FEATURE: Sneaker Pimps: Musicians and the Fashion Game




Sneaker Pimps


IN THIS PHOTO: Beyoncé appeared in VOGUE’s September 2018 edition/PHOTO CREDIT: Tyler Mitchell

Musicians and the Fashion Game


IT is always risky when artists step into other areas...

 IN THIS PHOTO: Rihanna has her own line of Fenty beauty products/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

and go outside of music. There is nothing new about the musician taking their talent to business or getting involved with their own label. There are big names who have their own record label and others who are involved in technology. Think about Dre and the Beats range of headphones, earphones and accessories. Artists are no stranger to promoting the latest bit of kit and getting involved with the coolest bits of tech. I can understand why many of them endorse technology and the benefits that can have. One wonders how many artists actually get involved with something they put their names to. Consider Dre and his role. Did he actually have any say regarding the headphones and accessories he has put his name to? I do wonder whether there is any real decision-making from him or whether it is more a financial investment. Other areas of commerce and profitability have seen big names in music create their own perfume. This article talked about the proliferation of divas adding their name to the scent market. One could, if they want, have perfumes endorsed by Rihanna or Jennifer Lopez. Many out there would want to smell like Jennifer Lopez or Rihanna or Taylor Swift – many men, one would imagine! – but you do query whether these artists had any say regarding the actual smell and the process. It is rather strange what artists say ‘yes’ to and how much it is about money or genuinely making something good.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Liam Gallagher’s Little Green fashion range recently went into administration/PHOTO CREDIT: RANKIN

I feel that there is a risk regarding artist-endorsed products considering the state of the high-street. A lot of sales can come online but they rely on the high-street like many of us. How damaging can it be when a celebrity puts their name to something and then it doesn’t do that well. Fashion is a big seller and popular option that, again, has seen artists add their brand/name to for years. There have been a couple of stories that show different fortunes regarding musician-endorsed/launched brands. Oasis’ Liam Gallagher and his Pretty Green label has seen its fortunes dip. He has a range of parkas and clothes that have a very Gallagher-esque look to them. There is actually some pretty good stuff to be found but, against such rivalry and challenging times, it seems like the label is in danger. NME reported the news:

Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green clothing brand has been sold to JD Sports, after it was confirmed that the label had gone into administration.

The brand, which was set up by the former Oasis singer in 2009, was purchased by the high street giant after administrators were called in last week.

JD Sports will keep open Pretty Green’s flagship store in Manchester , but 11 other stores and 33 concessions in House of Fraser are set to cease trading – putting 97 jobs at risk.

The fashion label’s challenges were blamed on tough high street conditions and the knock-on effect of House of Fraser falling into administration last year. It’s believed that House of Fraser owed £500,000 to Pretty Green when the retail giant collapsed.

Peter Cowgill, executive chairman of JD Sports, said: “We are pleased to have completed the acquisition of the highly regarded Pretty Green brand. We look forward to working with the team on future positive developments.”


Simon Thomas, partner at administrators Moorfields said: “Pretty Green is a popular brand and received a considerable amount of interest. We are confident that JD Sports is the right fit for the business and will help to grow its online and wholesale channels.”

Speaking last month after rumours of the brand’s financial troubles first emerged, Liam Gallagher wrote on Twitter: “As long as we’ve got our health eh gotta put things into perspective”.

I did not know how far the musicians-as-fashion-designers thing goes. One feels Gallagher did have a big say regarding the products put out but, as this Billboard article shows, plenty of big names have made a success of it. Here are just a few who, through collaboration or personal innovation, have brought their own vision to the market:

Although this line is geared toward teens, Madonna's 2010 Material Girlline is a huge contender at Macy's with ladies like Kelly OsbourneTaylor Momsen and Rita Ora fronting the ‘80s themed ads. Last year, Pia Miawas recruited as the brand's first ever Fashion Director, fronting campaigns and designing pieces.

Blending the beat of Guatemalan, Japanese and Jamaican styles, L.A.M.B. is a brand that packs powerful personality, but while the singer pursued other creative paths, like her new Christmas album or campaign partnership with Revlon, she's been absent from L.A.M.B  shows and presentations in the past. The singer did, however, recently debut a third collection of gx by Gwen Stefani eyewear with Tura.

The rapper’s clothing brand, October’s Very Own (named after his record label, OVO Sound), was launched in 2014 and has flagship locations in Toronto, Los Angeles and New York. Judging by its website where almost everything is sold out, Drake’s involvement in the apparel industry has been quite a success so far.

After showing the first two seasons of her wildly successful Fenty x Puma collection in Paris, the Bajan beauty brought her Spring/Summer ’18 presentation to New York Fashion Week, and sent fashion fans’ hearts racing… literally. In addition to Fenty x Puma, she also created Fenty Beauty, which certainly met the long-awaited hype when the collection dropped 44 shades of foundation during NYFW. Her involvement with Puma was not the first of her design career though; she previously created collections for both Armani Jeans (2011) and River Island (2013)”.

I guess a lot of the success and failure comes down to how many fans an artist has any what their reputation is. Victoria Beckham is a much-loved fashion designer and innovator and has her past with the Spice Girls and the fact that she is this iconic figure. Someone like Liam Gallagher does have a great legacy but maybe not perceived as being cool and stylish as Victoria Beckham or someone like Madonna. Current favourites like Drake are involved in fashion and I do wonder whether people are buying the range because they want to wear a bit of that artists or whether it is an unbiased and objective fashion choice. Maybe that is irrelevant but I do think there is a bit of a risk, in these current times, entering the fashion market. I hope Liam Gallagher’s brand continues and can find success but, look back at the history of artists getting involved with fashion and success is not always ensured.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Avril Lavigne/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

Back in 2017, Format discussed the mixed fortunes of big artists who have got involved with fashion:

When recording artists become fashion designers, the result can be disastrous. Who told Avril Lavigne that Abbey Dawn was a good idea? There have been countless straight-up ugly clothing lines launched by rappers, pop stars and even country singers over the last twenty or so years.

