Yang, who’s known in the hip-hop world and to his 754,000 Instagram followers as IF & Co. head Ben Baller, has partnered with apparel executive Michael Huynh to launch a men’s line called Superism. Unveiled on Thursday at Revolve Man, the men’s division of Web retailer Revolve Clothing, the debut collection is a complete overhaul of what is commonly associated with a rapper’s wardrobe. In lieu of bold graphics, baggy pants and long T-shirts, the 35 pieces serve as streamlined essentials for men who want to elevate their style with quality materials, clean lines and tailored fits but not feel like buffoons attempting to adapt to the extreme trends that are propelling the men’s market.
“I didn’t want super-long clothes or super-wide clothes or crazy colors,” Yang said. Admitting his own problem with finding well-fitting shirts due to his long torso, “I wanted to fix a few holes I saw in classic American clothes,” he said. “I was looking into that place between people wearing suits and people wearing polos.”
Superism’s offerings include $96 button-fly walking shorts, $430 stretchy polyester trenchcoats with genuine suede lining in the pockets, $120 cotton-polyester buttonups slit at the side seams, $116 cotton-spandex chinos and $800 suede bomber jackets. Steeped in black, white, tan, gray and olive green, the palette is punctuated with two prints: thin horizontal stripes and a medium-size plaid. The only pop of color comes from a red base for the plaid. In essence, “Superism is about being a grown man, it’s about stepping up your fashion game,” Yang said.
In the first 24 hours of stocking Superism, Michael Mente, cofounder and chief executive officer of Revolve, noticed that sales were balanced across all categories. Mente himself happened to be sporting Superism’s $80 T-shirt cut from semi-sheer slub polyester on Friday.
“It hits all aspects of the lifestyle,” he said. “You can tell it’s designed but it’s not overdesigned. It has nice details without being too exaggerated and specific. It can appeal to a large group.”
Therein lies the potential for Superism. Viewing the men’s market as “a huge long-term opportunity,” Mente said men’s wear contributed to just under 40 percent of Revolve’s business last year. He expects it to grow a little bit more this year.
“We see a shift in that men are much more educated in fashion than ever,” he said. “We are also seeing men experimenting more.”
While Superism represents Yang’s first fashion line, he’s always been surrounded by industry experts. Huynh is the founder of Publish, a contemporary men’s brand from Huntington Beach, Calif., which is also sold by Revolve Man. Yang’s mother spent 25 years manufacturing dresses for Guess, Cherokee and other women’s labels, and his sister, Jeanne Yang, branched out from styling leading men such as Tom Cruise, Robert Downey Jr. and Christian Bale to try her hand running a short-lived women’s line, called Holmes & Yang, with Cruise’s ex-wife, Katie Holmes.
Plus, Yang counts Jonas Bevacqua, the late cofounder of LRG, as an inspiration. The two had discussed starting a clothing brand together before Bevacqua’s death in 2011. Since then, Yang has dipped into clothing collaborations with skate brands such as Diamond Supply Co.
The ultimate payoff for Yang’s work on Superism came when his sister asked when she could start pulling items from the line to dress her celebrity clientele. Given the ribbing that siblings often inflict upon each other, Yang’s initial response was: “Seriously? Don’t f— with me.” Yang realizes now that he’s on the right track. “She’s not going to risk her reputation after being in fashion for 20 years because her brother started a line,” he said.
To build his own reputation in the apparel industry, Yang wants to proceed slowly. He’s shedding the flashy image he burnished as a celebrity jeweler, dropping the Baller surname in any reference to Superism. He also wants to take his time to grow the business, despite fielding calls to open a flagship in Europe. HypeBeast’s ecommerce extension, HBX, is on board to sell the line after Revolve Man’s exclusivity ends in two months. Moreover, he’s looking at widening the distribution as early as this summer and expanding sales to Germany, Hong Kong and Korea.
“If you talked to me a year ago, I would have told you Superism is going to be f—ing big in four months,” he said. “I’m not in a rush to blow up.”