He Founded the label in 28 years ago and brought on Keith Perrin, Alexander Martin and Carlton Brown who were his friends as partners. Daymond John, a business mogul and judge on ABC TV show Shark Tank, branded the bottle-popping Fubu presence in rap videos to multi million dollar deals.
The biggest error we made with the brand was buying more inventory than we needed. This was like 10 years later after we launch FUBU," said Daymond John.
It was in over 5,000 stores with yearly sales more than $350million. Fubu was always built on hip-hop culture. When we came up with the name, we were thinking about how we spend so much money making other brands rich, but it wasn't only meant for black people," said Perrin. "We were attempting to state that we are of the way of life and for it
After co-opting a Gap commercial via LL Cool J in 1999, outfitting pop acts like *NSYNC, and spending $5 million to make The Good Life, a compilation album under Universal—remember "Fatty Girl?"—the team decided to retreat from the U.S. market in 2003.
That doesn't mean Fubu was removed from the cultural social awareness. A second season in a very Donald Glover's Atlanta series, an episode titled "FUBU" followed a younger Earn, who purchased a Fubu jersey that he and a classmate wore on the same day, which led to a humiliating game of "which one is fake?" that lasted until classes were dismissed.
But Fubu didn't really capitalize on these moments. They've made endeavors at rebounds and relaunches in the course of the most recent few years, and teamed up with brands and retailers including Puma, Pyer Moss, and Urban Outfitters, yet Keith Perrin said that was simply trying things out.
Now, after a Century 21 partnership, it clear they're legitimately back. They've created collections that will sit in the retailer's Next Century space, which has a separate entrance on Dey Street in Lower Manhattan. Next Century is known to cater for younger consumers interested in streetwear and a curated selection of limited designer pieces.
Looking like a smart move, Carlton Brown agreed that working with Century 21 covered a variety of bases. Firstly, it's a retailer that resonates with the team, especially where we all grew up in New York. But it's also a way to reintroduce the brand to a younger customer—the core targets are 18-to-34-year-olds—give a wistful call to older generation to remember it, and connect with international tourists who are also familiar with Fubu. While Fubu has been big in the U.S., it's been able to sustain itself with a series of international licenses internationally where Daymond said Fubu is positioned as a skate brand.
"I assume overseas respects and values the hip-hop culture in America, and Fubu is synonymous with hip-hop and streetwear," said John. "But today I consider Fubu American classics. I mean, there was a time after we had a extremely made bedding line."
"We feel this can be huge for the brand and we are just scratching the surface" said Carlton. "Fubu is not just a clothing line. It's radio, television, and hotels. It's a lifestyle that can play many categories."
Fubu was the face of the rap game and did huge numbers to back it up during the late '90s and 2000s and that phase went away. But unlike many of their peers, Fubu's founders, who also own Coogi and at one point had the license for Kappa in North America, have always maintained ownership of their label. They were in a very influenced Samsung space and that helped with distribution, but that's no longer in effect.
“What makes the Samsung story interesting was it was like a record deal - they told us if you make $5 million in your first year, you can keep your name. In the fall of 1996 and the spring of 1997, we did $30 million," said Brown. " Their factory manufactured our goods, we own our masters."
Whether they will sell the business in the future is undecided, although Perrin wanted to make it clear that the brand isn't only for people of color.