Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Andre 3000 to Start a Clothing Line

Beyond being recognized for his smooth voice and zany lyrics, Andre 3000 of Outkast is often noticed because of his clothing. Though some consider the performer a self-absorbed novelty act, a "dandy," so to speak, fashion critics and music aficionados alike hail Mr. Benjamin as one of the iconic figures of our time in both talent and taste.

As a man complimented for his bold clothing choices, even as a high school student in Atlanta, Georgia (where he met fellow Outkast member Antwan Patton, more commonly known as "Big Boi"), Andre decided to branch out a little further--this time, beyond music and acting, and into the fashion industry. New York Magazine reports:

Such images, drawn from college football circa 1935, inspired his new clothing line, Benjamin Bixby, thanks to a documentary he stumbled across on TV one night. Consisting of 70 pieces, the line is currently self-funded (he’s looking for a partner) and, he hopes, will be at Barneys in the fall. Benjamin is a fashion autodidact: He has taken advice from Anna Wintour (who invited him to a Met gala), he has sketched the clothes himself, he has been to Italian factories and Parisian textile fairs. (And by the way, if you’re missing his primary career: He’s also working on a solo album for the fall.)

That mix of application and instinct carries over to his personal style. It takes a certain serenity to rock the resplendent Bixby outfit he recently wore to a Fashion Week party: wide-brimmed fedora, green waistcoat, buttery brown leather riding boots (“vintage”) that pushed his pants up, jodhpur style. He looked more like a wealthy, eccentric caballero than a thirties jock toff, but then, he wants the line to tell stories. Benjamin Bixby, he says, “is a character who’s kind of like your uncle, or your granddad, and he has a closet full of experiences and clothes, and he’s been around the world.”

What I personally find interesting about Andre 3000's/Benjamin's success is his ability to blend his elements of style with his hip hop persona. Often pressed by the music industry, and even fans, to be hypermasculine and garish in appearance, adorned with "bling" expensive enough to exchange for the purchase of a 4-bedroom home, hip hop stars (and black men, period) are pigeonholed into fitting a certain style and exhibiting it at all times. Gender normativity is currency in the hip hop community, yet as Benjamin Hey-Ya'd his way into homes across America, he broke a few barriers as well. His svelte yet muscular figure stood in contrast with the steroid-blossomed musclehead rappers who served as his award show peers. His sense of fashion rivaled of that of Prince in the 1980s, as he stormed stages in tight pants and heeled boots. Yet somehow, he did it in a way that left boys and men wanting to mimic his style more than they questioned his sexual orientation. Benjamin also successfully incorporated multiple ethnic and international influences into his wardrobe, his wares channeling the English school boy or Croatian ranchero at a whim.

We'll just have to wait and see how Andre 3000's jump into the fashion world pans out. I have a feeling he might have a little more luck and be taken a lot more seriously than some of the other performers who have proven a bit out of their element as they tried their hand at the catwalk. Afterall, Mr. Benjamin's prior successes have proven that he might just be too savvy to fail.

- Wendi Muse


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