In 1989, the Black-owned streetwear company Cross Colours literally exploded onto the fashion scene. The immediate success was unexpected not only by the two founders–Carl Jones and Thomas Walker–but also by the fashion world.
The company’s trademark oversized garments became a favorite with hip-hop stars and fans, and changed the way young people dressed.
The pair created new men’s specifications, making a medium size an XXL is size, and the clothes’ color blocking and color denim styling were more than eye-catching. Everything was sized up–the pants, the shorts, the jackets,
“We changed the secs; even the NBA started to wear their shorts longer and baggier,” noted Jones in a 2016 interview with Vlad TV.
The pair had fashion dreams but were needed a look. So the West Coast-based budding entrepreneurs took a trip to New York City, home of hip hop at the time to see what was popular in streetwear. They noted the bagginess of the clothes and decided to play up on the style–only baggier.
“We just rode the Subway. We sat there and rode from Harlem to Brooklyn just watching the kids and what they wore. They were wearing these huge baggy pants that they belted – the pants were 38 and the kid was probably a size 30. We looked at them and thought it was interesting,” Walker said on the company’s website.
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They came up with designs and showed a buyer at Macy’s department chain store. “She had blond hair and blue eyes; if she liked it, I know we have something” that will sell to the masses, Jones told Vlad.
She did, and the two went to work to prepare samples for an upcoming trade show to present to fashion buyers from around the world. Self-funded, the two had a lot riding on the trade show.
“I put in like $300,000 of my own money,” Jones told Vlad, saying he opted for self funding because he said he didn’t have any hopes banks would lend to a young, Black-owned company. “It was scary; it was a lot of my money,” admitted Jones.
The trade show was an overwhelming success, and Jones’ $300,000 investments turned into $20 million in sales in less than three days.
This was in 1991 and at the famed Las Vegas Magic trade show.
“We must have had 80 buyers lined up to see our clothes,” remembered Jones.
Not only was the fashion world now on board so was the hip-hop world. Someone introduced the company’s designs to Will Smith, who was the star of the hit show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” at the time. He loved the clothes and started wearing them on air. Then, the designs wound up in rap video after rap video.
The business partners sold the company in 1985, and Jones founded Surf Fetish, a trendy beachwear concern. Jones and Walker won back the Cross Colors trademark, and dropped a limited edition Cross Colors line in 2014. Cross Colours is now seeing a resurgence with music artists like Drake, Rihanna, Cardi B, Billie Eilish wearing the designs.
Carl Jones, screenshot from Vlad TV, Aug. 8, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkK7lEtQJIw