Writer: Mark Edwards

 

The culture has had a powerful influence on fashion and streetwear for a long time. This influence can be traced back to the early 20th century. But, while fashion from a black culture has often been adopted into many subsets and cultures, black designers haven’t always had the voice they deserve. 

Carl Jones and TJ Walker are passionate about giving black designers that voice. They have dedicated themselves to mentoring young up-and-coming designers and those interested in breaking into the fashion industry. 

Carl and TJ schedule calls with and gives insight into the fashion and streetwear industry to their mentees. In one such call, Carl and TJ recounted when Cross Colours got its voice.

 

When did you know you had something special when you started Cross Colours?

Carl: ” For me, it was the moment when Davide, our marketing guy, went over to the Fresh Prince show and saw the stylist and Will loved it and wanted to wear it on the show. And two or three days after that, he was wearing it on the show. So that’s, in my heart, my OH! If Will is wearing it, that’s saying a lot. It made me feel more confident in our look, our style, and what we were doing.”

TJ: “One of the big things for me, in terms of when we had something, was when we went to the MAGIC show for the first time. People showed up. Our marketing guy Davide actually had to almost serve as a security guard and let people in a few at a time so we could take orders. To me, that was a time when we made an impact, not just on the customers, but on the industry.”

The “MAGIC show” TJ is speaking on is a trade show that happens twice a year and has been going on since the 1930s. Cross Colours’ appearance was pre-internet and a good marketing and selling opportunity. This is comparable to a drop or release. 

TJ: “No one had ever presented a product the way we had. We presented it as an African American product, from African Americans, for African Americans. I think at that time, we were the first black business at that show. There were no black businesses at that show. There were maybe a handful of black buyers, but the industry changed from multiple perspectives that day. From a fashion perspective, a black employment perspective, and from the perspective of African Americans presenting a product. Because after that day, we weren’t black, we were green.” 

TJ: “There was a demand for us as salespeople, as people, as ideas, as that point of view, as that mentality, as that style, as that look.” 

The success of Cross Colours marked a point in history when black voices were finally starting to be appreciated. This paved the way for many of today's successful black-owned clothing brands.