Hang on people, I’ve heard you. The Maurice Malone brand relaunch is coming soon. In 2019, we start with new styles built around modern updates to our iconic Chain-link Overalls and Logo Cuff Jeans. Core styles which helped catapult our brand into popularity during the 1990s.
Since taking the brand out of the urban streetwear market, we’ve been asked consistently about remaking styles. Lately, during this time of nostalgia for 90’s fashion, I’ve been asked to bring back many styles made exactly as they were before. On that front, I may decide to do so, but only when I feel the time is right. I don’t do things for the sake of trends. One thing about the Maurice Malone brand is it has always been about innovation. Moving forward, not back. Not resting on successes but striving to break new ideas and barriers.
As a designer, throughout my career, I’ve been asked by those around me to jump on trends but refused. Sales would ask, “Do a Maurice Malone version of that!” In my experience, every time I have made significant strides, I was warned “you can’t do that” and “that will never work”. I have always chosen to put more equity into leading over following. I have more often than not, proved doubters wrong. I don’t believe in limits — only the challenge to solve problems and goals. I take that vision into my continued mission to bring new ideas into fashion.
In introducing the brand to a new generation of youth, the goal is to simply do Maurice Malone, the way Maurice Malone did it. During our time as one of the 90’s top urban streetwear brands, we were never one of the shooting stars at the very top of the market destined to burn out. My goal was consistent growth by focusing on design and product. In the later part of the 1990s, music videos became the influencing factor driving retailers buys and spawn the birth of a multitude of celebrity brands. I predicted to all who would listen at the time, saying when the designers ceased to be the driving force behind hip-hop style, and the tail wagged the dog, it would lead to the downfall of Urban Street.
Mojeans was big in the streets because we had the respect of product. I would admit, we were never a big department store brand because we were notorious for shipping late. Also, I likely killed that opportunity, while opening the doors for urban brands when I stood up to the Chairman of Macy’s at a panel discussion during a WWD Executive Conference. I asked why Macy’s didn’t sell brands like mine, which were just as popular in the inner-cities as brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Polo. Eyebrows raised and I could hear the collective holding of breath in the crowd of attendees. The Chairman said they would look into it and instructed his staff to get in contact with me. Afterwards, I was approached by another brand owner. He said a lot of members in the audience would have loved to ask a question like that, including him, but no one has the balls.
The Macy’s buying heads did give me their contact information and came to see my collection but never placed an order. In the months following that conference, brands like Karl Kani, Mecca, Ecko, Enyce and FUBU all got their chance. I felt, I was most likely blackballed for my question, but probably helped to open the doors for the others by putting the question on the table.
Knowing the death of urban streetwear was on the horizon and growing tired of fighting with partners and salesman about following trends driven by music videos and rappers, my interest began to grow-up and my passion began to lean towards the Maurice Malone Designer Collection which I self-financed and launched in late 1996.
By Amy M. Spindler
It’s difficult not to respect Maurice Malone, who shunned the normal route for fashion designers of starting with serious suits and then faking an affinity with streetwear. Mr. Malone began with jeans and hip-hop overalls and has worked his way up to strong, sober pinstriped suits for his Aesthetic collection, styled out of the Harlem Renaissance.
I was the first designer with roots in hip-hop and urban to successfully break into the designer collection market. For years I fought long hard battles to gain credibility and the respect of some of the biggest luxury retailers and press. Unlike today, urban hip-hop culture was looked down upon in the designer and luxury circles. I often fought with my PR agency asking why am I getting good reviews from my runway shows but the editors are not using my clothing in editorials? The agency explained their fight, “the editors are saying, when they are looking for jeans, they will call Maurice Malone. When they are looking for suits, they will call on Gucci.”
For years, luxury was more aligned more with Rock and Alternative music. This didn’t stop designer brands from being promoted in songs by hip-hop artist. However, it started to get noticed that the promotion and earnings were not reciprocated. This help to drive artist like Jay-Z and Sean Combs to launch their own luxury liquor brands.
With hip-hop surpassing rock as the biggest selling genre, kids that grew up on hip-hop culture are now in the position of influencer. The fear I fought so long and hard against has evolved into an embrace. From collaborations featuring Jennifer Lopez to Kanye West to A$AP Rocky, hip-hop has moved designer and luxury into a new era where Supreme can flourish and where Virgil Abloh could be appointed as the menswear designer for Louis Vuitton.
At Williamsburg Garment Company, my challenge was making an unbranded brand branded, creating clean simple styles that can compete with branded decorated denim. Witnessing with pride, the success of designers like Virgil Abloh, Jerry Lorenzo and others, has signaled to me the time is right for Maurice Malone. Not for 90’s street nostalgia, but for design.