One day, $3,000.
Not bad for a brand that just a few months ago ordered its first shirts.
A distinct buzz of excitement surrounded Bullets and Mullets, the Gulch’s newest urban apparel shop, as the King of Fresh brand made its first in-store appearance.
Jonathan Fields, the 22-year-old CEO and co-founder, recalls the initial trunk show as being a good start, but he didn’t get caught up in the excitement.
“Three thousand’s not a million,” Fields said.
Fields, the confident, mature-beyond-his years Belmont senior, pioneered the King of Fresh brand in March of 2011.
“I didn’t have anything I wanted to wear,” Fields said about how the idea of starting his own clothing line came to him.
The brands he grew up wearing didn’t have enough meaning behind them, he said.
“Your clothing can say a lot about who you are. I wanted to create my own voice in fashion.”
It was Fields’ business partner Stef Jordan, however, who suggested the two get serious about starting their own clothing line.
“It started with a joke,” Fields said. “Steph and I were talking about different brands and he said to me, ‘We should just make our own clothes.’”
That joke became a life-changing adventure.
Fields and Jordan spent six months researching, raising money, and taking care of administrative duties creating a website, logo, social media platforms, and garnering copyrights before purchasing their first shirts.
The first batch King of Fresh T-shirts, 30 red and 30 white, featured a print of Martin Luther King Jr., whom Fields noted as somebody who embodies the message of the brand.
Fields said the King of Fresh slogan, “Thousands of heartbreaks, yet I remain fresh,” means more to him than any present or future financial accomplishments.
“In life you go through stuff but you don’t wear it on your face,” Fields explained.
The slogan is not just a catchy jingle to Fields. It’s the message. It’s something personal.
“It’s my life story. Persevering and pushing through when everything isn’t going your way, but you can’t wear it on your face.”
The MLK shirts started off as something Fields and Jordan sold out of the trunk of their cars. A year later, LeBron James donned a shirt at the Miami Heat championship after party.
“I reached out to him through his stylist,” Fields said. “I sent him a few shirts and basically told him about what we stand for.”
The timing of Fields’ letter was impeccable. That summer, James suffered a devastating loss in the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks.
“I encouraged him to stay fresh even though he got beat,” Fields said.
King of Fresh featured LeBron in one of their next designs, incorporating his famous quote, “Taking my talents to South Beach,” which is symbolic of FIelds’ philosophy.
“You have to go where you have the opportunity to make your dreams come true.”
Fields can relate to James’ decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in order to win a championship. Fields, too, left the state of Ohio, Dayton University, and his basketball career behind to launch the King of Fresh brand in Nashville and attend Belmont University.
James was not the first celebrity to be seen wearing the King of Fresh logo at a live event.
Big Sean, a famous rapper out of Detroit, did more than wear the shirt at his Nashville concert, he gave King of Fresh a shout-out on Twitter.
Fields, who had a previous connection to Big Sean, met up with him at the radio station when he was in town and asked if he would wear the shirt for his show.
His response, “We’ll see.”
“Usually that means ‘no’,” Fields said. “But he wore it.”
The MLK print also made an appearance on a prominent rapper from the Washington D.C. area, Wale. This time, however, in tattoo form.
“We saw it in the music video he put out and couldn’t believe it,” Fields said.
The endorsements from James, Big Sean, and Wale all happened in their first summer of business.
Contacting celebrities is something Fields and public relations manager Parker Knight find to be important, even though everyday people are their true market.
Knight described the brand’s part as “reaching out,” and the celebrity’s part as “reaching back.”
“So many A-list celebrities have their own clothing lines, so it’s a big deal when someone endorses your product,” said Knight.
Knight and Fields got in touch with rappers Chance and Kendrick Lamar when they came to Nashville to perform, but neither performer wore a King of Fresh product.
But they don’t just reach out to anybody.
“We want people who embody the message we are trying to get out,” Knight said.
“When people buy our product, they are buying the message,” Fields added.
Fields’ connection with rappers and athletes is something deeply embedded in his brand.
“I see what I do more as art than I do see it as business.”
Knight described his relationship with Fields as one that has definitive separation in friendship and business.
Knight joined King of Fresh when Fields decided to start building a “street team,” which consisted of students on the different Nashville campuses building a base and promoting the brand.
Knight oversaw the street team activities.
“We focused on event promotions. We would be outside Bridgestone Arena after concerts handing out hundreds of fliers.”
Knight gave each member of the street team an intro packet consisting of fliers, stickers, business cards and lighters to hand out, just to build some momentum.
More so than the business, it was Fields’ character that brought Knight on board.
“Anybody that works with Jon would speak highly about the type of person that he is.”
Fields has a lot of respect for successful artists like J Cole, Wiz Khalifa, and Drake, mainly for their great success without the help of a major label, equating them to entrepreneurs, like himself.
“They’ve shown me that you don’t have to be old to be successful. You can get it while you’re young. They’re just doing what they love.”
That’s what it’s about for Fields.
Fields remembered a trip to New York as being one of the more inspiring times for his aspirations.
Nick Diamond and Pharrell Williams were there, celebrating Diamond’s birthday, and Fields got exposed to their respective clothing lines, Diamond Supply and Billionaire Boys Club.
“It was good for me to see that,” Fields said. “That’s where I want to be one day.”
Jay-Z is the business mogul that Fields draws similarities to and aspires to be like.
“He’s accomplished so much. He’s really done it all. His hands are in so many different things. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Fields says most of the company’s sales are done online at kingoffresh.com, and that promotions and new product releases can be found on their Twitter page, @KOFclothing; instagram page, kofclothing; and Facebook page, King of Fresh.
Fields and Parker can be contacted directly at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.