In 1992, the founder Benson Williams had a vision to create a Premium Sportswear brand for the culture. He wanted to create a Premium brand that would give the culture an urban alternative to Ralph, Tommy, Gucci etc. and keep our money within the community. He realized he would be much more willing to give back to our community and help organizations like HBCU’s, Boys and Girls in the inner city, at risk youth, inner city youth sports programs, scholarships, etc. He was aware that since we live in a capitalistic society and if we continue to use our capital to help build brands outside of our community then we will not change our current situation. His mission was to build a fashion brand that would be there for the community wherever needed. The brand would also stand up for racial equality and racial harmony. He wanted the world to know that this Collection would represent positivity in the world and that it was created by a Black man, hence the name I.B. Blackman.
He started the brand with 2 dozen t-shirts and 2 dozen caps. Fortunately, the first designs were a success and sold out right away. Word of mouth got around and he started selling the brand out of the back of his car at customer’s jobs during lunch, large barbecues, festivals etc. A year later he caught a break, a friend introduced him to the stylist of Will Smith to get the brand on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”. Will loved the brand and wore it regularly on the show and the band took off fast. Within months other actors were wearing the brand on their shows like Martin Lawrence on “Martin”, Jamie Foxx on his show, Arsenio Hall on his show etc.
In 1994, with the brand on TV weekly he was ready to take the brand to the next level and open a store. He found a location that was perfect, right next to a famous Diner where the celebs loved to frequent in Beverly Hills named Larry Parker’s Diner. He contacted the owner of the store and told the owner his plans for the location and the owner said he had a verbal commitment with Suge Knight and did not want to break that commitment. Suge Knight had plans to put a Deathrow merchandise store in that location. Periodically, for the next year he would drive by the store and it was still vacant. He then met with the owner again to see if Suge was still going to use that location, the owner said yes Suge still had plans to use it but was frustrated nothing had been done. Finally, he said go meet with Suge, tell him your plans and see what he says. No one could blame the owner for not wanting to cross Suge, lol. Benson then contacted Deathrow and he set up a meeting a Suge. Upon arriving at Deathrow he realized this office culture was different. If you have ever seen the movie “Straight Out Of Compton” it was just like in the movie, no joke. Suge was not there at the time, he had something come up so Benson met with Suge’s assistant, told her the plans and she said she would tell Suge and get back to him. Suge replied and said he still wanted the location. A few months went by and Benson persisted with the owner and the owner was tired of not making any money out of the location and gave in. Suge was not happy about it but he had so much on his plate he let it go.
With persistence I.B. Blackman opened its first flagship store in Beverly Hills, CA which showcased its Premium Sportswear Collection. He hired his sister Alecia to manage the store, also cousins and friends to work the store and the brand was now a real business. The first black owned fashion boutique in Beverly Hills.
As planned, celebrities and professional athletes were dining at Larry Parker´s Diner daily and then shopping at the store. There were a lot of great times and they met a lot of fantastic people at that store. With the success of that store, they were able to open a second store in the Fox Hills Mall in Los Angeles. Soon after they landed a big distribution deal in Japan. Today, the I.B. Blackman brand is sold online internationally and at selected boutiques. The brand continues to stay true to its roots, great quality, stylish design and pride in craftsmanship for the culture.
In addition to the stylish designs, the brand continues to stand for racial harmony and places the following I.B. Blackman quote on the back of most of the T-shirts:
"Prejudice, racism, bigotry and supremacy are all strongly related to ignorance. Ignorance is the lack of knowledge. So let's educate ourselves, for ignorance will never make this world a better place." - I.B. Blackman