MILAN — While most celebrities entering fashion at least attempt to come up with a pseudo-psychological design philosophy, rapper Coolio is unapologetically honest about his overtly chauvinistic design aesthetic.
“Women should be barefoot with short skirts on and their breasts should be about to pop out of the top. No, I’m joking,” laughed Artis Ivey Jr., aka Coolio, who is in town promoting his new fashion label Gang Star. “I like a woman who takes pride in the way she looks. I like women who aren’t afraid to iron. People don’t iron anymore. Sometimes you gotta iron.”
Yes, the jam-packed market for celebrity fashion lines is about to get even more crowded. Coolio and Italian manufacturer Mama Industry are creating an apparel line for men and women, which will bow for fall. At least, that is the plan, unless there’s another logistical snag like the one when samples didn’t make their way to a presentation here.
Hopefully, Coolio and Paolo Rubin, founder and general manager of Padua-based Mama Industry, will manage to present a more thorough product offering at Barcelona’s Bread & Butter later this month.
In the meantime, Coolio posed for photos Tuesday at the Hotel Sheraton Diana Majestic, next door to Gucci’s show venue. Perched on a hotel bar’s couch, he modeled a Gang Star’s leather jacket equipped with solar panels to power electronic devices like iPods or handheld computers. Sporting his signature spiky hair, he also showed off a matching messenger bag with panels.
Coolio and Rubin are fine-tuning their women’s collection. The singer, who said he will approve every piece, said he’s focusing on tight, high-end denim and baby Ts from the start, hoping to eventually round out the offering to encompass blouses, boots and, of course, very short skirts. For men, the emphasis will be on denim, jackets and dress shirts. The fall debut will be made up of 35 to 50 men’s and women’s pieces.
Rubin, who founded the Italian street brand Mafia Wear, will use his own manufacturing facilities in Italy to produce part of the Gang Star collection; the remainder will be outsourced to companies in Tunisia and Romania. Rubin said he expects the first collection to generate sales of 2 million euros, or $2.6 million at current exchange. Gang Star pieces will bear an average price tag of about 100 euros, or approximately $130, although the solar panel jacket will fetch about 250 euros, or $325.
Coolio, whose fame peaked in the mid-Nineties with hit “Gangsta’s Paradise,” is staging a comeback via Italian record label Subside Records. Last year he released a new album, “The Return of the Gangsta,” and he’s getting ready to do a reality series on MTV.
Mama Industry will distribute Gang Star in selected European countries, including Italy, Germany, the U.K. and Russia, for the first season, building upon Mafia Wear’s existing network of specialty retailers. Rubin said he’s started talks with potential Asian distributors. Precise timing for U.S. distribution hasn’t been determined.
Both Rubin and Coolio shrugged off some industry concerns that the demand for celebrity fashion is on the wane. Coolio said he’s approaching this differently from the rest of the pack since he wants to do a limited run of affordable clothing and distance himself from luxury markups. He said he intends to completely sell out the collection in a couple of months.
“You only lose money if you’ve got a lot of product out there and you can’t sell it. I’m not trying to do too much … Whoever [buys a piece] is going to be like: ‘Aw, you can’t get this anymore, dog,'” Coolio said.