Hip-hop originated in the Bronx during the 1970s. It started out with the African American community before spreading out to other ethnic communities. While it is normally associated to music, it is actually a subculture of its own that has spewed out its own language and clothing style.
Hip-hop clothing is also known as urban fashion. It has evolved over the years, with hip hop artists wearing Adidas, Converse Chuck Taylors, track suits and leather bomber jackets. The clothing is meant to complement the attitudes, characters and expressions of the songs.
Today, entire clothing lines have been created to cater to hip-hop. Some have achieved tremendous success as a result of its massive appeal to the consumers. Others have flopped because of a combination of poor management, lack of promotion and high price points. The ones that have succeeded, however, include the top 10 hottest hip-hop clothing lines today.
1. Phat Farm
Russell Simmons, one of the pioneering celebrity designers, launched Phat Farm way back in 1992. It managed to combine the practicality and urban design of street clothing with the preppy Ivy League culture. Simmons succeeded by hiring knowledgeable managers and by backing up the brand with extensive advertising campaigns. In 2004, he sold the brand to Kellwood Company for $140 million. He believed that the only way for the brand to sustain its popularity and even increase sales is by selling it to a company who has the knowledge, experience, connections and distribution network to properly manage and promote the clothing line.
Rocawear was created in 1999 and immediately became a favorite of urban fashion consumers. Shawn Carter, also known as Jay-Z, established the company that initially offered sportswear for young men. It eventually expanded into other lines, with the company now offering items as diverse as men’s loungewear and underwear, headwear, women’s lingerie, belts, handbags, socks, jewelries, men’s shoes and women’s footwear. It also has lines for kids and juniors. It has gone international, with offices in the United Kingdom, the Middle East, the European continent, Russia, South Korea, Japan and Canada. Its annual retail sales total $700 million. To help sustain the brand, Jay-Z sold the brand to Iconix Brand in 2004 for $204 million. He still has a significant stake in the company, however, even as he has maintained control over the marketing, licensing and product development aspects of the business.
3. Baby Phat
In 1998, Phat Farm staged a runway show to promote its new offerings. To spice up the crowd, female models in tiny tees paraded on the catwalk. The tiny tees had the name of Baby Phat, and soon, it became a brand of its own. It was run by Kimore Lee Simmons, whose ability to combine high fashion with hip-hop proved to be popular with urban female consumers. The brand also developed a loyal following as Simmons proved to be savvy enough to lower its prices when the recession hit the country. In 2004, Kellwood Company bought Baby Phat for $140 million, the same amount it paid for Phat Farm. The brand thereafter expanded to footwear, outerwear, accessories, lingerie and bags. Sales are estimated to be around $980 million. Simmons, however, was removed as the brand’s creative director in 2010.
4. Sean John
Puff Daddy, or P Diddy, or Sean John launched this clothing line in 1998. It debuted with its spring collection of sportswear the following year. The brand has since evolved and now creates men’s suits, men’s fragrances, big-sized clothing for boys, accessories and even a line for women. Annual sales exceed $525 million. The flagship store in New York had to close down in 2010, however, due to declining sales. The following year, the brand bounced back big time when it scored an exclusive distribution deal with Macy’s.
5. Billionaire Boys Club
Pharell Williams launched the brand in 2005 in collaboration with Nigo, the founder of A Bathing Ape, or BAPE. Reebok was originally tasked to launch the line, but disputes between the giant shoe company and Williams scuttled the deal. Eventually, it was launched as a sister company to BAPE. Billionaire Boys Club produces everything from shirts, polos, sweatshirts, knits, denim pants, suits, shirts, outerwear, leather products, hats, sneakers, underwears, socks and accessories. Only a limited number is produced and the product has a high price point.
It stands for “A King of Oneself,” this clothing line was established in 2008 by T.I. and Jason Geter. It sells shirts, cardigans, sweaters, leather jackets and denim clothing.
When Daymond John founded FUBU in 1992, it originally stood for “Five Urban Brothers United.” Later on, it was considered an acronym of “For Us, By Us.” The company sells casual and sportswear, suits, eyewear, belts and shoes. From an initial $100 thousand dollar investment, it reached sales of $350 million during its peak. It has since rebranded to FB Legacy.
8. Ecko Unltd.
Marc Milecofsky founded this New Jersey-based company in 1993. It traces its roots in the 1980s when Milecofsky sold graffiti-style shirts using a can of spray paint. It is considered to be the largest brand of streetwear in the world, with over a billion dollars in revenues around the world.
Donwan and Emmett Harrell founded Akademiks. It gained popularity when the Brooklyn rapper Fabolous wore an Akademiks accessory on the inside cover of his debut album. He also included the brand name in several of his songs. The brand is also known as Akdmks and AKS. Its garments also features the ASAP insignia, which stands for “Akdmks Small Arms Patrol.”
It is known to produce clothes that have styles similar to other urban fashion brands such as FUBU, but at a much lower cost. This allows Southpole to enter the market at a price point that is easier on the pocket of consumers. The result is a successful brand that has reached sales revenue of $350 million. Most of its clothes are imported from manufacturers in Asia before they get distributed in retailers like Sears.