NEW YORK — They are not the newest boy band.

This story first appeared in the November 6, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

No, Intricate Concepts is five young men from different backgrounds who have banded together to combine their talents into a group of fashion designers who work behind the scenes creating hip-hop-inspired gear.

As ghost designers and creative consultants, they’ve helped create collections for such labels as Sean John, Phat Farm, Ecko and Rocawear. Now, they are working on a new design strategy and brand identity for the relaunch of Mecca Femme.

Although they have done this before, each member of the team agrees that he must treat each client as a challenge in order to provide something new and fresh, while still speaking to the consumer who will buy the clothes. They want to keep the details of the line quiet, since the company doesn’t plan to introduce this collection until some time next year. They did say the line will have a Japanese-inspired feeling, but were hush about what each silhouette will look like.

Beyond the creation of the clothes line, they are creating a new company identity for Mecca Femme — inventing new graphics, logos and hangtags for the garments.

“When a company comes in here we can give them the full service, from the clothing design to the Web design to the business materials,” said Joseph Mbeh, co-founder of Intricate Concepts.

With the growth of the hip-hop industry as a whole, companies outside of the market have also taken notice of the team’s talents. Since it started in 1999, Intricate Concepts has also worked with Joe Boxer, Saks Fifth Avenue, Budweiser and Jergen’s, creating logos and brand identity materials for them. Now, between Mecca Femme activities, the five are helping to create DKNY Jeans’ next collection.

Ray Wong, a Chinese-American, and Mbeh, a native of Cameroon, saw a need for their type of company when they started out four years ago. While many junior sportswear companies have in-house teams to keep on top of teen culture, many urban labels lack this aspect.

“What I have experienced is that these companies are so concerned with the business end, that they don’t have the time to think about the creative end,” Mbeh said. “That’s where we come in — to handle all the creative energy.”

In 1998, Mbeh was working as a freelance designer at Phat Farm and left to work with Wong. Even in their early 20s, Wong and Mbeh already had major experience. They attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, Parsons School of Art and Pratt before working at a private label manufacturer, where the two met. Meeting through friends, the two clicked with three others: Ray Rios, from Puerto Rico, a freelance graphic designer; Tarikh Commodore, an African-American from the Bronx who lived the hip-hop lifestyle, and Malcolm Davis, a fashion design student from Jamaica.

To stay on top of the trends, they observe people on the streets and in clubs, listen to music, tear pictures out of magazines and scour trade show floors. Wong said the company has mostly grown through word-of-mouth. He said it is becoming increasingly demanding, but they have worked out a routine so they can take care of each client equally.

“We have a carefully worked out schedule, so we would never have to turn anyone away,” Wong said.

According to designers at Avirex, Intricate’s first client, they are “talented and a pleasure to work with.”

At Sean John Loungewear, Intricate created graphics and print patterns. The line’s designer, Michael Chew Shaw, raved about their work, saying they “take their own initiative and always come up with something extra.”

But with all of their creative tastes, there is bound to be some arguments. Still, they all agreed, they have learned how to get through the obstacles.

“We have respect for each other,” Mbeh said. “We all understand that we are here to work to create the best possible product that we can come up with. That’s our mission.”

Rios added: “And nothing leaves this office until we are all OK with it.”

Mbeh said he hopes to eventually have an Intricate Concepts office in many major cities, but for now, they are working with what they can: gathering the newest trends from the streets of this city — where hip-hop culture began.

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