NEW YORK — LL Cool J wants to be the real deal in fashion.
Instead of trailing the flock of musicians who have jumped into sportswear with little more than a well-known name, the rapper is kicking things up with a well-edited ready-to-wear collection. And he is using his given middle and last name — Todd Smith — not the one that made him famous.
"This brand is not about the rapper LL Cool J," he said after a preview at the Carlton Hotel here Thursday. "This is about Todd Smith, the guy you don't get to see and the lifestyle I live when I go home to Long Island."
He was on Long Island watching his daughter's soccer game and talking with Ronald Gallo, a friend and longtime Seventh Avenue executive, when they came up with the idea for a luxe label. The pair cofounded Standard Fashion LLC, which produces Todd Smith Luxury and TS Todd Smith. The latter will be sold exclusively at Macy's. Gallo will continue to work at the Rose Group, where he makes outerwear for Bill Blass, Tahari, Nicole Miller and others.
Smith has dabbled in fashion, having worked behind the scenes for Troop, a nonfashion, insider hip-hop line, in the mid-Eighties and then Fubu in the Nineties. His signature collection, however, is definitively not urban. The Italian-made clothing is driven from classic tailoring, but is fluid and sophisticated.
"There is a danger associated with rap artists having a line," he said. "It could be a certain cliché. I saw this as an opportunity to do something different. Sometimes there is a lack of caring on the part of the artist when they are doing these lines."
Smith showed a sophisticated lineup for fall, an unexpected surprise of rich flannel wrap coats and tailored pants that had a relaxed elegance along the lines of fashion icon Giorgio Armani. For evening, he showed intricately pleated gowns and cocktail dresses that were tasteful and tailored. While Smith is deeply involved, he did bring in consultants. His design team has worked at Dolce & Gabbana and Marni, which should presumably keep this line on the right track. Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman are among the stores that have shown interest in the 35-piece women's fall collection, which will be priced to compete with Chloé and Marc Jacobs, Smith said.
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