Born as Carl Williams, Karl Kani is a fashion designer and the founder and CEO of the Hip Hop clothing line, Karl Kani. He was born in Brooklyn in 1968 and launched Karl Kani clothing company in 1989.
Carl Williams was never formally trained in tailoring and design. He learned it on his own and by sixteen he was creating designs that he would bring to the tailor and observe exactly how to execute them. His street appeal hip hop designs were gaining exposure in the local clubs and the streets and soon, Carl Williams was taking orders out of the back of his car. After a few failed attempts at opening a store in Los Angeles and then Hollywood, Williams looked to a different approach.
Karl Kani got his big break when he paid a friend to hold up a sign with the company name at “The Today Show”. Calls started rolling in and soon, Karl Kani got its big break. In 1990, Karl Kani met Carl Jones (founder of Threads 4 Life Corp.) at a Cross Colours fashion show and they formed a two year partnership and expanded the fashion line, which predominantly catered to the African American youth.
Karl Kani used his $500,000 in profits to launch Karl Kani Infinity and soon, after conversations with NBA stars, he had the idea of starting a Big and Tall line. In 1995, he launched his line in Big & Tall stores across the country.
After problems with counterfeiters, Karl Kani switched from using his signature on the pants to affixing them with a metal and leather plate. The switch was a huge success and this new line was his best selling yet.
The success of Karl Kani led him to expand his label to include a women’s line called Kani Ladies in 2001. He has been deemed the ‘Godfather of Urban Fashion’ and in 2002, Karl Kani received the ‘Urban Fashion Pioneer Award’ for his lifetime work in the Urban Fashion Awards.