Mecca Clothing – Urban Fashion Pioneer

In 1994, Mecca USA burst onto the fashion market while rap music was also making its own stand. The timing proved to be fortuitous for both. Mecca Clothing quickly became a wardrobe staple of hip hop rappers and the urban youth who were looking to these artists as inspiration. Instead, of trying to create clothing to suit office, evening or other areas; the brand has firmly established itself as the line representing sporty, casual and street wear.

The driving force behind Mecca USA was Mike Alesko and Tony Shellman. Mike Alesko is well known in the fashion industry, creating not only the Mecca Clothing brand but International News, the Seattle based company that would later spawn Mecca. Tony Shellman is a hip-hop fashion innovator who also cofounded Encye and the Parish Nation clothing line. Their clothing line took design inspiration from the birthplace of hip-hop, New York City.

With New York City serving as their fashion muse, the line took on a rugged and raw edge, giving wearers an instant statement making look. The line quickly evolved into the “uniform” for inner city youth. By the end of the decade, Mecca USA’s appeal was not limited to a city audience. Instead, increasing numbers of suburban youth were looking to Mecca USA as a way to express themselves and identify with the rap musicians they wanted to emulate.

The brand made its way into malls and major department stores, getting the attention of those who had previously only been buying mainstream labels such as Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Ralph Lauren. Over the years, numerous celebrities have worn the line including. The Mecca clothing expanded its base, making its way into Europe, Asia and all around the globe.

Mecca USA has always focused on denim wear. Originally only offering designs for men, such as baggy unique-pocket designer denim jeans, trendy foil printed tees and high-quality hoodies. Reversible jackets, airbrushed tees and polo shirts were also popular. Today Mecca USA has further extended its audience with clothing suited to girls and women. The line for girls is called Mecca Girls and features sequins, rhinestones, skirts, tops, pants, and outerwear among other items. The most successful extension of the company however, has been Mecca Femme.

Introduced in 2002, Mecca Femme is about cutting edge innovation. A mixture of urban street wear with high-fashion looks and European inspiration, creating a unique look that female fans of urban wear have flocked too. Mecca jeans is popular with men and Mecca Femme has similarly staked a claim in this arena with women.

The Mecca Femme brand jeans feature a blend of cotton and spandex to create a figure hugging and pleasing silhouette. The jeans have quickly become a favorite among urban women because it is fitted to curvier body types. Female celebrities have also quickly flocked to buy them.

Unlike other hip hop clothing lines that rely on high prices in order to show their “quality” Mecca USA has always been affordably priced. Making their clothing accessible to everyone and keeping consumers loyal and coming back for more. Though the prices are low, quality has always been a major part of the brands identity. High-quality materials are used to showcase screen printing, prints, special stitch treatments, foiled logos and other signature looks.

Mecca Clothing has paved the way for other hip hop related brands such as Sean John, Rocawear, Akademiks, Phat Farm and Ecko. Since the beginning, Mecca has been firmly rooted in the hip hop industry and there is still a cult following for Mecca USA among those seeking attention getting street wear.

Fashion and Style

Early Western travelers, traveling whether to Persia, Turkey, India, or China, would frequently remark on the absence of change in fashion in the respective places. The Japanese Shogun’s secretary bragged (not completely accurately) to a Spanish visitor in 1609 that Japanese clothing had not changed in over a thousand years.However, there is considerable evidence in Ming China of rapidly changing fashions in Chinese clothing. Changes in costume often took place at times of economic or social change, as occurred in ancient Rome and the medieval Caliphate, followed by a long period without major changes. In 8th-century Moorish Spain, the musician Ziryab introduced to Córdoba sophisticated clothing-styles based on seasonal and daily fashions from his native Baghdad, modified by his own inspiration.

Similar changes in fashion occurred in the 11th century in the Middle East following the arrival of the Turks, who introduced clothing styles from Central Asia and the Far East. The beginning in Europe of continual and increasingly rapid change in clothing styles can be fairly reliably dated. Historians, including James Laver and Fernand Braudel, date the start of Western fashion in clothing to the middle of the 14th century, though it should be noted that they tend to rely heavily on contemporary imagery and illuminated manuscripts were not common before the fourteenth century. The most dramatic early change in fashion was a sudden drastic shortening and tightening of the male over-garment from calf-length to barely covering the buttocks, sometimes accompanied with stuffing in the chest to make it look bigger. This created the distinctive Western outline of a tailored top worn over leggings or trousers. The pace of change accelerated considerably in the following century, and women and men’s fashion, especially in the dressing and adorning of the hair, became equally complex.

