Philadelphia fashion designer Nigel Richards launched his first clothing company during his freshman year of college. Along with his two best friends and business partners, he designed University of Rochester–branded T-shirts and sweatshirts for special-interest groups and Greek life. Though short-lived—the company folded when Richards and his friends graduated—R.A.D. Enterprises was a hit with fellow students and faculty: Within three days of launching, they sold every piece of clothing they had; within two years, the label was an official vendor of the university. “We were scared to death because it cost $800,” laughs Richards, who is sitting at the conference-room table in his Northern Liberties office. “But we sold everything and had more money than we’d ever made in a weekend.”
Two decades later, Richards is comfortably immersed in every aspect of his growing 611 Lifestyle clothing brand. It is a name familiar to Philadelphians of a certain age: From 1993 to 2007, his 611 Records was a South Street staple, a destination for house-music fans to score hard-to-find dance tracks and face time with a then globe-trotting Richards, whose career as a DJ took him—and his store-branded logo tees—from LA to Malaysia.
The logo tees live on under the umbrella of 611 Lifestyle’s DJ Life, a brand of casual apparel and accessories that today includes laptop bags and iPhone cases for the digital age, but Richards’s current passion project is his still-new Luxe Life collection. The accessible line of contemporary menswear shirts and accessories, currently available in Philadelphia-area boutiques like Matthew Izzo, Denim Habit, and Senor, represents the designer’s mature style sensibilities. “Luxe Life is a way of acknowledging that you’ve grown up,” says Richards. “You want to wear a collared shirt, but yet you still maintain a little bit of your original roots in dance-music culture.” Those subtle touches turn up in the flick of a sleeve, where pinstripes give way to a print of bright-red headphones against stark white; pop the collar of a plaid dress shirt, and a complementary pattern of oversize squares is revealed. Dance-music culture aside, the brand is Richards’s way of solving a more pressing sartorial puzzle for men: the idea that as a professional, you have to sacrifice personal style.
Raised in Philadelphia, Richards is also keen on promoting his hometown as much as possible through the label. The majority of production is done in Philly, an aspect that Richards is committed to maintaining, and the brand signature made in philadelphia, usa is printed on every item.
This season Richards is carefully expanding Luxe Life. Paper-thin flannel button-downs and shirts, cardigans, and jackets made from ultra-soft sweatshirt material will join new shirt designs, all pieces ripe for layering as 611 Lifestyle in Matthew Izzo the weather turns cold. More firsts for the label: oversize leather totes and weekender bags, in rich shades of brown with the 611 Lifestyle logo finely embossed on each one. It is these quiet nods to the 611 Lifestyle brand—the logo, of course, but also the custom zipper pulls and descriptive hangtags that chronicle the design of each piece—that help Richards connect with longtime fans and future customers. “When I was 25 and deejaying, I would wear a crazy logo T-shirt,” says Richards, his eyes grazing over the diamond-studded 611 ring he wears on his left pinkie finger. “But I’m not part of that scene anymore. Now I would rather wear a cool collared shirt, dress pants, and nice shoes. That is why I did Luxe Life. I have always believed that, as a company, you can always succeed in what you know.” 2218 Martha St., 267-603-3611; 611lifestyle.com