Artist merchandise into fashion – Pharrell Williams
American rapper, singer and songwriter Pharrell Williams is undoubtedly one of the most powerful musicians in the world. Having released highly successful tracks both as a solo musician as well as part of The Neptunes duo and band N*E*R*D, he has had a staggeringly successful career. As well as music, Williams has a huge interest in fashion, and in 2005 he founded Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream. Over the years the brands have seen huge upturns and downturns, but the design of the products has never faltered.
The foundation of Billionaire Boys Club
In 2005 Pharrell Williams joined forces with Japanese fashion icon Nigo to release Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream, two separate streetwear brands. The road to launching the brands wasn’t easy, and after disputes between Williams and Reebok, they faced setbacks. The footwear brand Ice Cream was able to launch, but Billionaire Boys Club was not released alongside it. However, the clothing line did eventually see the light of day when it was launched as a partner company to A Bathing Ape (BAPE).
The brand proved a hit, and saw widespread success around the globe. Not only were the fans wearing the line, but many celebrities were too. Showcasing the brand and Pharrell Williams’ influence, iconic stars like Justin Bieber, Drake, Chris Brown, Wiz Khalifa, Miley Cyrus and Lil Wayne have all been photographed wearing Billionaire Boys Club clothing. With support from such high profile figures in the music industry, the line continued to achieve great success. Another aspect of the brand which drew great acclaim was the policy of creating limited numbers of items and selling them for high prices, giving the clothing an even more exclusive feel which is undoubtedly why so many high-profile stars got behind the product so wholeheartedly.
The downward spiral
However, in 2011 there was a turning point, when Jay-Z joined forces with Iconix to invest into the brand. At first, the brand continued to see growth, and hit a record high in 2012, reaching $25 million to $30 million in volume, compared with the previous year, when it only reached $12 million. Billionaire Boys Club was finally a household name, and it seemed that it was on the path to even further success, but this was not the case. Soon after this, the brand went into decline, and the next five years were a downward spiral due to Iconix’s huge 50% share in the business. The quality of the clothing declined when manufacture (originally only in Japan), was expanded to Mexico, China, Canada and Korea, and the brand lost some of its originality, making this one of the reasons many believe the business went downhill.
In 2017, the tide shifted again, as Pharrell Williams reacquired Iconix’s 50% stake in the brand, taking back full control of the company. Many are optimistic that this move could be the catalyst for a surge of regrowth from the brand, which could be set to return to its former glory. But only time will tell if this high-risk move will pay off, or if the brand will continue to decline.
While the timeline of events during the course of Billionaire Boys Club’s lifetime may seem rather haphazard and unpredictable, each of the changes in the company’s value were as a result of actions taken by those in control. There are many lessons to be learned, including the damage done to the brand’s reputation when the quality of the product faltered, and the exclusivity was somewhat lost. It is vital to listen to your customers and provide for their needs, as consumers who buy into a brand due to its exclusivity and quality are not going to continue to do so once those aspects are watered down or lost entirely. The key lesson to be learned is, listen to your customers, they are quickly able to make or break a clothing line.