Why did you become an entrepreneur?
I became an entrepreneur because of the freedom to create. I enjoy building things from the ground up. The journey it takes, the discipline, and the sacrifice are one thing; but the rewards of witnessing something you’ve built grow into something incredible is addicting. Therefore, if your heart is in it and your mind is strong you keep chasing that feeling. If you keep chasing that feeling you don’t stop until there’s an empire in front of you.
Even still, most confident and hungry entrepreneurs don’t stop even when they have an empire sitting in front of them. That’s who I am and that’s why being an entrepreneur wasn’t a choice, my life, interests and experience led me down a path where there was no other option.
What inspired you to create custom hats?
What inspired me to create custom hats started with working at Ralph Lauren. My tenure and experience there was super educational and it made me fall in love with garments that were not only handmade but could tell a story. After working (or trying to work) with various artisans from shirt-makers to denim-smiths I realized that my interests were more into accessories. Vintage bags and shoes quickly became an obsession, then it grew to socks, then it solidified in hats and that was when I started working for one of the oldest hat shops in NYC and the country; Worth & Worth.
While at W&W I developed experience and an obsession with not only hats, but the culture, the history, the ergonomics, the craft, materials and so on. I also had a first hand experience on what it was like to start and run a small business that manufactures a good portion of their product. Learning the history from the ground up groomed me for success and an infatuation for the industry past and present. Having roots that are based in history and tradition allows B.M. Franklin & Co. to create something timeless. From our process, product and experience we have developed an identity that isn’t here to re-invent the wheel but to bring modern aesthetic to such rich tradition.
What kind of experience should someone expect when shopping with you?
The kind of experience our clients and future clients can expect from us starts with education. We focus on WHY you’re buying, not WHAT you’re buying. Our process starts with 70-100 year old tools and techniques that pre-date some of the tools we use. The materials are some of the finest in their respective categories, sourced from around the world. The experience starts with our hatters measuring the details and shape of ones face and features. Secondly, we like to get to know who our client is. This could be lifestyle based, geographically based or anything else someone tells us about themselves that we feel would add to their lives. Lastly, we finish off (and spend the most time) with the details of the piece. My mantra here at B.M. Franklin & Co. is “The creative possibilities are limitless!”. This gets us into trouble at times because we have some extremely creative clients from all walks of life. Regardless, when someone is creatively inspired by what we do and the dexperie3nce we provide this is something I absolutely live for. The experience and the education we provide is second to none, our values and standards show through our shop, craftsmanship, product and of course experience. You will leave here inspired, educated, and energized!
How has African Americans influenced fashion/style?
African-Americans have influenced style and have been the curators of it since the beginning of time. Homburgs worn by Notorious B.I.G, top-hats worn by Duke Ellington, pink fox fur Aviators worn by Cam-ron, and decadent fascinators worn by Josephine Baker are just a few icons who have trailblazed fashion, art and headwear.
Our people are unique because you can find fashion in passion from the poor to the rich. Something that will not be erases from our DNA or history is our flavor and taste-making. Even when the hat was on a rapid decline and the black power revolution in full swing (which was the age of the afro) we still found a way to incorporate headwear and headdresses into our style, expression and wardrobe.
Headwear has a rich history throughout not only African-American culture but African culture as a whole continent. Various countries and tribes from the dawn of civilization were using head adornments and crowns for an array of reasons. This is something that will remain in our DNA and core as natural creators.
What is most unique about BM Franklin & Co.?
What is most unique about B.M. Franklin & Co. is that we are a full-service hat-shop and headwear specialists. I had a unique, diverse and educational experience for 6 years before I started B.M. Franklin & Co. We have made pieces that are totally conceptual and do not follow the standard template of what most would describe as a fedora. We’ve made all types of head-wear including baseball caps, newsboys, top-hats, fascinators and large whimsical works of art. Our list of clients includes feature films, theatre plays, music videos, fashion shows and various artistic displays and expressions. There are also the clients who require head-wear for religious and health reasons. This is where education, experience and ergonomics come in. I started making hats well over a decade ago and the people, challenges and research we’ve encountered have made me better as an artist but most importantly and hat-maker.
Education never stops, even if your forging your own path and technique as an artist, we all learn from each other at the end of the day.
Where do you see your company in the next five years?
In the next five years I see B.M. Franklin & Co. in the same conversation with some of the brands who provide a product and experience that is top of the line. We will open ateliers all over the world, in selective cities where the craft and experience is appreciated. I do not want us to become a big box brand, but rather help in re-inventing the way people buy. One of my mantra’s is “Quality over Quantity”. Your experience should always start with a bit of humanity which I view simply as a conversation.
When “retail therapy” became an undeniable marketing strategy to fuel our retail economy it created a monster and reliance on other people to produce for us as Americans. We’ve been groomed to buy things quickly and easily without thinking. This concept sounds great for an automatic society but when AI takes over and people are out of jobs then perhaps we will start to think and buy more intentionally. B.M. Franklin & Co. will continue to provide high quality products and services through our Repair/Renovation business, Art of Hatmaking experience, and Custom/Ready-to-wear headwear.
We will also expand on collaborations with brands and people who parallel our beliefs and craftsmanship but express through a different medium. We’ve collaborated with a few amazing lifestyle brands in the past but would like to focus our energy back on black craftswomen and craftsmen that we can grow with.
Expansion and collaboration are on our GPS and the destination is about 3-5 years away.
About Brandon Franklin
I’ve always been inspired by fashion. The ability to express yourself by wearing something has always been an interest of mine. My mother was a fashion model and being around her and her friends exposed me to the industry. As I grew older I used fashion as my way vehicle of self-expression and continue to do. When I was old enough to start working I knew I wanted to do something within the fashion industry but didn’t know what. I just knew it had to be creative and I might have to carve out a space for myself. The quality, details and craftsmanship of any piece force you to ask or at least have questions.When I started working for Ralph Lauren I was exposed to quality, details and craftsmanship. Because its such a large brand with a wide range of offerings I was afforded the opportunity to learn about touch, feel and learn about a number of techniques, garments, history and most importantly expression. After a while of working at PRL I developed a hunger for wanting to make the things that were circulating through the collections and stores. I left in search of a craft and it first came in the form of tailoring and shortly after that I met one of the best hatters in New York City. He owned one of the oldest hat shops in the country and studied the craft under masters in Italy. We met through mutual friends and instantly clicked. I worked, studied and developed my love for the craft for over 6 years.
From the history to the age-old tools and techniques we use to create our product I began to fall in love with it all. I decided to start my own brand and business built around my love appreciation for hat-making and craft. What sets up apart from the majority of hat-manufacturers is not only our old-world techniques but our dedication to finding old hat-making tools from around the world so we can produce a product with quality and precision as they were produced by hand hundreds of years ago.
Our creative mindset is not to re-invent the wheel or meddle with the craft but add our way of expression and creativity through the quality product we produce. Our pieces are handcrafted to reflect the character of its wearer. We take the time and opportunity to really get to know you and what makes you, you. Through details like with returning clients, I’m always learning something new.
We are building a legacy through each piece we craft. Our pieces are made to last and to be passed down from one generation to the other. There is always a little bit of the past that makes us who we are. I believe the future generations who don an original, one of a kind piece either passed down or new will continue to spread the same passion for quality and craftsmanship we possess.