Beyond the Low Riders

The New York Times has an interesting article about how Sean Coombes is trying quite successfully to walk his urban fashion label out the cliche it had become. Though his business is worth some 400 million USD annually, Coombs has seen the writing on the wall of the scene and rather than cater for the limited market of Ali G impressionists is trying to move more upmarket. The urban fashion scene has become as tired as the sound of R&B and rap music, in the way that 80’s rock got into treading the same groove over and over again to make money.

In the US, labels like Ecko, Sean John and Phat Farm have been co-opted by preppie clientele. There is a certain irony in this as Phat Farm often aped preppie and collegiate looks for the hip-hop community. Now Phat Farm has been co-opted by desperate brands such as Motorola looking for a hook-up, Russell Simmons sold out leaving the company to an international conglomerate. Brands like Gap and Abercrombie and Finch have stolen much of the look and in Europe, genuine workwear brands like Carhartt and Dickies that were part of the real prison yard baggy look have combated the new pretenders by acknowledging their fashion customer base and participating in associated activities like music and extreme sports.

Coombs is using his womenswear range as a Trojan horse to get into the department stores that otherwise would not have carried his usual clothing range.