We recently connected with Karl Hibbert and have shared our conversation below.
Karl, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. If you could go back in time do you wish you had started your business sooner or later?
This past April marks 11 years since the inception of Fortunate LifeStyle (FLS). In 2011, while a sophomore in high school, FLS was curated alongside classmates Ashley Hagopian & Tyler Harris through our personal influences and innate creative passion. In 2013, after distance made business hard for us 3, I took Head-chair position of the brand and never looked back. Having developed the clothing line in early in high school, none of us had access to significant capital to invest in bulk shipments or equipment so we were left ordering one off’s online for personal wear around school. Though we weren’t ready to sell any product at this stage, this strategy helped build social stature in the hallways and in town.
Once I began college, and started working, I was finally able to invest into FLS the way I had yearned, and immediately grabbed domestic printers, heat presses and basic vinyls for cutting. My neighbor at the time & creative influence Taleb Fazle II and I took this opportunity to perfect the craft of design and manufacturing from a boot strap stage to gain experience through trial and error.
Fast-forward to 2022, as I prepare for my 4th national merchandising tour alongside Long-Island artist Swoosh God this Fall. Since 2017 I’ve worked with several Atlanta-based artists, including Young Nudy, Pierre Bourne and Playboi Carti. Recently I find myself looking back at the time, 11 years, and thinking “Have I accomplished the (initial) goal?” And to be honest, I started FLS as nothing more than a creative outlet; one which would, at most, bring pleasure through simply seeing my ideas expressed on others through clothing. So to have traveled the country, connect with fashion icons, build a priceless network, and make a living all through clothes – I can’t do much but be grateful for every failure turned lesson, every order & every day.
Waking up every day is a blessing in itself, and with that we have another opportunity to be greater than we were yesterday. Whenever I try to think about the time (11 years), I realize it’s easier to see where you have come from at a milestone, rather than when you’re on the journey. I don’t say this to insinuate I am anywhere near the finish line, but 11 years is a long time to be committed to a company and its growth. I believe and embody the mantra which states: “Do nothing of no worth”. Make every move count, and know what it’s trajectory can reach. As I celebrated 10 years last April, I look back on the time without regret, understanding that the plan only worked because I did.
Karl, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
Fortunate LifeStyle began as a creative concept, which turned into a self-investment project to express inner creative reach. Karl was born in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY, where the initial inspiration for FLS spanned from his cousin’s Brooklyn-based clothing line, First-In-Flight, which encapsulated the similar high school complex, showcasing custom designs including Lego pins and Lifestyle wear. Without the Brooklyn influence being outside his door these days; in Indiana, Karl has aimed to bring a new style and fashion sense to the Midwest through exquisitely-sourced custom detailed pieces. After connecting with 21 Savage and Young Nudy in Summer 2017, the networking reach turned from local introductions to national stage invites. What began as ordering shirts online, has evolved into 3 working creative spaces, in-house heat presses, embroidery machines, applique systems, commercial printers, and silk-screen stations. I’ve always believed in investing time first, in anything I commit to; allowing for more creativity to come straight from concept to completion before touching any product.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
Growing up as an only child, I was always social and looking to meet new kids at an early age. A part of this channeled over into adolescence; as I found myself always trying to partner with people for plans, motivation or events. When FLS was in it’s early stages, myself alongside classmates Tyler & Ashley were able to work great together, as we all had a deep grasp in the fashion community. Less than a year after creation, both moved away leaving me with an unstructured business without roots to even grow from. This period of lonesomeness and worry is what ignited the daily spark which gets me out of bed everyday! Knowing that everything lies on your shoulders brings a different kind of passion and fire behind not only your work, but your reward as well. Since 2013, I have partnered short term with a couple associates who’s vision aligned at the time, but they always say, don’t mix friends and business. Having to put the CEO hat on early is the best thing that could have happened for FLS and its development.
Can you open up about how you funded your business?
Fortunate LifeStyle never started as a means to make money, but instead a creative outlet from where I could motivate myself, and others from self-expression. Beginning by ordering shirts online so I could wear my own brand at school, was ‘expensive’ for me, someone with no money coming in. I had to ask my parents sometimes to get a piece for me just so I could promote in the hallways. Once I entered college and started working, I invested in a couple affordable laser jet printers and heat presses from eBay in order to start making my own pieces. Every since then, I have kept separate accounts for my personal funds and business funds. I place all business transactions on the FLS account and also take any withdrawals/payments for business out of there as well. This keeps the flow moving and stable, gives a pool to reorder supplies from, and also the separation allows for me to track FLS specific transactions. From this strategy, I am able to use the business profits for new equipment, venue rental, photoshoots, etc.
- Website: thefortunatelifestyle.com
- Instagram: @fortunatelifestyle
- Twitter: @fortunate_life