Sports

Football, fashion and footwear: How Titans’ Kristian Fulton built a brand in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Although Tennessee Titans defensive back Kristian Fulton is entering his second season in the NFL, he is facing a different kind of rookie season this year. Kristian, 22, and his older brother Keith, 25, recently opened an urban wear boutique in Nashville called The Trenches.

“We came up with ideas and our goals, so when we had the opportunity we could make something happen. Once I knew I was going to the NFL and got the chance to make some money, that’s really when it started to come about,” Kristian said.

Kristian was drafted in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft (61st overall) and signed his four-year, $5.3 million rookie contract soon after. He played sporadically as a rookie, but finished with an interception and a sack. His season was limited due to a knee injury and being placed in COVID-19 protocol. He figures to be a key part of the secondary this season at right corner and as the nickel corner.

Kristian was destined to play in the NFL from his days at Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie, Louisiana, where he was named New Orleans Defensive Player of the Year as a junior. The Fulton brothers played on the same high school team and shared dreams of playing in the pros.

“I expected to play football when I was younger. We played on the same high school team and won two championships. I played running back in college at four schools, chasing the dream of getting to that next level,” Keith said.

Keith started with a scholarship to Mississippi College. He transferred to Southeastern Louisiana, then to Grossmont College before finishing his final two years at LSU.

While at LSU, as it became clear his NFL dreams wouldn’t be realized, Keith made the decision to shift his focus to the management side of sports. He also developed a love for art, which would eventually grow into an idea for the layout of the boutique. Keith was intrigued by the prices he saw collectors paying for art. Being from New Orleans, a place where artists abound, made his interest even stronger.

Now that interest is on display, by way of the featured artists whose works rotate on a monthly basis inside the boutique. The decision to showcase artists offered the opportunity to become an investor while helping those who might otherwise not have a chance to sell their paintings.

“I see a lot of galleries here in Nashville, but not everyone is able to get into them. I thought it would be cool to showcase local artists and Black artists around the country. It was cool to give them a shot to sell their product,” Keith said.

The Trenches features a unique blend of fashion, footwear and art.

“It all comes together. Clothes, music, art, it’s layered,” Keith added. “We tied it all together into one.”

Their mother, Michelle Fulton, had similar business aspirations and is happy to see her sons make it a reality.

“I tell them how proud I am of them, because back when I was in college, my dream was to own my own business. A dream of mine has become a dream come true for them and it makes my heart full.”

None of the clothing brands in The Trenches are mainstream names. Instead, the boutique features rising designers from New Orleans and other cities across the country.

“Everybody falls into the trend of high-end luxury brands. Growing up, we couldn’t afford that, so we supported the local brands. There were a lot of them that we thought could do it big if they had the opportunity. Now, we want to give them a chance,” Kristian noted.

There are typically four or five different brands featured in the store on a rolling basis. Kristian mentioned the “Fulton Kounty” clothing line as one of his favorites.

“That’s a smooth design to come up with. Fulton Kounty, that’s like a jail. That’s how I’m going to lock everybody up,” Kristian said, referring to his coverage skills on the football field.

The sneakers make up another part of the boutique’s unique formula; the Fulton brothers didn’t always have access to the latest and greatest sneaker releases. Keith recalled a time when he wanted to get the LeBron James Galaxy 9 sneakers, but couldn’t get his hands on them.

“That’s really the main thing. Giving other people the opportunity to have the chance to get some kicks they might not be able to get at the main stores,” Kristian said.

According to Keith, it’s really difficult to get a hold of new sneaker releases because of hoarders who buy up the supply. But the connections that he has developed and the doors that have opened because Kristian is an NFL player help the brothers get access to rare sneakers, like Nike’s Kobe Mambas, various Jordans and more.

When it comes to the Fulton brothers’ passion for shoes, the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.

“I am a shoe fanatic,” Michelle said, “I start with the shoes and then I’ll find the clothes to match. In their late-high-school to early college days, I began to notice their style take shape. It started with lots of different style tennis shoes. I’d tell them they reminded me of myself. I’d say to them, ‘You are definitely my child,’ because when they pack for a trip they have a separate suitcase for their shoes.”

The Trenches isn’t just a boutique for the Fulton brothers. It’s a way to connect to the community.

As Kristian’s business manager, Keith traveled to Nashville right after Kristian was selected in the draft, so he could network.

“I was thinking of different ways where he [Kristian] could introduce himself to the community in Nashville as a businessman, not just an athlete. I thought about the idea as a way that we can give back to the community,” Keith said. “There’s a lot of intimate but also family-oriented spots in New Orleans that we would go hang out at. There weren’t too many places that had those spots that we are used to. We wanted to bring that here.”

They’ve been able to bring the New Orleans vibe to Nashville through free seafood boils and other events that were hosted at the boutique, which is located on historic Buchanan Street in North Nashville.

The location is not a coincidence. They initially looked at storefronts downtown near the Broadway strip, only to find that they were too expensive. That’s when Keith turned his attention to Buchanan Street.

“It’s been a very popular area in the Black community in Nashville. We learned that quickly when we got here with the Black-owned businesses they have. We felt like it was the perfect location for us to keep it in the trenches, close to the community,” Keith said.

The storefront sits directly on Buchanan Street next to a thriving Black-owned kitchen and lounge, and across the street from a flourishing Black-owned pizza shop. Naming the boutique “The Trenches” goes perfectly with the culture they came from.

“We feel like everybody is either actually from the trenches or they want to be from the trenches. It’s a popular thing in our generation coming up. That’s how we gravitated to the name. It’s relatable,” Kristian said.

For Kristian, a big part of being relatable is actually being present in the store. He wants his customers to have access to him to talk about fashion, football, footwear or anything else that will help provide a unique shopping experience.

Opening The Trenches wasn’t easy, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Despite being a sports management major at LSU, Keith didn’t have any business experience. He had to rely on his research and some help from mentors.

They opened the boutique on Saturday, March 20 of this year only to close the following Wednesday because they sold all of their products. Now the shelves are always stocked and the boutique is prospering.

“Our saying is, ‘The real always prevail.’ There was a lot that we went through and there’s a lot that people go through, too,” Keith explained. “I feel like everybody — well, most people — can feel our story, where we came from and what we are trying to do. For us to make it out, we want to inspire everybody.”



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