They’re fabulous, notorious, larger-than-life and styled to the hilt. They’re the hip-hop impresarios and lady rappers whose every move is emulated, especially when it comes to fashion. The $6 billion urban market can’t seem to get enough of what Jay-Z and J.Lo are singing — and wearing. Filling a specialty niche, urban stores sell streetwear brands to the young consumers who subsist on a steady diet of BET, MTV and VH1. While the retailers may have started on the gritty streets, they’re now found in suburban malls.

1) UNDERGROUND STATION
Number of stores: 132

Underground Station is the fast-growing division of Genesco, the large footwear company that owns Johnston & Murphy, Jarman and Docker’s. The chain targets 20- to 35-year-old men and women with shoes from Timberland, Tommy Hilfiger, Diesel and Steve Madden. Fashion includes Baby Phat, Rocawear Jr. and licensed team apparel. Jeans with collages made up of team logos are among the hottest items for fall. Men’s wear accounts for 85 percent of sales and footwear is a large part of the business, but apparel and accessories are growing.

2) DEMO
Number of stores: 121

Five-year-old Demo is expected to do $100 million at retail this year. The lifestyle-based concept from Pacific Sunwear couldn’t be more different than its Pac Sun sibling. Pac Sun revolves around surf and skate merchandise. Demo takes its inspiration from the street. Young men and women choose from Baby Phat, Ecko Red, Rocawear, JLo, Lady Enyce and Anisette. A new prototype, called Demo Lite in-house, is less industrial looking and more female friendly.

*3) JIMMY JAZZ
Number of stores: 40

Jimmy Jazz sells Lady Enyce, Baby Phat, Rocawear, Nike and Timberland in stores that average 3,500 to 5,000 square feet, several of which are multilevel. The young crowd that shops at Jimmy Jazz enjoys hanging in the stores, where the latest music gets blasted from the speakers. The chain’s owners listen to Hot 97, the radio station of choice for the hordes of hip-hop devotees, and does its own mixes based on the playlist.*4) EPIC
Number of stores: 40

The Garden City, N.Y.-based chain operates five women’s-only stores under the nameplate, Epic II. The balance of dual-gender stores, ranging in size from 3,500 to 5,000 square feet, are concentrated in the Northeast and in Florida. In 60 years, the chain has morphed from Sid’s Pants to Jean Country to Scream, before settling on the Epic concept. Brands include Echo, Enyce, Rocawear, Shady, Peppe, Baby Phat and Fetish. A new chain, Law, for the suburban hip-hop crowd, carries brands such as Von Dutch and Triple 5.

5) MAN ALIVE
Number of stores: 35

Man Alive, which is based in Indianapolis, opened its first store in 1969 in Benton Harbor, Mich., as a denim retailer for men, women and children. The company found its niche in the big city, opening units in Atlanta, Cleveland and the Detroit area. Hip-hop princesses will find Baby Phat, Fubu Ladies, Akdmks Ladies, Rocawear and South Pole, and $2,500 fur-trimmed jackets for the truly fabulous. The stores, which are lined with graphics of rap stars, range in size from 3,000 to 4,000 square feet.

6) CITY BLUE
Number of stores: 32

Two Israeli brothers opened City Blue 20 years ago as a jeans and sneakers emporium. When urban idols such as J.Lo, Sean John and Eve started designing their own clothes, Joe and Jonathan Nadav saw the hip-hop handwriting on the wall. The company’s 4,000-square-foot stores are located in Ohio and Pennsylvania, with a new unit opening on South Street in Philadelphia. When 76er Allen Iverson is in town, he shops at City Blue with his teammates.

7) UP AGAINST THE WALL
Number of stores: 21

Up Against the Wall calls itself a “neo-metro” chain. In other words, it has all the popular streetwear brands — Echo, Baby Phat and Von Dutch — plus jeans from upscale brands such as Seven, Citizens of Humanity, Juicy Couture, D&G, Plein Sud, Joe’s Jeans and Paper, Denim & Cloth. The company mixes it all up in its 3,500-square-foot stores found in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Los Angeles.8) STREET STUFF
Number of stores: 18

Leave it to the third generation. Mitchell Fine’s grandfather opened his first store, a hat shop called Fine’s, in 1993. It became a men’s store, and for a while, was one of the largest Levi’s retailers in the country. The Norfolk, Va.-based chain is now in the process of converting its stores to the Street Stuff nameplate. The units are designed to look like urban streets with concrete floors, industrial lighting and exposed brick walls. Customers appreciate the selection and the vibe.

9) DR. JAY’S
Number of stores: 17

The Dr. Jay’s legacy began in 1975 with the opening of its first store in the South Bronx. The urban landscape was changing, and with the new music came a new fashion sensibility. Dr. Jay’s has been a pioneer in providing urban fashions throughout the New York metro area. Top brands include Avirex, Baby Phat, Blue Marlin, Boutique NYC, DKNY Jeans, Ecko Red, Femme Arsenal, Fetish, Flame, Fubu, Girbaud, Hustler, JLo, Kangol and Lady Enyce.

10) MONY
Number of stores: 13

Mony caters to 16- to 30-year-olds who want to look like celebrities. In business since 1980, the stores are aimed at “fashion leaders, not followers,” according to owner Ted Assis. Mony stores feature concept shops giving an array of brands their own environments. Under the spotlights are JLo, Diesel, Girbaud, DKNY, Lady Enyce and Baby Phat, with Von Dutch arriving next year. Some stores even have DJs scratching in their own booths. The 125th Street flagship has 8,000 square feet and VIP dressing rooms, but most stores average 4,000 square feet.

SOURCE: STORES; * Signifies A Tie

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