Monday, May. 08, 2006

Sean Combs

Sean Combs is a Renaissance man. I have observed mostly from afar his evolution from music magnate to fashion force. In all his roles, Combs, known these days as Diddy, has been on the forefront of pushing hip-hop culture into the mainstream. He is a record producer, entertainment mogul, writer, arranger, designer, actor, singer and three-time Grammy Award-winning rapper. And at age 36, Combs is worth an estimated $315 million.

It was when he entered the world of fashion that Diddy came to my attention. In 1998, he had the bright idea to make the sweat suits, hats and logo Ts seen in his music videos available to the public. Translating the sensibilities of contemporary urban life and music into fashion, he launched a line of designer clothing for men. It was a keen business move that brought his fans closer to his art, closer to his music and to him. I too was inspired to instill in my designs and bring to the fashion world a sense of the unique culture I grew up in; the Eastern and Western influences that coexisted in Hong Kong left an indelible mark on me that naturally translated into my designs.

I first met Diddy at a party he hosted — "50 Fabulous People" — in Miami two years ago. He was dressed in a simple, chic white shirt, and I remember being struck by how handsome he was in person. What a stark contrast his dress was to how opulent and dramatically theatrical his parties are. There were stars everywhere and naked women with their bodies painted, donning crazy pagoda hairpieces. It was totally over the top, like parties from a bygone age.

Diddy has always pushed himself. Born in Harlem, he was raised outside New York City by his mother after his father's murder. He studied business administration at Howard University and took an internship at Uptown Records, climbing the ladder to top executive in mere months. Later he founded Bad Boy Records, which would evolve into his media empire.

Diddy hasn't forgotten his roots. He created a series of educational initiatives for inner-city youth in 1995 called Daddy's House Social Programs. He ran the New York City marathon in 2003, raising $2 million for children's charities. And he headed Citizen Change's "Vote or Die!" campaign in 2004 to get young and minority voters to the polls. Sean Combs is a force of nature.

Tam is a celebrated New York City–based fashion designer