Founded in 1992, Fubu began by selling fashions that were instantaneously popular with young African-American men. But it has grown into a $350 million company by becoming popular with urban wannabes: the white suburban mall rat.
"Fubu is certainly in growth mode and [has] broader-base appeal than the rappers and their following," said PaineWebber apparel analyst Richard Jaffe.
When white teen pop acts such as 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys show up onstage wearing Fubu, he said, then it can be assumed that the brand has reached deep into suburbia.
Now, after only seven years in business, Fubu's Collection plans to expand into all areas of men's and women's clothing and into a chain of stores. Maybe it will even have its own advertising agency someday.
The company, which originally sold hand-sewn hats on the streets of New York, also has plans to introduce Fubu watches for the holiday season, eyewear in the spring and possibly a line of intimate apparel.
Perhaps its biggest venture is still ahead: a chain of Fubu stores, with a Manhattan flagship due in spring. The company eventually plans to open 30 worldwide.
All these plans may sound ambitious, but nobody at Fubu is too cocky, said company President Daymond John.
"We're nervous every day," he said.
They're not the only ones. The company has a tendency to run late on its production schedule, which allows it to make its apparel line as up-to-the-minute as possible. But that gives retailers angst.
What started out as a mistake has now become "our M.O.," said Mr. John, and works to give Fubu a reputation as a design house on the cutting edge.
The company's work was readily accepted as fashion-forward even during its more humble beginnings. Mr. John -- and friends/partners J. Alexander Martin, Carl Brown and Keith Perrin -- worked out of his house making the first Fubu collection of T-shirts, jerseys and baseball caps. At one point, Mr. John took out a mortgage on his home in Hollis, Queens, in order to fund the business.
Early on, the company attracted a following among rap musicians. Fubu's first celebrity client, rapper LL Cool J, even snuck in the company's "For us, by us" tag into his rap in a TV spot for The Gap by wearing a Fubu baseball cap.
But the big turning point came in 1995, when Samsung America invested in the company and helped turn Fubu from a home-grown business with five employees to an enterprise with 60 staffers and a Manhattan showroom.
INSPIRATION FROM CUSTOMERS
Today, as Fubu continues to grow, company executives insist it won't lose its focus. Inspiration doesn't come from market research but from customer and retailer feedback, Mr. John said.
The look of the clothing and its marketing strategy comes directly from Team Fubu, as the four-person management group is known. In spite of the growth, the company still does all advertising in-house, which today includes print and outdoor ads, as well as events and promotions.
The company went into cyberspace in its latest promotion, a high-tech window display in Macy's New York flagship store that promotes the brand and its support of an urban lifestyle portal on the Internet.
The display, which opened Sept. 22, lets visitors e-mail the Fubu team until Oct. 18 through touch-screen computers set up in the store.
Mr. John said there are no immediate plans to hire an agency. Over the years, Fubu has launched several agency reviews, he said, but it hasn't found a shop that understands the Fubu brand.
MAY SPIN OFF IN-HOUSE SHOP
He said that Fubu someday may spin off its own advertising group into an agency that could also handle other clients.
A former apparel-company executive commented that Fubu has done everything right, including getting financial backing to expand and retaining its anti-establishment image while expanding. And he credits the founding foursome for keeping up the image in their advertising and in interviews and public appearances.
"They have gone big without relinquishing their image," the executive said. "The people who buy their stuff don't think of them as establishment, although they're establishment now."
Could that success spoil Fubu and make it unhip to the hip-hop crowd? Mr. John doesn't worry about becoming just another clothing brand.
If Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren can be megabrands, so can Fubu, he said.
"If I become another brand like Ralph Lauren," Mr. John said, "it's not bad at