Fulani Hart – fashion designer, photographer, and owner of Javelin NYC – recently opened up his pop-up store in Williamsburg, on Berry and North 7th. We talk about using deadstock fabrics, the “decisive moment” in making clothes, and what brought him to the city.

Who is "the" Javelin person?
It took me a while to surrender to that question, and I'm still trying to find the real honest answer to it. But, it's me. It's how I grew up. I'm the child of little rascals. I’m that kid whose grandma got him dressed from found clothes. She looked for the best quality in those clothes, and she put together these dope outfits out of what she had available.
It was important for her to see her grandkid look good.
She couldn't afford, necessarily, to go to that high-end store, but she understood quality. She understood how to layer, what the drapes should look and feel like. She knew how to navigate through the Salvation Army, through her uncle's closet to get those hand-me-downs – the good ones. So when the kid went out, and you see him coming up the street, you're like, “yo, this is a fly little kid.” But you know it came together by the resources that were available.
The Javelin man is a man who values what he puts on his body. His level of confidence and certainty and groundedness in himself shine through. And the value of what's on the body comes through.
It's important for him to line up the gear that he's putting on his body with his spirit and mood and energy so that they complement and create this person that's exuding his purpose. When you walk, you can have on, you know, a frickin’ paper bag, but you're like, “that dude – I need to hear what he has to say.”
That's him, that's him. He's not scared to put on prints. He's not scared to mix it up, you know, and layer. He wants to be adventurous in his dress and in what he's putting on his body.
So you and your team make all your clothes by hand, and you, in a way, carry on that legacy of “found clothes” by using deadstock fabrics. What is deadstock? Why do you use it? What draws you in?
It's previously owned fabric that hasn't really been used, and it's basically sitting there because the fabric supplier either couldn't find a buyer or the designer or company had leftovers.
So, depending on how it fits into my creative process and the particular garment, I'll buy that fabric and use it. The dope thing about that is that it's like picking up another creative’s limb, almost, and saying, “oh, actually, here's something you could do with this.”
It's always a mystery. It's always a surprise because you just don't know what's going to be available. Creatively using deadstock fabric and building a garment is like hip-hop or jazz. The song comes together from these unexpected places, you know – the hi-hat might be the inspiration, equivalent to the thread of a garment.
And then you keep pulling, and you add the kick-drum snare. So you're adding, now, the pieces of the garment. How do I want the arms? Do I want a bell sleeve, or do I just want a slim sleeve? Do I want it cut on the bias? What sort of lining do I want? The lining is like the chords – it's the bass of the song that's keeping the melody together.
And in an album, when these songs come together, you’ll get certain threads that weave through the work, that speak to a bigger narrative. Your linings seem like a place for that shared story, for different pieces to share a common voice.
The lining is a deliberate jewel for the customer to enjoy. When he or she is putting on or taking off the pants, this is something for them to say – that's why I bought these pants. When you're buttoning up the fly and going into the pockets, you get this sort of new texture and new visual to enjoy. And [the lining] is, like you said, the interlude on an album.
You might be rocking to a single all day just because it's on the radio. It's the hit. But when you really listen to the album and start exploring, you see the silk paisley lining and that alpaca mohair wool jacket. You start to see the seam tape on a zipper, right?
You have this navy seam tape with this antique brass, but then there's a choice to, on that salmon color, use a contrasting seam tape. So you may have to actually get the zipper made itself. You can go and buy the zipper fresh off the rack with the seam tape of your choice. Or, you can say, “no, I need a seam tape that's matching this rust color.” And, in fact, I'm going to wash this rust color to patina it sooner. And then, I'm going to look at these distressed brushed metal jean buttons.
These details are what spark interest and connect you to the garment.
When Devan and I swung by to see your fall collection product shoot, I could see that certain pieces just clicked. It didn’t seem obvious before, but once he put them on, it just worked, like with that yellow jacket.
It's funny you say that because it didn't even take a thought to just create a postcard from it. Yes, I mean it works, like it just works. Dude, heads went bananas, and I'm almost out. I just have two left, and then I actually just shipped one out to LA from that post, just from that post. People saw this card, and heads were like, “I gotta have that joint.” I would have sold more, but I don't have more of that fabric.
Jaylen in Javelin's yellow Cayo HoodieJaylen in Javelin's yellow Cayo Hoodie
Jaylen [the model] totally connected with us. I'm so happy because doing a yellow wool hoodie is tricky. You don't see a ton of them out there. One of the things I had to really figure out was the rib on the sleeve. It's this sort of putty gray color that just happened, and I'd gone back and forth. I even have, in the back [of his store], a few different rib colorways that were specifically for that color hoodie.
The rib just has to match. Also, this is a perfect example of having a small detail in the zipper tape. You could just totally kill it if the zipper tape was wrong. That's the risk with some of those colors – I could have gone either real jiggy where the antique brass zipper looks very gold, or I could have gone with too playful of a zipper tape. And then it would have turned into a sort of suburban mall, cheap kind of thing where it feels overly mass produced. You'd be like, “I know he's got like about a thousand of those in the back.”
As soon as we walked into your pop-up store, we could see your photos of birds and wildlife on the walls. Among the many books strewn around the space, I saw one that you had a few about Henri Cartier-Bresson. You mentioned that his work helped you find your way as a photographer, whether you were taking photos on the street or in the jungle. He talks about the notion of a “decisive moment” with making an image – what is the decisive moment for you with making clothes?
When it makes me laugh. I will burst out laughing, out of, like, pure excitement. When Lilah, my daughter, was born, I discovered that I laugh really hard. When I have that decisive moment, whether it's shooting something, or creating something, or an awesome day here at the store, I laugh. I practically laugh every time I leave this place at night and when I come in.
Because while nothing's perfect, the gift is that the universe just gave me the stamina to do this.
The universe gave me the stamina to call that realtor and inquire about this big ass space I had no business entertaining. Like, dude, what? This is, like, fucking UNIQLO space or something.
I just knew – I had to have my shit on the streets.
Then, I'm calling the next week. I'm ordering insurance for the space. I'm getting my certificate of authority, I'm changing over the electricity to my name. I'm signing paperwork, and I'm sending them a wire transfer for the deposit, the rent, and all that. I'm making a move, I'm getting a U-Haul van. I’m moving shit from my studio to here, I'm building these fixtures. I'm going to antique thrift stores to get a few knick-knacks.
It was just one of those things where it's like, “here you go.”
You moved to NY in 1995. You came from Milwaukee, right? What does it mean to you to have had a creative life for almost 30 years here?
I’m an OG, haha. I have moments where I reflect, but, for the most part, the gift is looking forward to tomorrow, looking forward to right now, this next moment. That keeps you from living in the past; it just allows you to use all that stuff from the past to fuel tomorrow. As long as I'm here, I'm just trying to share and give and build, and it has been like that since I was a kid.
I used to sit on my steps Saturday mornings and look up and imagine being in New York. I used to watch Diff’rent Strokes and see Arnold and Willis and Taxi, and their intros would show the city. Growing up, I was a b-boy and watched the movie Beat Street, and every b-boy show that showed the Bronx, showed the city. Then, it was Fame.
I was like, “I need to be experiencing all this shit, and I need to do it now.” I’m between 6 and 8 years old. My mission was to get the hell out of Milwaukee because there was nothing there like this. When I had the opportunity just out of high school, I packed two of those baloney and Miracle Whip sandwiches with a bag of chips, got on the Greyhound bus, and did not look back.
It’s just been a blessing since.

— Gopal Raman (interview with Fulani Hart)