5. Karl Kani

Karl Kani, was hip hop’s first fashion mogul. Before there was Phat Farm, Sean Jean or Roca Wear, every relevant hip hop artist in the 90’s and early 2000’s was either rocking or giving shout outs to Karl Kani. Born Carl Williams, the son of a Costa Rican mother and Panamanian father, he came from humble beginnings in Brooklyn, New York (prior to the current hipster haven era). At a young age Karl dreamt of combining his passion for Hip Hop music and fashion. At age 16, Williams started designing clothes after learning the essential handcraft at his father’s company. He never studied tailoring or design, but had a natural talent for creating unusual concepts. He would buy material and tell a tailor exactly how he wanted his garments to look. “For a relatively small sum”, as he put it, “I had a fresh outfit that nobody had.” The outfits caught people’s attention, so much so they asked Williams to make an outfits for them, before he knew it he was taking orders and selling out of his car. After many fits and starts, as the story goes, Williams enlisted a friend to hold up a sign with his label’s name on it in front of The Today Show during a live taping. Presto Karl Kani was on the map and the rest as they say is history. Several iterations of the Kani brand would be released, millions made and awards garnered. Williams was named on the 100 richest African-Americans by People Magazine, Black Enterprise Magazine named Karl Kani Infinity Corporation the most successful African-American owned firms worldwide in 1996 and Kani was also honored with an ‘Urban Fashion Pioneer Award’ for his lifetime achievements during the Urban Fashion Awards.

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