What started off as a fashion driven #throwbackthursdays post via my persona Instagram: (@konnectshun) over a month ago – actually led to a remarkable conversation with Olina Bishop, the social media face for Cross Colours. Blown by the fact that she noticed my funky fresh high school photo, I couldn’t help but request an interview with her boss, Carl Jones, the man behind the classic brand.
When I told my peers via Facebook that I was going to connect with the Cross Colours maven, many were in disbelief. If you are a 60’s or 70’s baby, you will understand the impact that Cross Colours attire had within any hood, USA. Today, with so many urban wear lines to choose from in the marketplace, it’s hard to really focus on the forefathers of fashion. Don’t sleep. Full steam ahead, Cross Colours is still in the mix. The line has not retired. In fact, they are just as hot as ever in their b-boy stance. If you don’t believe us – ask pop queen Rihanna, the modern day fashion icon. She got the memo.
I was able to catch up with Carl Jones a little while back about his brand’s legacy and where they currently place in the fashion game. Take a peek at my exclusive conversation about all things Cross Colours.
@Konnectshun: So Rihanna was recently on the scene rocking Cross Colours. How do you feel?
Carl Jones: Rihanna was wearing one of our jackets – that was fantastic, that really blew me away to see Rihanna! I don’t think today, you could get any better than that.
@Konnectshun: For sure. Rihanna is the ultimate trendsetter, so for her to look to your brand says a lot.
Carl Jones: I am still on a high from that shock. I got chills when I saw it. It’s big.
Carl Jones, Cross Colours CEO
@Konnectshun: What was your initial inspiration behind the brand? Take it back to the beginning.
Carl Jones: The whole inspiration behind the brand stems from being in the fashion business, right out of high school, and going to art school and learning more about fashion, patterns and really having a good understanding of the business. I started in the business as a graphic artist and printer. I even had a printing company. I did my learning from other people about timing and fashion – and looking at the whole industry and retailers and how the business works. I just felt like there was nothing being done from a street point of view. Nothing from the streets or from the ghetto that would talk to people from the streets with a street like style, or that would talk to people into Hip Hop. There was no dress code or formula in my eyes at that time that touched that nerve or related to that customer. And plus, I noticed at that time that there were very few black models used in the industry at all, especially men. After I began to use them in my ads and we became hot, then all of a sudden I saw Ralph Lauren use Tyson Beckford. He was the first black model I saw on any major campaign.
It opened up a whole new world for fashion and for the business. I see a lot of minorities being employed in the fashion business today. I think the industry realizes that the ethnic and black consumer is relevant to business. This customer spends billions of dollars. Street wear is very relevant. It is going in many different directions, which I am very excited to see. It sort of died out for a minute, with Hip Hop, but it seems to be coming back very strong with things like Revolt TV. Its an exciting time and good time to bring it back.
@Konnectshun: Do you feel like the fashion business is over saturated with street wear?
Carl Jones: Every young person and artist has a clothing line these days. In the 90’s, you know I had no competition then. I was the only guy on the island compared to hundreds of guys on the island now. To be honest, every area of the fashion business is crowded. It is our job as creative people to be different, to be special and to offer product that other people aren’t offering. But that was going to happen anyway. When something becomes new and hot everyone wants in. That’s just the evolution. We are offering something new – but we are retro. People, they come to us for what we have to offer.
@Konnectshun: What do you feel is the current feedback on Cross Colours re-entering the fashion game?
Carl Jones: Retailers and consumers are just amazed that after 20 years we are coming back. What kept our brand going was social media. I think that whole style and look that we showed up with is still popular. Although we were in suspense for 20 years, somehow it was still going on its own through social media. I go into some vintage stores and they carry our product. The brand is still in demand. Even though we have a new generation of kids today – a lot of them know about the brand because of the history, because of their parents, because of what the brand stood for, or maybe because it was the first brand from the ghetto. It was a positive brand – no drugs. It promoted education. We plan to continue to do good things for the community.
@Konnectshun: What advice do you have for teens interested in building a legacy brand?
Carl Jones: My advice would be to make it special. Sell it to the right stores. Market it properly on the right people. Hang it in the right stores. You want good quality. You want a respectful label or brand or name that people will be proud to wear. People, they love our clothes. They are proud to wear it. It stands for something. We are not just a clothing brand. Our clothes stand for good things.
@Konnectshun: How do you incorporate social media into your branding and campaign?
Carl Jones: Looking back at the time we started, there were no smartphones. We were just beginning to use computers and email was just starting. That’s why we have people here like Olina, who is of the young generation and Jordan Jones. It’s important to have that generation here involved with the company and their ideas and relationships and social media concepts. It is important to promote and market any kind of product that you want to make people aware of today. It’s a different game today, however, somehow behind the scene it is sort of the same formula. You still need respect from the right people.
When we first started, people like Will Smith, The Wayans Brothers, when they were doing In Living Color, supported us, Dre and Ed Lover from Yo MTV Raps, Dr. Dre, Snoop before he made his first album – we had so may people who loved what we were doing. They thought the clothing was great. They wanted to wear our products. We have artists today who want to wear our products.
Dr. Dre and Snoop
@Konnectshun: Where do you see Cross Colours in the future?
Carl Jones: We want to place it with the right retailers. We are looking to open our own concept stores. You have to think a little bit different today. To be an important brand today, you have to have retail stores -not that many – but in the most important places – Miami, New York, LA, San Francisco. We are planning on making Cross Colours a global brand, because we think its special, and its one of a kind and its original and from the ghetto. We are only doing what we did before. We are not really trying to set the fashion world on its head. We are just trying to bring back what we did before – bring back good quality and bring back a respect for the brand that was started by African Americans.