Rahim Ewan aims to take over Ohio and then the world with Fortune Over Fame

Andy Downing
adowning@columbusalive.com
Rahim Ewan

Rahim Ewan, founder of newborn fashion line Fortune Over Fame, doesn’t have a design background, though he did grow up with a style-forward mother who helped shape his sartorial sensibilities. 

“My mom went to school at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City … so it was something that was instilled in her and that was definitely passed down to me,” said Ewan, who was born in Youngstown, spent his formative years in Columbus and has lived in Miami, Florida since 2015. “I’ve always been a fan of fashion, clothes. I grew up with a lot of good things. She stayed sharp. Always dressed to a T, always matching, always wearing the latest gear. So I was always surrounded by fashion. It just took me a while to tap into it.”

Ewan said he started to consider launching a fashion line years ago while working as a promoter in Columbus, where he helped bring musicians such as Dead Prez, Freeway and Machine Gun Kelly to venues like Skully’s. Oftentimes before the concert, Ewan would bring the visiting artists to a local clothing boutique for a promotional stop, which got him thinking about the potential of pushing his own line of gear. 

“It was always like, ‘Man, if I could come up with my own product that represented Ohio, I could send the artists off with it,’” said Ewan, who studied business and marketing during undergrad at Eastern Michigan University and then earned his master’s degree in international business from Central Michigan. “So I’d be giving them something, but then I’m also getting my name, my product out there, where people could see it and maybe want to purchase it.”

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But it wasn’t until the coronavirus struck early last year, grinding entire industries to a halt, that Ewan finally decided to give it a go, inspired in part by the home deliveries that became ingrained with his new home-bound routine. “I’d get my high off Amazon knocking on my door everyday,” he said, and laughed. “Then one day I said, ‘That’s it. I’m not ordering another hat, another sweatshirt. Nothing. I’m going to create my own.’”

From the onset, Ewan knew he wanted his line to focus on Ohio, tapping into what he described as a unique loyalty to the state that he observed while living here. From there, he started sketching out designs that played off of city and state seals, abandoning some ideas (Ewan briefly toyed with using the phrase “Oh:yo,” which he said was taken from the Native spelling of the Ohio River) before homing in on more instantly relatable graphics, such as the outline of the state around the phrase “Home of the Hustle.”

In the days and weeks that followed, Ewan experimented with various apparel brands, trying to strike a balance between cost and quality, as well as auditioning different adhesive techniques for applying graphic elements to the clothes. “I’ll be the first to tell you, I had to learn how to do it, and I tore up a lot of hats. I burned a couple sweaters. I almost burned my house down a couple of times.” he said. “I eventually got it where I wanted, but it didn’t happen overnight.”

A breakthrough arrived after Ewan struck up a seemingly fated partnership with a seamstress. On his first visit to her shop, he noticed she had a stuffed Brutus sitting in a drawer filled with various trinkets. And once the two got to talking, he learned that she, too, was from Columbus. “And we’ve been working with her ever since,” he said.

Ewan’s mother also helped provide early guidance on more practical matters. “I knew she would focus on the quality of the materials and how it was constructed,” he said. “Is this weatherproof? Is this something that is going to last? Will it fall apart? How is the patch attached? Is it glued? Embroidered? Will it fall off? How’s the stitching?

“One of the important things she taught me was to pay attention to every detail. I look over every hat I send out, every hoodie, every jacket, inspecting everything with a fine-tooth comb. I want my product to stand for something, for one, but I also don’t want to send out anything that I wouldn’t wear myself.”

Once Ewan felt comfortable that the clothes were consistently reaching his standards, he started offering hats and hoodies, with most early purchases made by friends and family members, sales to which he still attaches an asterisk. “I have a guy I work with, and he said, ‘Keep in mind, when you’re selling these at first, you’re going to sell a few, but those will be to friends, and those don’t count,’” Ewan said. “‘Those are just your people. Those are just your friends doing you a favor. You haven’t made a sale until you sell your product to someone you don’t know.’”

For Ewan, that first “real” sale took place not long after he launched his website in September, when an order came in from Texas.

“And I didn’t know the name, so I literally reached out to him and said, ‘If you don’t mind me asking, how did you hear about us?’” Ewan said. “And it’s funny. It turns out he’s originally from Ohio, but he was in a mall in Texas and he ran into somebody who was visiting from Ohio, and who was wearing one of our hats, and he stopped them to ask where they bought it, which is still mind-blowing.”

Even if it was always part of the plan.