Russell Simmons is no stranger to the fashion industry. His Phat Farm label was one of the top urban brands in the 90s and early aughts. Now, Simmons is going a little less street and a little more collegiate with his Argyleculture menswear label, which showed its Spring 2015 collection last night in a very cramped space at Helen Mills on West 26th Street. Guests piled into the narrow hall, which, in all honesty, felt more like a very overbooked nightclub party than a fashion show.
As we struggled to navigate the dense crowd, we came upon a somber-looking 50 Cent waiting by the wall to be seated as guests jostled between the bar and standing room, looking for the best view of the runway. In attendance was Kimora Lee, there to support her ex-husband and best friend, Simmons’ nieces Angela and Vanessa Simmons as well as Reverend Al Sharpton and America’s Next Top Model judge Miss J. Alexander.
The space was tight, but the clothes made up for it. The collection itself had the label’s signature ultra-preppy dandy vibe, of course, with a hip-hop twist. It was not without generous helpings of plaid and (naturally) argyle. Simmons sprinkled in a few womenswear looks — several members of the audience (self included) took quite a linking to a white jumpsuit paired with a smart white blazer.
The show was enjoyable, certainly there will be plenty for Simmons’ target customer to choose from next season. But we wanted to hear from the man himself. We chatted with Uncle Rush post-show to hear about the collection in his own words.
theFashionSpot: What was the inspiration behind this line?
Russell Simmons: Historically, black college campuses, and what’s not available in the stores. I walk on historically black campuses, and I identify with what they’re wearing. I have a 30,000 square-foot office and in that office, all these young, cool kids are there and I work with them every day. And I’m in the music business. And I’m in the comedy business. And I’m in the poetry business. All these young people inspire me and I see at these HBC’s all these young professionals, young urban professionals and they’re not being served. To me it seems obvious. There’s a hole in the market. And designing into that hole means something because it’s a place I’ve always loved. Our classic American clothes go through twists over the years with design sensibilities. But the hipsters have gotten in there somehow, and various different influences. I was just talking about how (J.Crew CEO) Mickey Drexler‘s design is very inspiring. His cut is dramatically different than say, Ralph Lauren. I love Ralph’s clothes, but you wear his men’s stuff and it’s like old-fashioned 80s hip-hop — it’s so baggy. It’s box-cut, which I can’t wear. So, there’s a hole in the market and Macy’s is helping me fill it. The last time I was on the floor, I got Jay Z a partner, I helped Nelly start Apple Bottoms. Apple Bottoms became a $600 million company. Jay Z’s became a very big company. We did $800 to $900 million dollars in some of our better years. It was a big urban explosion. Department stores bought these collections because they were doing defense. All the independent stores were selling all these brands, and the people didn’t have to go to the department stores. From a men’s perspective, however, people aren’t that thirsty. They’ll go and mix and match. They’ll buy a pique from Lacoste and a sweater from Tommy and a twill pant from J.Crew. They’ve got a lot of work to do, but a cohesive collection that speaks this language doesn’t exist. That’s why I do it. I like building brands and doing things people don’t have. The only things that people don’t have are the things I love. So, if I love it, and you don’t have it, I want to give it to you. From a design standpoint, that’s what I’m doing.