Ice-T, Eminem Delve Into Clothing Market

Blue Flame Marketing and Advertising, a division of Combs' Bad Boy Entertainment, defines this as a group of roughly 45.3 million 12-to-34-year-olds who wield an estimated $890 billion in spending power. Nearly 60 percent of this market is made up of non-minorities.

"It's so successful because of the acceptance of that genre by a growing number of white suburban kids," says Slater.

Amid a general slump in retail sales, any newness that drives consumers to buy is a welcome trend.

Federated Department stores, which runs Macy's, Bloomingdales and Rich's, among others, is among the retailers who have been actively embracing celebrity-driven clothing lines. Macy's, Rich's, Lazarus and Goldsmith's have been stocking Sean John, FUBU, Jay-Z's Rocawear line and Phat Farm in recent years.

"It's definitely a major piece of what's happening in the young men's business," says Gail Nutt, senior vice president of diversity, urban business development and community affairs for Federated's Macy's/Rich's/Lazarus/Goldsmith's divisions. "We've taken a business that was very low millions to double to multi-millions."

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

But with any trend that floods the market, there is always the risk of backlash. Consumers could quickly become bored with the streetwear genre, leaving retailers scrambling for the next big thing.

"There have been a lot of failures and there are going to more failures this year," predicts Jeffrey Tweedy, executive vice president of the Sean John line.

Tweedy attributes the success of Sean John — which had retail sales of around $460 million in 2002, an almost 25 percent increase from $370 million in 2001 — to the line's broad appeal and fashion sense.

Indeed, with slick runway shows featuring items like a chocolate-colored Italian lambskin trench coat, in addition to more moderately priced items like jeans and T-shirts, the company is more of a wide-ranging fashion brand than a celebrity vehicle.

"We really don't get into what's urban and hip hop; that's really sort of passé, to be honest with you," says Tweedy. "We sort of get carried away with the terms, and what happens is you sort of get pigeonholed."

But that doesn't deter the manufacturers of the new lines, who say their clothes have staying power.

"We're confident that we're going to be out there for a long time," says Americo's Korzec of Ice-T's line.

And for retailers, fickleness is just the nature of the game.

"That's the business we're in — offering the fashion when they want it and not offering it when they're no longer interested," says Federated's Nutt.

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