By Emily Feimster
When it comes to today's urban music world, it's not enough just to have platinum records. This is a business about making money and when you're one of the hottest musicians around, you want to have people paying big bucks to act, look, and dress like you. As a result, apparel contracts seem to be a must-have as an increasing number of recording artists are entering the fashion business.
With P. Diddy and Jennifer Lopez making multi millions from their well-established clothing lines, it's no wonder there's a push to combine music and fashion. One of the latest stars to join the ranks is Beyonce Knowles, who has signed her first licensing deal to market her own upcoming clothing line House of Dereon, which is due on the US market in this autumn. The brand of apparel for young women is named after Beyonce's seamstress grandmother Agnes Dereon. "[It'll be a] mix of vintage things and contemporary things...fur with denim, classic with street," said Beyonce, whose mother Tina is helping develop the line.
Will Adams, better known as will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, used the walking billboard approach when introducing his eclectic i.am clothing line - he and his band mates wore the brand while performing at the Grammys. Rocker Kelly Osbourne launched the design company Stiletto Killers, which sells T-shirts, hooded tops and tracksuit bottoms decorated with cartoon drawing and sayings, like "I'm Not With Stupid Anymore" and "Just Break Up With Me." Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
For those of you hoping to wear Christina Aguilera
's duds, you'll have to find your own way to look skanky as the songstress recently slammed those artists who have branched out in the fashion world. The 24-year-old said, "I just think it's so tacky. I have always thought that it's one of those things that just makes people look like they don't know what to do any more." So the career of rap superstar 50 Cent
is hurting? Wrong! Following in the footsteps of Eminem
's Shady Ltd. line, 50 has teamed up with urban clothing designer Marc Ecko to introduce a line of menswear, G-Unit Clothing. It will feature a pricing gimmick in reference to the star's name, with items retailing at, for example, $29.50 for a T-shirt. This is on top of his Rbk (a division of Reebok) G-Unit footwear collection.
Even country sensation Reba McEntire has gotten in on the action as she's soon to launch her line of women's clothing for Little Rock, Ark.-based Dillard's Inc. McEntire's line will include clothes for the office, sportswear and other items.
So, with all there is to market out there, why clothes? "I know that musicians want to look great and I know that the consumer looks at musicians to see what they're wearing - that's always been the case," responds J. Lo's fashion partner Andy Hilfiger, who has been instrumental in the music and fashion collaboration. "Artists and celebrities call all the time and they want a line, but it's a lot of work." Those willing to put in the work are seeing results but, as in the music industry, people come and go.
Though he's one of the hottest music producers around, Pharrell Williams' line has already met with problems as he and Rbk recently severed ties. The two had launched "Ice Cream" - a collection of men's and women's footwear - and a men's clothing collection called "Billionaire's Boys Club." With the split being mutually agreed upon, Reebok will continue to sell the footwear at retail through June and Pharrell will soon be announcing future plans for the apparel line, and for the continued manufacture and sale of "Ice Cream" footwear.
Missy Elliot has also experienced a big setback after her new Adidas line, Respect ME, was met with royal disapproval. The Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, claimed the line's logo looked too much like her own royal monogram and demanded that it be changed immediately. Adidas quickly withdrew the line to avoid any threat of legal action. There's no word yet on what's next.
Though some artists have a difficult time getting their threads off the ground, there are still a number of musicians going strong. Def Jam founder Russell Simmons has been selling his ultra popular Phat Farm line for over 12 years, rapper Eve has Fetish, there's Master P's No Limit Clothing, and Rocawear is brought to us by Roc-A-Fella Records moguls Jay Z and Damon Dash. That doesn't include Jay-Z's latest venture with Reebok to create his S. Carter shoes.
Let's not forget hip-hop artist Nelly, who started Vokal six years ago when he and friend Yomi Martin sold t-shirts out of the trunk of their car. They have been able to expand the line to include female wear called Apple Bottoms. Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B. collection has also been big. The line, which stands for love angel music baby and was also the name of a beloved dog, incorporates her hallmark style of bikini tops, Rasta-inspired colors, and low-slung pants.
With more and more celebrity labels popping up, the only thing left to wonder is, will it ever be too much? "The whole urban departments were very saturated a couple of years ago but I think the ones who are doing it right are still there," acknowledges Hilfiger. "I think going forward is more about not just a clothing line, but a whole lifestyle. At the end of the day, it's about having the right infrastructure, the right people, and the right product." It also helps to be cool. Sorry Sisqo.