Karl Kani


Who are you, and what do you do?

The legendary Karl Kani (né Carl Williams) has truly gone from rags to riches. Growing up in Brooklyn Kani’s style was inspired by Hip-Hop and street culture; apparel in this aesthetic was nowhere to be found. Without adequate clothing options, 16-year old Williams decided to make his own clothes. Friends and strangers took notice of his unique threads, and Williams soon began taking orders. He yearned to take this hobby to the next level and would ask himself the question, “Can I do it?” With more and more demand from the public for his wares, he gained the confidence to move forward. He eventually answered that incessant question, “Yes I can,” and committed himself to the challenge by legally changing his name to Karl Kani.

Known as the architect of Urban Fashion, he now finds himself looking over the billion dollar industry that he created. He is a visionary of many firsts: the first to develop the baggy jean concept, the first urban fashion company to employ an all-black sales force, the first designer to host a fashion show at the White House during President Bill Clinton’s term, yet above all, he is the first black American to spread Urban Fashion globally!! Today, Karl Kani sits as CEO of all his brand companies where he serves as the sole designer, choosing fabric, overseeing production and spearheading all marketing while owning all trademarks to his brand world-wide. The Karl Kani brand can be found in high-end boutiques throughout the United States, 12 flagship Karl Kani stores in Japan and in over 30 in-store shops across the UK, Italy, Germany, France, Russia, Belgium, Denmark, Croatia, etc.

What forms of media have influenced you the most?

I read a lot, my designs are influenced by taking art masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa and then allowing the vibe of mainstream hip hop music to guide my creative development.

What hardware / software do you use?

We keep it vintage.. (laugh) … I sketch out my designs. No technology. We are changing this though. Although my method is effective we are interested in 3D technology. This will help us with not having to do samples of our designs to show our buyers, we can simply show them a 3D image. For us to do a physical sample it usually takes 2 months from the time I get my designs to production. This is too long and makes our sales cycles difficult.

What would be your dream creative setup?

When my design team and I are flying outside of the country I’m the most productive: Ideas are flowing and I have designers there to execute with no distractions. No cell phones, emails, meeting requests, kids, etc.

Co-Founder at Constructed By. Student at University of Wisconsin - Madison studying Business with a focus in Marketing and Accounting.