by Karen Alberg Grossman
Images courtesy of Thomas Concordia for Argyleculture

Russell Simmons is a happy guy. After building his Argyleculture brand in Macy’s, the hip-hop legend and clothing designer is now growing it big-time with JCPenney. “Marvin sees us as a big brand,” he explains, referring to Marvin Ellison, the national retailer’s CEO. “We can now create better product because we’re producing ten times the quantity for many more doors.”

According to Simmons, first season sell-throughs have been good but samples coming in now for fall ‘17 are off-the-charts fabulous, with a new emphasis on performance and stretch. And prices are extremely approachable, including polos for $24.99, pants for $31.99 and blazers for $69.99.

“Argyleculture is reflective of Russell’s sharp style and will help to differentiate The Men’s Store at JCPenney,” says John Tighe, chief merchant at JCP. “As an on-trend, quality brand that appeals to both the millennial man and the mature professional, Argyleculture has broad appeal that will elevate the perception of JCPenney among style-driven men.”

Jeff Siskin from Bernette, licensee for the sportswear, is also highly optimistic. “It’s a great relationship with us and Russell and JCPenney. From management to the buying team, Penney’s is incredibly proactive and entrepreneurial: there’s tremendous energy when our teams work together. Russell has terrific marketing and media ideas that Penney’s supports wholeheartedly. So expect to see online videos of the runway shows and items of the week on social media. There’s lot of great stuff in the works.”

Argyleculture by Russell Simmons
Images courtesy of Thomas Concordia for Argyleculture

Asked about early selling, Siskind notes that while the launch season is always hits and misses, he is amazed that the best-selling styles are often the more expensive ones. “Our single best-selling item is a velvet blazer at $120. Many of the other more interesting pieces are selling well. So we’re not playing it safe: we’re giving our designers free rein to be creative.”

Siskind also notes that Agyleculture is not an ethnic brand: “We’re getting accolades from some very conservative types, so the customer base is actually quite broad.”

Simmons agrees. “We love the urban graduate,” he pronounces, referring to a customer base from millennials to more mature professionals. “Urban cool is as mainstream as it gets: it’s classic American but with a certain edge. These are the guys who had been buying Ralph Lauren and J. Crew but were taking in the pants. So we see this as a big opportunity to fill what was much white space in menswear design.”