jones, who operates from Los Angeles, is currently working on an self-titled clothing line he describes as “upscale streetwear.” And Thomas “T.J.” Walker, who served as the company’s vice president of product development, and Davide Stennett, the former vice president of marketing, have teamed up to launch Los Angeles-based Modisch, a line of men’s and women’s contemporary sportswear. Both lines are expected to be unveiled this year.
Observers will be wondering whether lightning can strike twice for the Cross