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Karl Kani

Global Fashion Icon

The legendary Karl Kani has truly gone from rags to riches. 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 first…the first to develop the baggy jean concept, the first urban fashion company to employ an all-black sales…

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The legendary Karl Kani has truly gone from rags to riches. 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 first…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 Karl & Kai Kani, Inc. & Karl Kani, USA Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, Kani serves as the sole designer, choosing fabric, overseeing production and spearheading all marketing while owning all trademarks to his brand world-wide.

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. In 1989, under his new moniker, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue this passion more seriously.

At the 1991 MAGIC Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, he met Carl Jones of Cross Colours. Without hesitation, Jones had Kani head up his own division and create collections under the name Karl Kani. Between 1991 and 1994, Kani brought in 40% of Colours’ total earnings.  In 1994 Kani left the Cross Colours to start his own label.  In 2002, Kani introduced “Life”, a new clothing line that earned Kani the Urban Fashion Pioneer Award.

In that same year, Kani was requested at the White House to present his collection to President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, cabinet staffers, and others during the Afro-Latino Summit Briefing. The brand has more than its share of fans. Karl Kani has adorned Will Smith, LL Cool J, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Ed Lover (and the rest of the Hip-Hop Greats). All of whom still pay homage to Kani by either following in his footsteps in creating their own fashion labels or proudly donning his clothing. Celebrities have stylishly flaunted his clothing on the pages of Us Weekly, Essence, The Source and XXL’s Hip-Hop Soul. Kani has been covered editorially in WWD, The Los Angeles Times, The Source, Fortune, Black Enterprise, People, Vibe, and XXL.

Today the Karl Kani brand has spread internationally throughout 25 countries in Europe and 13 flagship stores in Japan, including one in Harajuku, and unlike many other high-end brands Karl Kani has stayed true to his label. His passion for quality, design and craftsmanship has meant that, Kani continues to produce all his garments in the US. 

Major Accomplishments:

    Company of the Year – Black Enterprise Magazine
    Top 100 Richest African Americans – People Magazine
    Top 15 Most Definitive Sportswear Brands – Vibe Magazine
    Top 50 Most Influential People in Fashion – Sportswear Magazine
    First fashion designer to have their sneakers branded on NBA players
    2002 Recipient of Urban Fashion Pioneer Award for his lifetime achievements
    First fashion designer invited to the White House to showcase their line to the President

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