02/26/2009 02:49 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Breaking My Silence About American Classics at Wal-Mart

A few years, ago I was speaking at a university about entrepreneurship, taking responsibility, financial empowerment, and spiritual matters (usual subjects for me). During my speech a student interrupted and challenged me with a question, "If you want students to have priorities and make better choices, why do you sell your denim for 90 bucks?" He went on to ask, "Are we to assume that if we don't have $90 jeans we aren't cool?" I didn't quite know how to address that question since the campaigns I had waged seemed to imply just that.

While I am addicted to fun exclusive fashion items, I am also steadfast on the concept that I founded my first and second fashion companies on "classic American flava." That is the simple understated elegance that always defined my mentor Tommy Hilfiger, and other inspirations like Ralph Lauren,. And, while I am not one who cares if I have a horse or a special emblem on my pique shirt or on my 5-pocket jeans for that matter, I am one who likes the right wash on my denim or wash and fabric in my classic pique.

Most of what I have bought or borrowed as inspiration for American Classics has been so simple that, produced in mass quantities, the price can be made accessible to everyone who's interested in better choices, giving people like that student and others the option to look cool without spending a lot of money.

American Classics is meant to reflect classic style for everyone. So when I notice that WWD and others have described my American Classics line as urban, for those writers you have to ask yourself, what defines my line as urban? Their definition of urban seems almost to be a bad word and is certainly a confining one. My intention is to dress America without limitation. My designs speak for themselves and make clear that intention. We had tremendous success with Phat Fashions expanding into bedding, fragrances, lingerie, shoes and children's apparel. This kind of expansion is our plan with American Classics.
 American Classics speaks to the new American culture that is unified, integrated, and moves as one force dedicated to uplifting each other. Respectfully, American Classics is for those people who shop at Wal-Mart who are interested making fashion-forward sophisticated choices.

Right after that inspirational challenge at the university and long before there was an economic crisis to speak of, I embarked on my mission of giving all Americans a competitive edge in fashion. It has given me great satisfaction, and giving Americans more for less is a challenge I am up for. In fact, designing American Classics has been a real pleasure. The merchandising and imagery around American Classics are what I envision or wish for all Americans and for all of the human family. I don't believe that American Classics is for people who make less but it is for people who are smart with what they make.

I hope you enjoy.

Russell Simmons

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