How Brooklyn New York’s “Hip Hop Closet” Rose Above The Rest in an Era before Online Shopping

With almost 20 years in the game, this brother sister team is out here hustling for their last name. They started an E-Commerce business called hiphopcloset.com when no one really understood what e-commerce even meant. The road was not paved with gold and staying innovative and true to the game has been a task but with a fresh vision and plenty of experience under their belt, they are confident with their position in the market.

Photo Credit: Kyiesha Kelly

Respect: What made you start hiphopcloset.com at a time when e-commerce was so new?

My brother saw an opening in the market, we saw an easy way to reach the world and give them access to hard to find Hip Hop Clothes. It was ‘98 and Hip Hop inspired clothing lines was really starting to pop. Karl Kani was huge, Rocawear, FUBU, Phat Farm, and Sean John they all had a following but weren’t mainstream yet, the internet was a baby and we could see the future. There weren’t many places selling clothing online. I didn’t even have a computer at the time I went out and bought one and did months of research and realized this was going to be huge. But it wasn’t easy to convince people that this was the way to go. Honestly, I didn’t even realize how much of a game changer this was.

RESPECT.: Where did the drive come from?

Looking back we have always had this Entrepreneurial spirit in us. I remember when we were little my brother made plans for us starting an airline. We had the name drew up plans everyone had a job. We always wanted to start a family business something we could call our own and eventually pass down to the next generation. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart it takes a lot of discipline, passion, and dedication to ride the wave.

Photo Credit: Malik Kelly

RESPECT.: How has the fashion and hip-hop industry changed over the years?

As much as things have changed they have also stayed the same. The styles are all very similar because the 80’s and 90’s are back heavy. We went through this period where everyone wanted to wear the same thing. But individualism is coming back and people want to have those unique customized pieces that no one else has of has even seen. Also, Hip-Hop culture is driving most markets. It is so big and everyone wants a piece but not everyone knows exactly what the customer is looking for. This particular niche market is about understanding the mood of the customer, what is he/she doing and where are they going. The first generation of Hip-Hop is, dare I say it …. Seniors but they still want and need to look fly. It’s about finding that balance of clothing that can appeal to multi-generations because the attitude and the feeling behind purchasing an article of clothing are the same for all generations but the image you are trying to project is different.

RESPECT.: What advice would you give young entrepreneurs?

First and foremost choose a business that you are passionate about because there will be days when you absolutely hate everything about your business and you will have to dig down inside and remember what you love about it. Owning is business is like raising a child and nurturing a marriage it takes patience and focuses. Surround yourself with a team that believes in the business and can also grow with you and expresses their passions through the business. Stay innovating and remember if you are not growing you are dying. Things will always change and you have to know how to change with it.

Photo Credit: Kyiesha Kelly

RESPECT.: Biggest success and biggest failures…

We hit the ground running and grew fast our biggest success was starting and sticking with it. If you don’t start you can’t win. I’ve made tons of mistakes along the way to many too name but I have learned from them all. I would say getting comfortable would have to be the biggest.

RESPECT.: What would you have done differently starting out?

Nothing it all has its place.

RESPECT.: What do you love about the fashion industry?

It is filled with art and creativity. When a designer truly just creates it is amazing. Clothing gives people life it is a necessity in this world and when people find those items that they love they move and act differently. It is a wonderful thing to see.

RESPECT.: If you could see yourself doing something else what would it be?

I would be a writer or television producer. I love being creative and making something out of nothing.

RESPECT.: What’s next for the brand?

We are working on some really exciting things, we have a clothing line in the works and some also looking at setting up experience driven retail stores.

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