When Pharrell Williams sauntered into the Uptown sneaker shop Status for a scheduled appearance last month, the hip-hop star and fashion icon was met by nearly 200 fans -- many dressed just like him.
Their style was the one he helped popularize: hyper-colored sneakers, embroidered jeans and hooded sweatshirts in wild colors and ornate patterns.
When it comes to the nexus of hip-hop, celebrity, sneaker worship and fashion, the scene at Status felt like a perfect storm.
Pharrell, as he's simply called, was performing that night with Kanye West at Target Center. He was at Status in the afternoon for a meet-and-greet with customers -- the store is one of only a few in the Midwest to carry his luxury clothing line, Billionaire Boys Club.
His appearance was a coup for Status owner Sly Peoples, 28, who has turned his three-year-old store into a destination for high-end hip-hop-inspired fashion. Sneakerheads -- young men who collect rare, expensive shoes as if they were baseball cards -- are his bedrock. Shoe mania, however, has grown into a head-to-toe clothing compulsion.
It's a subculture of customers who double as connoisseurs. And it's not cheap. Pharrell's BBC line has T-shirts starting at $80, jeans at $300 and a couple of jackets above $1,000.
The style, Peoples said, is "not urban, but not necessarily prep -- we call it street premium." For the most part, it comes from Japan, he said. Rare clothing labels such as A Bathing Ape (BAPE) and Red Monkey have become sought after by consumers since rappers began name-dropping them in lyrics.
The impact has pushed hip-hop's perennial baggy style into a slimmer and more diverse realm -- one that has moved away from sports jerseys. Pharrell partnered with BAPE's creator, the Japanese tastemaker Nigo, to help design Billionaire Boys Club.
While Status followed in the footsteps of such local sneaker havens as Friedman's in north Minneapolis, it was the first to bring clothing lines such as BBC, Artful Dodger and Creative Recreation to Minneapolis, Peoples said.
During Pharrell's visit last month, the star took a moment to pontificate about moving from music to fashion. ("What is fashion without music, what is music without fashion?") Dressed in his BBC line -- black hoodie, dark jeans, red cap -- he described his ambitions for the line as if it just sprang to mind one day.
"We do what we like, which we encourage everybody else to do," Pharrell said. "That's what you call being an individual."
Everyone at the store that day would say the same: It's all about standing out.
Clothes make the kid
In the crowd was Jake Hecker, 13, son of Twin Cities auto dealer Denny Hecker, and he stood out like a diamond-covered sore thumb.
Jake, a regular at Status, came dressed head-to-toe in Pharrell's line: T-shirt, jacket, jeans, baseball cap, plus a pair of BAPE shoes.
"This stuff is expensive," said his mom, Tamitha. Because BBC doesn't make children's sizes, she has the pants altered to fit Jake, she said.
So who else is buying this stuff? At first, Peoples said, a lot of his big-spending customers were pro athletes such as former Vikings cornerback Brian Williams. While he plays for Jacksonville now, Williams still buys from Status. He said he has to go to Miami or New York to find similar shops. But even when he finds clothes he likes there, he'll check in with Peoples to see if he has the same item.
"Nine times out of 10, he does, and I'll just have him send it to me," Williams said by phone.
A diverse customer base
The crowd at Status last month represented the store's diverse customer base: young, old, black, white and everything in between.
Randy Demar, 21, in town from Syracuse, N.Y., to visit his sister, had scheduled the trip to coincide with Pharrell's appearance. After discovering Status online a couple years ago, Demar now buys all his BBC clothes from the store. He likes Peoples' friendliness. "Plus, there's no sales tax here."
While young men dominate the sneaker and streetwear subculture, women are fans, too.
Analyshia Castro came to see Pharrell with her sister and a friend -- all three dressed in wildly colorful outfits. The 18-year-old from Richfield said they buy shoes at Status because the store doesn't carry women's clothes.
"We like any kind of exclusive sneaker," Castro said. "And a lot of people haven't caught up with the style."
Other stores have followed Status into the Twin Cities market. In St. Paul, there's 6Twelve Premium, and VS. Social Standard has locations in Uptown and Southdale.
At Status last month, Jake Hecker got to meet Pharrell in a back room before his public appearance. Shaking Pharrell's hand, the 13-year-old looked like a mirror image of his fashion idol.
"I wear your stuff, like, every day," he told Pharrell.
When asked about his own fashion sense afterward, Jake took a page right out of the master's book.
"I like people not wearing what I'm wearing," he said. "I don't like that Abercrombie stuff."
Pharrell would be proud.
Tom Horgen 612-673-7909