Marketing 50

Phat Farm

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Pink sweaters might be something you associate more with a women's clothing line than a hip-hop brand, but not if you talk to music impresario Russell Simmons. He's the founder, CEO and chairman of Phat Farm, a rap-inspired fashion label that's exploded into an empire of brands including everything from a women's collection, perfume and sneakers to branded cell phones.

"A pink argyle sweater is my favorite thing in the collection over the last 12 years," says Mr. Simmons, noting that Phat Farm has had 16 to 18 versions of the sweater over the years, even when argyles were perceived by others to be "ice cold."

Mr. Simmons, 46, says the spring line of Phat Farm Classics features more classics and argyles than ever before, which is staying true to its core market: rap music lovers who started buying Phat Farm clothes as teenagers in 1992. "It's the coming of age of the people who built the brand," he says.

The company says it expects to do $310 million in sales in 2003. An energy drink is even in the plans. Phat Farm works closely on ad campaigns with its agency, Center at Cain, New York.

Branding is second nature to Mr. Simmons. He even had a brief foray into advertising with longtime friend Donny Deutsch, opening dRush, an urban ad shop backed by Rush and Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch.

While Mr. Simmons is reportedly negotiating with some fashion labels to partner with Phat Farm to expand into a more mainstream market, he has assured the media that whatever he does will not dilute his control. Since its start, he says, "We've had the same vision. We've only tried to build on that brand equity."

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