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Kareem 'Biggs' Burke Talks Partnership Between Jay Z's Roc96 and MadeWorn
The co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records also debuts his collection available at Barney's New York.
Coming off of the success of the bicoastal pop-up shops celebrating the 20th anniversary of Jay Z’s critically acclaimed debut album Reasonable Doubt last year, the Roc empire continues to make its mark on fashion. Today, lifestyle brand Roc96 and luxury fashion house MadeWorn have unveiled a partnership to debut a women and men’s collection available only at Barney’s New York.
Conceptualized by creator Blaine Halvorson, lifestyle specialist Jones and Jay Z’s longtime friend and business partner, Kareem “Biggs” Burke, the collection pays homage to Hov’s mega-successful career, highlighting his first LP. Handcrafted and carefully constructed so that each piece has its own individuality, elements of the collection include notable “Roc” and other symbols including lyrics and track titles from the album. Metal hardware and embroidered patchwork in the collection are combined to create the "perfect marriage of luxury and edge," according to Burke. In a statement sent to Billboard, Jay Z notes, "This capsule celebrates a time when we were dreamers. It captures that time brilliantly."
Burke spoke to Billboard about the inspiration behind the line saying, “[the inspiration was] to do something that was more bespoke, more high-end that kind of represents the luxury feeling that we brought and the aspiration feel that we brought to all of the Roc brands and everything that was built over the 20 years." The collection exudes luxury with high-quality bombers, leather jackets, t-shirts, sweatshirts, military jackets and commemorative Reasonable Doubt dog tags with prices ranging from $235 to $4000. The collection marks the first release of what will be a continuing collaboration between Roc96 and MadeWorn.
Biggs also talks about how the collection came together and how it feels to come full-circle from starting out 20-plus years ago in the full interview below.
How did you link with MadeWorn for the collection and then bring it to Barney's?
MadeWorn has been making a lot of headway over the years but a friend of mine, Tom Bennett, and Blaine, who's the CEO of MadeWorn, had a mutual friend who thought that this would be a great synergy if we hooked up and took Roc96 to the next level. And I was always a little reluctant getting with certain people and handing them over our baby -- something that was our blood, sweat and tears over 20 years. But I spoke to him on the phone, he showed me what he could do, but it wasn't until I came to L.A. and met with him at the MadeWorn shop. First of all, I was just blown away of what's represented here and how it's built, and to know that he was hand-making garments and he wanted to hand make everything here in America and bring a new aesthetic to it, kind of make it "Roc" n Roll. I thought that was something the brand deserved and then make it timeless because with Jay Z selling over 30, 40 million records, going in the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, having more No. 1 albums than Elvis Presley, it's like the new rock 'n' roll. Coming from hip-hop, I think right now he's just one of the biggest in music ever, in history. So we always want to create history and do something that's timeless and with MadeWorn, he gave me that aesthetic and that timeless feel and brought it to the line.
What separates this collection from the others that you've done?
There wasn't anything before with this type of quality. We've done things and it was a different price point, probably from $50 to $170. But this first collection is going to be priced from $200 to $4,000. So it's just a different quality. So what I did in the past was more Reasonable Doubt, which was the diffusion line, and Roc96 is the high-end and top tier.
How does it feel to come full circle with wanting to go into fashion in the '90s to now having people knocking on your door to work with you and Jay?
It's a great feeling to build something and know that there's going to be a legacy left behind. So right now we're obviously looking at things different. They're saying oh we can do [it] but then when they actually do it, it's something different. And then you see the fruit from all the hard work you've put in selling these companies and making a lot of money. But then when you come around and do it again, it's like how do you push the envelope, how do you do something different? How do you open doors, how do you keep your kids wanting to aspire to be where you're at? I think at this point, it's about picking the right partnerships and doing something that you know is going to be quality, that's going to be different, and always pushing the envelope. And that's what this relationship has brought with MadeWorn and Roc96. And there's brands like Valentino, who can't get into Barney's so this is our first collection. We have all of Barney's windows, and Barney's the leader in fashion -- everyone follows Barney's. And for them to say look, we want to partner with you and we want this collection exclusively first, was a win-win for the whole team.
Will you continue to build and collaborate more with Jay Z in fashion?
Well, I think we've always continued to build with Roc Nation and Roc96. Going along with the same blueprint, we had before, with fashion, music, spirits, D'usse, Armadale, Ace of Spades champagnes, Tidal. We had a film division before with State Property, The Woodsman with Kevin Beacon and Shadow Boxer with Helen Mirren, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Lee Daniels directorial debut launching the career of Kevin Hart. With Roc Nation having the managerial success with everybody coming through [like] it was Roc Sports then, now it's Roc Nation Sports. It's about recreating what we had before but learning from all of our failures and doing things right. The collection is crazy, and remember everything is hand-made right here in L.A., and there's no one piece that's the same. There's five guys putting patches on each garment so everything is designed differently so everything is going to be unique for the customer.
See the full MadeWorn x Roc96 collection at Barney's here.