Chances are that your favorite celebrity is a fan of Toure Designs, a stylish and well-crafted line founded by Alhassan Toure. Over the decades, this entrepreneur has collaborated with a plethora of stars, including Snoop Dogg, Chris Brown, Alicia Keys, Trey Songz, Wiz Khalifa, Michael Blackson, and Davido. Toure Designs blends African influences, high fashion, and street wear, and the brand’s trademark gazelle logo emblazons hoodies, t-shirts, hats, and other items in luxurious collections for both men and women. View photos from “Royalty on the Runway,” Toure Designs’ New York Fashion Week show from this past September, and check out our exclusive interview with the designer below.
LIFE ENTERTAINMENT: How did you get your start?
ALHASSAN TOURE: I got my start from my dad… My dad was a designer too. I come from West Africa– Ghana. I started learning from 10 years old. I came to the U.S. in ’95, and I was working at this famous store in Harlem where all the celebrities buy their clothes. That’s how I started working with celebrities. I met Raekwon from Wu Tang Clan, and he gave me the project for the whole Wu Tang. That’s around ’97. From there, it changed my whole life. [Celebrities] can go and buy stuff from Saks Fifth Avenue, but most of their stuff doesn’t even fit them right. Most of them are big, so they can’t get their size. So that’s how I get my jobs from those celebrities, because I can make their size.
LE: Who or what inspires you as a designer?
AT: My dad inspired me a lot. He was one of the best [designers] back home. If I go to the city somewhere, somebody knows my dad, and they talk about my dad, “I want to be like him.” I want to be like my dad. That’s my inspiration. Over here, there’s a couple of designers too like Versace, Balmain, that’s an inspiration to me.
LE: How has your line evolved over the years?
AT: My line has evolved because I work with a lot of stylists. They come and pick up stuff from me for celebrities for photo shoots or videos. And that’s how people get to know about my work, especially through social media like Instagram. I worked with Teyana Taylor, who is signed with Kanye West. I know her mom, and I’ve known Teyana Taylor since she was six years old. She came to the shop one day, and I made her some pants. She posted on social media and that went viral. So that’s how people get to know me more.
Raekwon introduced me to the first stylist I worked with, and then she introduced me to LL Cool J, Mobb Deep, Dipset, so many artists. It’s how this industry works, through word of mouth. People know me as the Leather King… I sit down at my machine and I make it happen. They call me last minute, “Oh, we need some for tomorrow,” and I make it for them. I’ve been getting calls left and right from all over the country.
LE: Tell me about the significance of the gazelle.
AT: You know how America has the eagle? [The gazelle] represents the entire [continent of] Africa. Mali is where my parents are from, and I was born in Ghana.
LE: Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
AT: Right now I’m collaborating with Raekwon from Wu Tang Clan, and I’m collaborating with Busta Rhymes. We’re working on some pieces. I haven’t worked with Jay-Z, Eminem, Nicki Minaj, or Cardi B. Those are the only celebrities I haven’t worked with. I’ve worked with Puff Daddy, Trey Songz, French Montana, so many of them.
LE: What’s next for the line?
AT: Right now I have a couple of jackets… I’ve got the leather camel jacket and then I have bombers. I have some leather pants for females and males, unisex. I also have phone holsters. Next February, I’m doing another show for Fashion Week, and I’m bringing out more leather and fur.
LE: Where can people purchase your items?
AT: They can get it at my website: ToureDesigns.com. I also have a boutique in Brooklyn, [Vinnies Styles], that is selling my product. And then I have another store, Y2 Collection, in Englewood, New Jersey. I just had a meeting with a buyer that set up a meeting for me with Saks and Barneys, but we didn’t get to sit down yet. Hopefully we sit down and sign, and get some of my pieces there too.
It’s been a long journey for me, coming from Africa. Even when I was in Africa, this was my dream. My favorite artist was New Edition [when I was] growing up in Africa. When I came to the states, in less than two years I was working with them. It was like a dream come true to me. I’m just blessed to have this passion and run with it.