ArgyleCulture, the three-year-old men’s collection for the “urban graduate” moving beyond the Phat Farm, hip-hop look, hasn’t exactly set the fashion world on fire. But the breakout moment has arrived, at least according to the designer and music mogul behind the brand, Russell Simmons.
On Thursday, ArgyleCulture gets relaunched at Macy’s Herald Square with a new 750-square-foot shop, and Simmons starts his road show at Macy’s stores around the country to promote the brand.
In addition, a fall advertising campaign with Tyson Beckford as the face of ArgyleCulture launches Oct. 11, and a tuxedo-ed Simmons will be splashed across the side of city buses. After that, Simmons takes another dive into reality TV with an eight-part series beginning Nov. 2 chronicling the making of ArgyleCulture. Terry Lundgren, chairman, chief executive and president of Macy’s Inc., which sells ArgyleCulture exclusively, will appear in several episodes with Simmons.
ArgyleCulture has been bogged down by delivery problems and legal squabbles with its sourcing agent, LF USA, and overshadowed by other brands, including those it draws inspiration from, such as Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. “Before, we were never sure about our deliveries. That’s behind us,” Simmons said in an interview. “Now we are capable of delivering on time. Our clothes are in the warehouse and waiting to be on the floor. We are prepared. We have our team in place. We have the money. Remember, it took five years for Phat Farm [the hip-hop brand that Simmons started and eventually sold] to gain footing. I don’t really have good success at the beginning.”
Simmons acknowledged that ArgyleCulture has been slow to hit its stride, with a small volume he placed at under $5 million. But he feels the brand is in a good place now, and consumers are, too. “The hole in the market is big enough to drive a truck through. The white space is unbelievable.” Among consumers, “There’s less of a fear factor buying clothes.” Though the economy has not improved much, “the idea of going on with our lives is out there.”
At Macy’s, the ArgyleCulture shop will sit next to Hilfiger and Lauren, Simmons said, though it has “a different language” that speaks to young men in college to those aged 50 or so who have “graduated” from the hip-hop look. “They want to wear stuff that gives them a little swagger, that gives them a little edge,” Simmons said. “It’s Brooks Brothers meets Tommy meets Ralph, but more colorful, playful and fun.”
Asked to list some of the standouts in the collection, Simmons cited wintery, heathery argyle sweaters with a little silk to make them pop, “cool” corduroys with a different cut, off-colored denims, blue blazers with gold buttons and collars with a burgundy underside, simple argyle sweaters with a fresh point of view, and Oxford shirts in soft “liberating” fabrics. The cut is typical for men’s wear, though maybe a little smaller, he added. Products include polos priced at $39; button-downs, $52; vests, $58; basic jeans, $52; fashion jeans, $58; ArgyleCulture Adidas shoes, $65; gray blazers, $98, and sports jacket and zipper-placket blazers, $150.
Recently, Russell Simmons sued LF USA’s The Millwork Trading Co. unit for more than $55 million, alleging fraud and breach of contract over its marketing of ArgyleCulture. “I am not at liberty to talk about that. I want to move on and protect my business and make sure I deliver on my promises.” LF USA continues to ship both ArgyleCulture and American Classics, which is also designed by Simmons and sold at Wal-Mart under the current licensing agreement.
Simmons said the exclusive arrangement with Macy’s will extend at least through next spring. “The line is developed right out of my imagination,” Simmons said. “My imagination is not so crazy. It’s kind of commercial. I am going to deliver this company, no matter what. It ought to be a great success. I am pushing to make the company relevant, and for people to understand the space it’s filling.”