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CEO on Sunday: Ex-NFL Star Carl Banks Fashions a Career

CEO on Sunday: Ex-NFL Star Carl Banks Fashions a Career

After a career spent tackling opposing running backs and quarterbacks, All-Pro linebacker Carl Banks has taken his hard-hitting skills to another arena: the world of fashion.  Banks' journey from the gridiron to the design studio serves as a valuable lesson for other entrepreneurs looking to transition from one industry to another.

"I started with fashion in my second year with the Giants, so it has been about 20 years [in the industry] now," said Banks, who played for the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns over his 11-year NFL career. "Oddly enough, I got started because I couldn't find clothes that fit me. I used to spend a lot of time in New York doing a lot of window- shopping only to find out that clothes wouldn't fit."

Since retiring from professional football in 1995, Banks has been a force in the fashion industry as the president of a clothing line, G-III Sports by Carl Banks.  The key to this success was as simple as seeing an opportunity, seizing it and using connections to gain a foothold in the fashion industry.

"Once I noticed there was a void in the market, I knew it could be a business," said Banks, who will be launching G-III 4 Her, a new line of sporting apparel for women sizes 10 and up, Monday (Sept. 5) on the Home Shopping Network.  "How big of a business, I didn't know.  I'm glad I didn't know, though, because there were some early years when it was tough, but you stay with it and continue to build your relationships ."

Despite their differences, fashion and football were able to teach Banks interchangeable lessons just as practical experience in one industry can be carried over to another for business owners.

"Playing in the NFL teaches you to be prepared," said Banks. "Fashion requires a great deal of attention to detail, and that is something that sports have definitely taught me. The one thing that being in sports allowed me was to open doors and get an appointment.  What you do with that appointment is pretty much up to you and the product you are representing."

Those appointments have yielded positive results for Banks and G-III Sports. 

"My first license when I booked the NFL was in big-and-tall leather coats,” said Banks.   “Fast forward to today and I represent all sports leagues, including colleges, in everything from T-shirts to outerwear to ladies apparel."

For business owners who have always dreamed of winning the Super Bowl, Banks says successful owners may be a bit closer to it than they think.

"The interesting thing is once you win a Super Bowl, you are always chasing that feeling," said Banks, a member of the 1986 and 1990 Super Bowl-winning Giants teams.  "Fashion has its challenges , but when you go to a stadium and eight out of 10 of the jackets you see are your design, that's a great feeling also."