NEW YORK — Fans of LL Cool J hoping to glimpse one of rap’s most well-known artists at New York's Fashion Week instead witnessed the debut of Todd Smith, designer.
Smith, 38, who has found success for more than two decades by staying at the forefront of the fickle hip-hop scene as LL Cool J, this season became the latest urban musical artist to seek it with a clothing line, which debuted earlier this week.
“I would like a person to look rich, to look successful but not be overly ornate,” Smith told MSNBC.com at the launch of his brand at the Carlton Hotel. “I want to leave room for the everyday guy to upgrade.”
To do this, Smith steered clear of streetwear favored by other hip-hop artists-turned-designer — no track suits or baggy jeans here — opting for a more elegant look incorporating luxury fabrics and classically tailored looks.
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The men’s collection, overseen by Jeremy Brandrick of Dolce & Gabbana, includes a fur-lined gray cashmere overcoat with a pink Prince of Wales check shirt and gray windowpane trousers. Another look incorporated a blue country-check hunting jacket, paired with an eggplant cashmere turtleneck and beige corduroy trousers.
A metallic shirt and black-and-gold club tie combination alluded to Smith’s showbiz background, but otherwise the collection was muted and refined.
Other highlights include a chocolate velvet dinner jacket, a slim-cut natural crocodile jacket, calfskin gloves and a double-breasted navy pinstripe suit.
For the smaller women’s collection, Smith tapped Matthew Priestly, formerly of Marni, as head designer.
Slideshow: Fashion forward Those ensembles harked back to a look that alluded to 1940s glamour: A cream silk column evening dress (think Martin Scorcese’s film, “The Aviator”), pencil pants and rope belts, and a gold crepe Lurex cocktail dress.
So will Todd Smith be the next Sean John?
“No,” he said. “The brand is what it is.”
Smith added that he envisioned his collections developing into a luxury brand, like Zegna, the Italian couture line for men, or Chloé, for women, the French label previously led by such design luminaries as Karl Lagerfeld and Martine Sitbon.
Already, he has bypassed early offerings of Sean John, the label launched by hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, which included T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts and caps. (Sean John later expanded into more high-end looks and in 2004 won a Men’s Designer of the Year award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.)
“This is a long way from the rapper,” said Smith, who as LL Cool J is no stranger to sporting sweatpants and hoodies on stage.
“LL’s a rapper,” he said. “Todd Smith is a brand.”
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