Fashion Freakers [Article]
Being a writer, entrepreneur and cultural commentator have finally come together for me. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Jonathon “Bizz” Brown. I co-own the line of t-shirts that read “Hip-Hop Ain’t Dead It Lives In The North,” and am heavily involved in documenting our urban scene. For this series of articles, I’m reaching out to other clothing companies to hear their stories, explore their appeal and give them their due attention. While I take pride in my own endeavors, I also respect these companies for what they bring to the table. With genuine, journalistic curiosity, I talk, listen and learn about their journeys.
Toronto, ON – Fashion Freakers is flamboyant, edgy, quirky and in your face, qualities some might also use to describe owner and founder Chris Hughes. Their signature t-shirt reads “Broke Billionaire, For The Man With Big Dreams and Small Pockets,” and is the foundation of a business almost ten years in the making. After producing custom t-shirts for celebrities, Hughes conceived the slogan five years ago, long before the current financial crunch and has stuck with it ever since.
“It’s the backbone of the company and it’s something that sells so why would I stop?” says Hughes from his home in Toronto.
Sticking to a single concept speaks to Hughes confidence not only in its message, but in his ability to market whatever he’s doing. For instance, last year he teamed up with Shanuk of Localhusters.com to produce an online reality show “Respect My Hustle.” With a full tank of gas, no money or credit cards and a car full of t-shirts, they hit the road and sold merchandise on the streets of Montreal, Niagara Falls and Toronto. In order to sleep in a warm bed, eat meals, and get back home, they had to sell t-shirts. Videotaping each road trip, they tossed it online and created a unique viral marketing campaign. In essence, the message of the t-shirt was personified in his own initiative and fearlessness.
“A lot of people have big dreams and get themselves no where and they are bankrupt,” says Hughes firmly. “My shirts are for someone who wants positive attention, to get a laugh; they are hard working individuals that actually want to become something.”
Hughes was on the road an hour after he came up with the idea. For some this might sound a little haphazard. Who in their right mind drops everything to go on a road trip with no money? Someone who wants to demonstrate the power of his dream – Chris Hughes.
There’s been other initiatives as well. Using Fashionfreakers.com as a hub for his online presence, Hughes did photoshoots with Jerry Sokoloski, Canada’s tallest man, posted video blogs with local artists such as Bishop Brigante and done custom pieces for The Game, Juelz Santana, Nelly, Paul Wall and Nas.
“The marketing side is the most fun. I think we could put out a shirt with a big red dot on it and get people wearing it,” says Hughes in a dead serious tone.
When asked about being a leader in Canadian fashion, Hughes is quick to draw a line in the sand.
“I wouldn’t call myself a clothing line right now, I’d call myself a t-shirt manufacturer,” says Hughes. “I consider myself unique and different. I don’t want these companies following me. Let’s just say I’m different.”
Editor’s note: For more information on Fashion Freakers check out http://www.fashionfreakers.com.