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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Clothing Aficionado Discusses the Fashion & Hip-Hop Connection


Hip Hop Ruckus recently caught up with clothing and music aficionado Rikers, director of marketing at Stall & Dean and Hip-Hop editor at Beyond Race Magazine, to educate us on why fashion and music are so intertwined.

Sixteen years in, Rikers knows the ins-and-outs of both the fashion and music world. He’s been behind the manufacturing of some of Hip-Hop’s most iconic brands from Starter to Coogi.

As director of marketing for the athletic-inspired brand Stall & Dean, the fashionisto has styled just about everyone who is important in Hip-Hop from Jay-Z and T.I. to up-and-comers like Derty Den.

In our interview with Rikers, we discussed the inter-relation between Hip-Hop and fashion as well as his past and present work, and his work at Beyond Race Magazine. So since you’ve gotten this far, kick up your laces, pop your collar and read up.

HHR: What’s going on Rikers, please introduce yourself to the readers?
Rikers: I’m director of marketing at Stall & Dean clothing as well as Rucker brands. I am also the music/Hip-Hop editor of Beyond Race Magazine and co-founder of Gettin It Together (Unity) Records artist development.

HHR: You’ve been in the fashion industry manufacturing clothing for over 16 years. Aside from Stall & Dean, who other brands have you worked with?
Rikers: I have worked for various companies from Starter, where we manufactured 95 percent of the entire collection. This is when Starter was the premier athletic line. I’ve also worked Fubu, Apple Bottoms, Reebok, Adidas and we actually do the NBA collection including uniforms, Ecko, G-III active wear.

HHR: How has urban fashion changed in the past decade or so?
Rikers: Honestly, there aren’t many changes from what I’ve been able to digest [laughs]. I mean fashion always goes through changes like now people are looking at denim suits making a return to the market. Rucker, NFL 60 and the NBA are pushing the kids to go out and play more. Adults are taking note of this, I’ve seen more and more people, adults especially, wearing various jerseys.

Jerseys allow you to wear your workout sculpture as they call it [laughs]. But in the early 2000s jerseys were the must have. Colors are hot again, but again, this was done heavy with Columbia, Cross Colors, Coogi, etcetera, so it’s better to think in front of the curve because if you wait for changes by the time you get it into your collection the next season has already come around and “Off to the next one.”

HHR: What exactly are your day-to-day responsibilities as the head of marketing at Stall & Dean/Rucker?
Rikers: They vary from day-to-day because the climate of the industry. I usually work a week in advance, this allows me to make changes in planning. But I’m always looking for new ventures, new clients, new markets or developing the ones we need. So let’s do Friday for instance – that’s my favorite day [laughs]: 7-10 am I’m answering emails; once 10 am comes I’m at marketing meeting; from 11-12:30 pm I’m speaking to various departments from sales to design to see where were coming short and where we need to be. I usually don’t take lunch unless I’m out the office. Then from 12:30-2 pm I’m reading various websites from SoJones, FashionLedge, FlystyleBlog, XiMagOnline, Stuffflypeoplelike, DrJays, etcetera just to see what’s going on in my neck of the woods.

Later on from 2-3:30 pm I’m checking out what’s happening in Hip-Hop to get an idea of what’s going on in the music world. This is a great indication of trends, colors and which artists are actually buzzing. From 3:30-5 pm I could be doing various tasks whether it be in the streets or just flipping magazines. Around 7-8 pm I’m usually reviewing my day, checking emails or networking. Typically my day ends around 10/11pm.

HHR: Now for those who don’t know, Stall & Dean has been around since 1898 – it’s a dinosaur [laughs] – designing sport-inspired apparel. Can you give us an insider’s view of the brand, especially the Ivy League collections?
Rikers: Established in 1898 we share the same birthday as the borough of Brooklyn so I think we do qualify as a dinosaur [laughs]. S&D started out as a clothing manufacturing company. We provided equipment as well from hockey helmets to baseball gloves in the early century. This allowed us to have a core foundation as an athletic force in the sport’s realm.

That being said we have to stay consistent with modern times without sacrificing our creditability as an American athletic institution. Hall of Famers from Babe Ruth, Jim Thorpe, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Satchel Paige and many more have all worn the brand. This is a legacy we always have to consider before the next season even starts. We have the Ivy League license to produce higher-end clothing for the schools. This relationship has been intact since back in the 20s and 30s so it’s not like we recently acquired the license. We were providing uniforms and equipment for the Ivy League for decades. The difference is our price points are a little high so the campus store rarely carry us but we are favored by the Alumni of the respected universities.

HHR: You’ve outfitted the likes of Jay-Z, 50 Cent, T.I., Trey Songz, Eminem, R. Kelly, Juelz Santana, Kanye West, Chris Brown, DJ Drama, Funk Flex, Derty Den, Twista and the list goes on. What is it about fashion and Hip-Hop that seemingly fits together so perfectly?
Rikers: Hip-Hop is about the grind, the lyrics, the battle – it’s literally a forever going competition. Regardless of this, you want too and have to look good. I mean success is easily explained visually. The car you drive, time piece on your wrist and clothes on your back. Everyone is successful in there own way but you at least want to look the part.

Fashion and Hip-Hop work hand-in-hand. We want to be seen in the closets of your hottest artist and they want to be consistent with the hottest trends and brands. It’s kind of hard to say who leads the way because fashion is usually designed a year in advance so it’s going to happen regardless of whose hot and whose not. That’s when marketing has to step up to discover that “next star” that has the fans following them.

HHR: You are also the Hip-Hop editor of Beyond Race Magazine. Tell us a little bit about the magazine.
Rikers: Yes, me and a few friends did a Hip-Hop newspaper a few years ago called 4Korner/4Knews, founded and operated out of Brooklyn, New York. I developed my writing technique from some of the best in the industry from Jerry Barrow, Riggs Morales, Datwon Thomas, Gotti, etcetera so my writing was part urban, part corporate and part New Utrecht High School [laughs].

I gave my first covers to some big artists such as Kanye West, Joe Buddens and Diplomats to name a few. Having a great reputation to be able to locate stars I had the publisher of Beyond Race ask me to come on with the magazine. The magazine was already doing great numbers and was already on five continents when I arrived but I just brought another angle. Boyuan, who is the urban editor, basically just knows my schedule but allows me to have fun with it. It is important to locate and place artist I believe are dope in the mag. We also have to credit it as the only publication to feature Drake as its “Next/Rising Star” in 08.

This is why I stand hard because they love what they do such as I. I always ask people, “Before you challenge my knowledge, lay your foundation down, but honestly my creditability has never really been challenged.” The only star I didn’t have from day one was Jay, outside of that the next tier I been rocking with from the beginning of their careers. What we now are doing is adding more meaningful stories that teach lessons because “Reading is fundamental.” That’s never been so true then in these times now. The magazine can be found near college campuses nationwide and to my knowledge its distributed by Hudson News, but it’s on five continents so you’re bound to find a copy somewhere [laughs].

HHR: Before you leave where can you be found on the Net?
Rikers: Follow Stall & Dean on Twitter @StallandDean. You can also follow me @BRMHipHop.


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