Russell Simmons is known to many as the quintessential renaissance man. A rap entrepreneur, published author, and debit card impresario, he has parlayed his brand into several income streams, including urban men’s fashion. Now one of the first kings of hip-hop to branch into apparel has announced his next expansion into the rag trade. From Phat Farm, to Baby Phat — get ready for Argyleculture.
“Russell Simmons has a new partner for the relaunch of his Argyleculture men’s label this fall — Joseph Abboud,” the fashion industry publication Women’s Wear Daily reports. Argyleculture, which Simmons said is for the “urban graduate” seeking to move from street to straight-laced looks, will come to fruition after two previous, failed partnerships. Abboud is a noted design veteran, so perhaps for Argyleculture, the third partnership will be a charm.
The brand might need the aid of magic to thrive in a sea of similar offerings ranging from Tommy Hilfiger to the more structured basics sold at American Apparel. “There are a lot of preppy brands out there and no one does traditional preppy better than Ralph Lauren,” Joseph Abboud told WWD about the venture. “But this is more irreverent. The colors are bright and the styling is aggressive. Traditional preppy has rigid boundaries and this pushes the envelope.”
But does Argyleculture truly break preppy fashion ground? TheGrio asked Claire Sulmers, the style diva behind the top black celebrity fashion blog The Fashion Bomb, for her opinion. Compared to Phat Farm, “[t]his line is preppier; aiming for a more elite customer. It’s less street and more country club chic,” Claire told theGrio after perusing the looks released by the brand.
“I think it’s definitely grown up and sophisticated; a great relaunch and re-imagination of the Argyleculture man,” Sulmers added. “Unfortunately I don’t think this looks very different from what’s already out there. The styling is impeccable, and it will be hard to say until I can touch and feel the clothes and see what else is available. But right now it looks like anything you could find at J.Crew or Ralph Lauren.”
How can Abboud and Simmons develop their relaunch of Argyleculture to differentiate it? Claire had this advice. ”Phat Farm had an urban grittiness that made the line unique. From what I can see the line is beautifully done and I’m sure is impeccably made,” Sulmers appraised. “I’d hope for something even more irreverent and aggressive to differentiate this line from competitors. Perhaps brighter colors, plays with prints, funky jackets, and even a few seeringly bright polo shirts for good measure.”
Are you listening Russell? Actually, Sulmer’s take is similar in vision to that described by Abboud, but the black fashion expert believes there is even more room for Argyleculture to pump its “irreverence” level based on these photos.
Stylized men’s fashions have certainly exploded and become more popular than ever — to the point that even NBA stars sport styles that are at once preppy, urban and chic. With so many potential customers, and so many lines to choose from, Simmons and Abboud need to carefully consider how to best capitalize on the urban prep trend.
Now they have to work on perfecting the combination of classic and edgy — and perhaps insert clever tips on pronouncing the name in Argyleculture’s marketing campaign.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter @lexisb