But what about the musicians that have actually done a good job? Brands like Beyoncé’s Ivy Park and Rihanna’s Fenty x Puma often get more buzz and attention for their runway shows than a lot of major fashion houses. Even Vogue has jumped on board covering each new season of Kanye West’s Yeezy.

While the commercial success of these labels is largely thanks to the celebrity of their founders, it’s undeniable that certain musicians have a genuinely refined eye for colour, shape and texture in clothing. They’re not just copying fashion, they’re making fashion”.

The reason I bring up fashion as a line of musical inquiry is that Beyoncé is launching her own range of sneakers/trainers. She is no stranger to fashion herself but, very soon, people can walk around in sneakers (I have to call them that as they are American-made) with Beyoncé’s approval. Many have noticed how, of all the huge names out there, Beyoncé has been a little quiet regarding endorsement and fashion. I will come to the difference of those who are actively involved in design and marketing and artists who endorse a product. Maybe there is less risk regarding Beyoncé’s venture but it seems like, even with her clout, there could be risks.

The Cut give details regarding Beyoncé backing a new range of sneakers:

But on Thursday, the pop star and Adidas announced a “multi-layered partnership,” which will feature a relaunch of her Ivy Park clothing line and original product releases from the brand. Soon, you’ll be able to wear footwear created under the direction of Beyoncé herself.

“This is the partnership of a lifetime for me,” Beyoncé said in a press release. “[A]didas has had tremendous success in pushing creative boundaries. We share a philosophy that puts creativity, growth and social responsibility at the forefront of business. I look forward to re-launching and expanding Ivy Park on a truly global scale with a proven, dynamic leader.”

As a creative partner with Adidas, Beyoncé will have a part in designing footwear and apparel with the brand, as well as other collaborative projects. The brand and the artist will work to create “a unique purpose-driven program focused on empowering and enabling the next generation of athletes, creators and leaders”.

I think it is pretty cool when an artist gets involved with something like a clothing line or footwear as it is a bit more interesting than the usual fare you’d find in the shops. I am not sure whether Beyoncé’s Addidas’ are making their way to U.K. stores and quite what the reality is at the moment. Whereas one feels Liam Gallagher had a bit of a say regarding his Pretty Green line, I think Beyoncé had a little less input regarding the new sneakers. Her name will see sales boom and, so long as the product is not too expensive, it will inspire other artists to step forward. That issue of money and pricing some fans out is something the likes of Beyoncé will want to avoid.

A lot of young fans will want to, literally, follow in the footsteps of Beyoncé and have a bit of her on their feet. It would be tempting to slap a high price tag on the sneakers but that would alienate many and can be a reason for failure. Even if you are a big artist then you still need to work with suppliers and chains who stock your product. Looking at Beyoncé and she has suffered a bit of misfortune regarding that very thing. The Cut’s article continues the story:

Beyoncé launched Ivy Park in 2016, originally in partnership with Topshop. But she became the sole owner of Ivy Park last year, when Topshop owner Sir Philip Green was accused of racist and sexually inappropriate behavior, according to the New York Times. The relaunch under Adidas will still respect Beyoncé’s “ownership of her company which continues her journey as one of the first black women to be the sole owner of an athleisure brand,” according to the press release.

“Beyoncé is an iconic creator but also a proven business leader, and together, we have the ability to inspire change and empower the next generation of creators,” said Adidas board member Eric Liedtke”.

Making sure you do not price consumers out of the market, it is quite cool knowing that an artist has sort of given their blessing to a product. It seems like the sneaker/footwear side of the market is booming. Beyoncé is not alone and, as this CNBC article shows, there are rivals in direct competition.

Other retailers, including some of Adidas' rivals, are also tapping celebrities to push their products to more consumers. Sneaker maker Puma has an exclusive line with singer and actress Selena Gomez, as one example”.

PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for TIDAL

There are examples where musicians have added their name to the fashion world and it has not always gone right. I do feel like Liam Gallagher will suffer a blow whereas it seems like an exciting new venture is opening for Beyoncé. I feel like these big names will influence newer acts to diversify and become more ambitious. A career in music is busy and stressful but there is nothing to say lesser artists can launch their own fashion range and collaborate. Maybe my feature title is a bit harsh: artists are not pimping themselves but, in my mind, I was talking about them pimping out and decorating sneakers. Some do feel like musicians endorsing fashion is a bit cheap and like they are trying to make some easy money. Music is not just about the songs themselves and I think a lot of modern artists are role models because of their business minds and aspirations. If the likes of Selena Gomez and Beyoncé compel other women to get into fashion and launch their own label then so be it. I think it would be cool to see other iconic 1990s bands such as Oasis get into the market.

PHOTO CREDIT: @theburbgirl/Unsplash

So many artists have signature looks so there are going to be people who want to copy them. It is great to see so many people take an interest in clothing because of a musician’s involvement. So long as, like I said, the price is not extortionate and people are not being scared off then it is a good thing. An artist needs to consider the potential of the brand/product and not just assume that, because they are famous, they will sell themselves. There have been so many failures through the years and there is no guarantee of success! As Beyoncé steps into the sneakers/trainers market, let’s hope it is profitable and successful. Even though there have been failures and misguided musician-fashion blends, if it is done right and a success then it can be hugely inspiring. I am interested to see which artist steps into…

 PHOTO CREDIT: @echaparro/Unsplash

THE world of fashion next.