But fashion is notoriously fickle. What happens when your brand falls out of favor?
The lifespan of a brand is three to five years, and from 1995 to 2004 people had about 10 years’ worth of FUBU in their closets. It was the brand that your uncle or dad wore, so you don’t want that to be your brand as you grow older. We understood that. So we pulled it out of the market and started concentrating overseas. It became the No. 1 brand in South Korea and Saudi Arabia—they really loved our culture. During that time I acquired Coogi, DrunknMunky, Willie Esco–about 10 brands. Now all the kids are requesting FUBU because the ’80s and ’90s styles are coming back, so we’re slowly bringing it back into the market.
What has the process taught you?
It’s a learning curve, and the only thing that costs more than education is ignorance. At my first trade show in Vegas I got $400,000 worth of orders for FUBU. It was amazing, but you have to understand the ignorance. I had suitcases ready to pack my money. But it was just an order, not cash. I had to figure out how to fill these orders, fund them, and ship them. I had to go back home and take out a second mortgage on my home. If you don’t invest time in learning the business, you will make grave mistakes that you may not be able to get out of.