True Religion used to be the denim brand of choice for rappers like Jim Jones—the jeans were a key part of his uniform during the “We Fly High (Ballin’)” era—and 2 Chainz, who released a mixtape in 2011 named T.R.U. REALigion. According to Forbes, between 2007 and 2012, True Religion’s revenues almost tripled, reaching $490 million in 2013. But then the line, best known for its horseshoe pocket embroidery and white stitching, fell off.
They are hoping Allen Onyia, who co-founded UpscaleHype in
2008, can usher in a new chapter for the brand as artistic director for
the men’s and women’s collections. Onyia, who is based in Houston, has
no formal design experience, but he’s spent the last decade identifying
what celebrities and athletes like LeBron James, ASAP Rocky, and
Pharrell Williams are wearing—and building relationships with them.
“I wasn’t necessarily looking for somebody who’s got technical design chops because I’ve got a whole design team here that has that,” said Chelsea Grayson, True Religion’s chief executive officer, who joined last November and was previously the CEO at American Apparel. “For me, it was about looking at the person and saying, ‘How does this person live every day authentically? How is this person dressing themselves?’ Because if you’re not dressing yourself in the way that I want to dress my customer, how can you possibly relate to my customer organically?”