AKOO for women, available for purchase on their website.
It might come as a surprise that Atlanta rapper T.I. owns a fashion brand called AKOO. In fact, AKOO, which includes a men’s and women’s line of apparel and accessories, celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. But the surprise isn’t something you should be worried about. “I still run into people right now that don’t even know I have a clothing line,” the Grammy-award winner said to Hypebeast during an in-depth interview while promoting AKOO at the Agenda trade show in Las Vegas. “AKOO has never been just T.I.’s brand, it has never been that. That was purposely done.”
Like anyone with five years of owning a fashion line under their belt, T.I. knows the ropes of the industry pretty well, as you’ll see in his quotes below. But the one thing Hypebeast pointed out is that T.I. unhappily talks about high fashion’s avoidance of hip-hop, a topic touched upon many times by fellow rapper Kanye West.
On what he’s learned about the fashion or streetwear industry since AKOO’s inception:
I learned that it is constant growth and evolution. Nothing stays the same for long, so you have to continue to familiarize yourself, learn new things, don’t adopt the ways of now, look for the ways of tomorrow. But also maintain high quality and extreme comfort. Never do what the masses suggest you should, do what your environment pushes you to. Your environment, your surroundings, your mood when you wake up in the morning, how you dress is a reflection of the mood you’re in. I think that should remain ever-present on the hearts and minds of the those that consider themselves fashionable.
On fashion brands that inspire him or even AKOO:
Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply really reinvents the Ralph Lauren brand. I mean, how can I say this… The stuff that they do is signature stuff for themselves, but not a lot you can pull for the purposes of translating into AKOO, But I still salute and acknowledge their progression. … From a business standpoint, in finances, I’ve recognized and appreciate the reapplication of the Versace brand to the market. Because so many times couture brands, they reach a point where they were quietly getting money for a long time, then when they see that the urban community or entertainment community has embraced them they would rather see their numbers fall than support the idea of our culture being the cornerstone of their business. So I could really appreciate the fact that they (Versace) were open-minded enough and respect the culture of our lifestyle enough to reposition themselves and re-market themselves in a way I think yielded a great margin of profits for them.
On higher-end designer brands that don’t want to be associated with the hip-hop culture:
I think they will do it as long as we allow them to. As long as we continue to promote their shit. As long as we continue to buy their shit. The power of the urban market is in the dollar. Black people spend like nobody’s business. We are the most spending race I think there is. You can have a black man that makes $14,000 or $15,000 dollars a year, and you can have an Asian, or a Latin, a Mexican, or a Caucasian who makes $14,000 a year. That black man is going to spend way more money on Gucci or Louis or Jordans or AKOO. He is going to spend way more money on those luxury or fashionable items than any of these other races combined. You see what I’m saying? Where they look away and disrespect our contributions to their bottom line, the only way we will receive that respect is if we enforce our power, here in the dollar. ‘Alright cool, so if you don’t want to rock with us, guess what we going to do, we’ll stop buying.’ That means from $14,000 a year to $450,000 a year, we’re not buying. But until we do that they will continue to manipulate us and they will continue to take us for granted.
To clarify your memory, in October of last year, West said to Jimmy Kimmel, “When I’m in Paris and I’m sitting at Fashion Week for nine years, and South Park makes fun of our outfits, or people don’t understand why we’re there. I’m getting called names you can’t even say on TV. And I still can’t break that wall down.”
This is just one of the many “rants” on fashion by West throughout the end of last year. But with T.I. speaking out as well, it clearly shows that this is a subject that should not be taken lightly — and should perhaps be acknowledged by the fashion industry itself.