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."I'm sensitive to pop culture, but I'm also sensitive to how brands affect people's perception in a social environment," the rapper said. "I think one has to be wary of what a brand represents. You may have a beautiful line, but because of a lack of taste, the brand takes on a losing connotation partially because people don't like what the brand represents. Then people won't buy it even if they like the clothing."
Having a clothing line is something Smith has hoped for since he was a teenager cruising the streets with his girlfriend, he said. "It's not that I'm a designer. I'm an artist and a rapper. I'm doing fashion for the same reason Calvin Klein went into home furnishings. It's kind of in my spirit to come up with an idea and to bring it to fruition. This could be a movie, or a song. It's me expressing myself as an artist, not just with fabric. It's about creating something beautiful that makes people feel good. It's not about the fashion, per se."
While Smith aspires to hold a show at Bryant Park in the big tent, he's pacing himself. He also backed away from making any first-year projections. "I don't expect to make $100 million overnight or to be an overnight explosion. My only benchmark is to be profitable and to do well. This is not about me trying to sell six million coats at Wal-Mart."
It's also not about any licensors or silent partners. "I sprang for this," he said. "There's no guy behind the scenes writing the check. I wrote those checks."
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye