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Maurice Malone  NY Fashion Week Fall 2004

Fashion Ledge - Maurice Malone
Maurice Malone, 38, planned on being a filmmaker and F/X artist in Hollywood, but 18 years ago while still in his native Detroit, those aspirations were hijacked by a serendipitous chain of events. In 1984, Malone, unable to find a hat he saw on MTV, decided to sew his first piece of apparel, and thus started "HardWear by Maurice Malone".

By 1988 Malone was selling leather coats, knit shirts and pants to numerous department and specialty stores in the Midwest. Soon however, manufacturing in Detroit became problematic. To learn more about the fashion world, Malone decided to move to New York City in 1990. Having no formal fashion training, (in fact, his first foray into denim was a pair of overalls because he didn't yet know how to make zippers), he worked as a bike messenger and lived with a waitress and a female DJ. Together they discovered the genesis of the emerging Hip Hop scene from which he soon began to draw his inspiration. Armed with a vision, Malone returned to Detroit intent on making it a part of the very foundation of Hip Hop culture. There he began producing Hip Hop parties to finance his own ventures. His first concert production was "Gang Star" which led to a series of parties under the name of "Rhythm Kitchen". The "Rhythm Kitchen" was Detroit's first regular series of Hip Hop parties and Malone soon launched "The Open Mic" allowing local rappers to battle on stage.

In 1993 Malone opened the famous "Hip Hop Shop", a unique venue that served as his retail apparel outlet as well as a stage for Saturday afternoon rap battles. These engagements were ultimately portrayed in the movie "8 Mile", for which Malone provided some of his early footage (including the first performances of Eminem) and was an on-screen credited consultant. During this time in the early nineties, Malone turned from selling jeans that he himself would sew (under the moniker "Blue Jeans For Your Ass") to mass production. And while he enjoyed strong distribution in the burgeoning Hip Hop market, he had difficulty breaking into the higher end specialty stores.

In '93-'94, his jeans were produced by Major Damaged reaching almost a million dollars in sales. Subsequently, the partners in Major Damaged decided to go their separate ways and Malone began to work out of his Mother's house booking $1.5 million the following year. In 1995 he partnered with Simon Sales and grew his new line, "MOJEANS", to annual sales of $40 million by 1999. Concurrently, Malone launched a men's line in 1997 that featured men's suits. In 1998 he debuted his first women's collection and was nominated for the CFDA's Perry Ellis Menswear Designer of the Year Award. In 1999, the same year he struck a deal with Moja Design to license eyewear, Malone was listed in The New York Times Magazine as one of men's fashion's up-and-coming designers.

In 2001, Malone ended his partnership with Simon Sales and shortly thereafter shuttered MOJEANS. He then quietly began producing a new line of men's and women's denim under the name "Maurice Malone" that focused on fine tailoring, sharp details both outside and inside the garment, and elaborate stitching and embellished outseams. This new line was quickly seen showing up in numerous magazine spreads and on celebrities including Heather Graham, Jay-Z, Alicia, Lenny Kravitz, and Britney Spears.

Spring "04 sees the debut of Malone's bright new direction, a full men's and women's collection that includes a healthy dose of stylized denim but also upscale and elegant separates from richly constructed "cloth-covered button" dress shirts to tuxedos with a twist to sexy and playful dresses, skirts and tops. The collections are being produced in the U.S. and Italy. Having earned the reputation as a pioneer in the streetwise fashion movement, Malone has logically evolved to a more sophisticated look and accordingly, a higher price point. "I skipped a couple of seasons off the scene to put together my diabolical plan; to create a monster women's line with a tailored men's influence while smashing together the atoms of men's sportswear and tailored looks to come up with a creature that would almost make you forget I do jeans."

Photography by C. Yohance DeLoatch
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