Art historians are therefore able to use fashion with confidence and precision to date images, often to within five years, particularly in the case of images from the 15th century. Initially, changes in fashion led to a fragmentation across the upper classes of Europe of what had previously been a very similar style of dressing and the subsequent development of distinctive national styles. These national styles remained very different until a counter-movement in the 17th to 18th centuries imposed similar styles once again, mostly originating from Ancien Régime France. Though the rich usually led fashion, the increasing affluence of early modern Europe led to the bourgeoisie and even peasants following trends at a distance, but still uncomfortably close for the elites – a factor that Fernand Braudel regards as one of the main motors of changing fashion.

Fashion Career Specializations – A Breakdown

Coming straight from fashion school, you might be thinking that as a fashion designer; you’ll have the opportunity to work with all types of clothing. What you may not know is that generally, the fashion industry is split into categories, and then categories within categories. Basically, the fashion industry is very specialized. The breakdown begins with price (which usually corresponds with quality). The lowest classification is Discount, and at the height of fashion is Haute Couture:

  • Discount: These stores sell merchandise that retails at a discounted price from what other stores charge. Outlet malls or stores like Ross, Wal-Mart, Target, or Conway are example of discount retailers that sell discount labels.
  • Budget / Mass Market: Knock-offs of higher priced designer items that are sold at low competitive prices to the masses. Old Navy, Forever 21, and Charlotte Russe are a few popular budget labels. Department stores in this category include JC Penney, and Kohls. This market usually retails for less than $100.
  • Moderate: These include nationally advertised apparel brands such as Nine West, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Express, and Zara are all in the moderate range. Examples of moderate department stores are Macy’s and Dillards. These brands typically retail for less than $300.
  • Contemporary: More than just a specific price point, this classification is a fashion-forward image often aimed at women in their ’20s and early ’30s looking for trendy fashions priced more affordably than Designer pieces. BCBG, Betsey Johnson, Bebe, and Rebecca Taylor fall into the Contemporary category, which usually retails for under $500.
  • Better: Also selling for less than $500, these collections use better quality fabric and styling than lower-priced brands. Armani Exchange, Jones New York and Anne Klein are two examples of a better-priced line.
  • Bridge: Priced under $1000, these lines serve as a “bridge” between better and designer categories. And includes
    names like Ellen Tracy, Dana Buchman, DKNY, Emporio Armani, and Lauren by Ralph Lauren.
  • Designer: True designer collections typically sell for more than $1000 per item. The fabrics, fit, details, and trims are superior to other ready-to-wear items. Some examples of designer labels are Gucci, Prada, Versace, Armani, and Chanel.
  • Haute Couture/ Avant-garde: Also know as couture, these terms have been commonly misused by ready-to-wear brands. Haute Couture, or simply “couture” designers sell custom, made-to-measure pieces cost tens of thousands of dollars and are affordable only to a select few. Technically speaking, there are only ten official Haute Couture Houses including: Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Chanel, and Givenchy. Avant-garde designers produce high quality, one-of-a-kind garments that experiment with new design concepts and push the envelope of popular fashion.

Even within the categories listed above, each market is broken down into more specific specializations. First, design companies are broken down by customer: men’s, women’s, children’s etc. Then are further divided by type of clothing: sportswear, evening wear (special occasion), sleepwear etc. And then design teams are designated to specific areas like Wovens, Knits, Sweaters, Tops, Bottoms, Dresses, Outerwear and so on.

On an unfortunate note, it is very difficult to move from one category to another. If you start building your career with mass-market companies, you’ll face some barriers when you apply for that dream job at Ralph Lauren. The same goes for designer specialties. If you’re experienced working with children’s woven tops, chances are you won’t land a position designing women’s dresses. If you’re absolutely determined on making a switch, you’re best bet is to start from the bottom in your desired field and work your way up again.

Something else to consider is the different types of manufacturers and retailers out there. Some manufacturers design and produce their own designs, which are then sold to retailers. These manufacturers don’t have their own retail stores. Examples include Shoshanna, Jones New York and Carmen Marc Valvo. There are also manufacturers that own licenses for a variety of brands. For example, Warnaco holds licenses for Calvin Klein, Speedo, and Chaps; while Phillips Van Heusen (PVH) owns licenses for BCBG, Sean Jean, and Kenneth Cole.

Then, there are retailers that only sell merchandise purchased from manufacturers. These include stores like Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus. Many manufacturers also have their own retail locations such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Armani Exchange and Nicole Miller. Other retail stores have their own product development teams and have merchandise manufactured specifically for their private label such as Gap, Old Navy, and Express. In addition to purchasing merchandise from outside manufacturers, many department stores also have their own private label collections. Examples are: I.N.C. (Macy’s), and Arizona Jeans (JC Penney).

The largest employment opportunities out there lie with mass-market companies, which often pay pretty well to start, however these figures usually level-off after a few years of experience. The higher end markets pay less to start, and work hours are longer, but the prestige you’ll receive from such reputable companies will do wonders for your resume!