He says it's taken blood, sweat and tears to push his line of men's sportswear to the cutting edge of international fashion.
Mr. John, 29, and his four friends and co-founders Carl Brown, J. Alexander Martin and Keith Perrin, started FUBU-For Us By Us-in 1992 in a New York apartment. The brand gained attention when Mr. John's pal, LL Cool J, agreed to wear the clothes. But last year, the brand experienced healthy growth as it expanded distribution in Federated Department Stores, J.C. Penney Co. and May's stores as well as Venator Worldwide's Foot Locker division and Champs Sports.
Marketing strategy is handled in-house-much like early fashion pieces Mr. John and his co-founders stitched themselves.
Every month the group sits down and reviews its advertising plan. Mr. John is determined that marketing keep pace with his consumers, so it's not unusual for the strategy to be redirected.
Meetings are open-door and opinions are sought-but ultimately its Mr. John's vision for the brand that must be executed. From creative to media placement, the FUBU team handles its own ads.
"We never deal with agencies-it's all in-house," says Mr. John. "All the agencies we met with do not understand our lifestyle."
Lifestyle-as it is reflected in the advertising-is the hub of the fashion statement made by FUBU's consumers.
"If I could describe it, I'd have an agency in a second," he says. "The lifestyle changes in a millisecond."
FUBU also has the National Basketball Association license for its line of athletic wear and Mr. John says that was his most significant move last year.
The decision to initiate TV advertising on BET and MTV last year "made a lot of people familiar with the product," he says. Print spending also was boosted to include upscale publications like Details, Essence, Rolling Stone and Spin.
As the founders mature, so does their clothing line; suits, intimate apparel, button-down shirts, slacks, sweaters and turtlenecks are all part of the plan.
As for his marketing plan, "We are in the process of putting together an outdoor