What do you guys know about Sean John? Before there was Kanye West’s Yeezy brand there was Sean John by Sean “P Diddy” Combs. Out of all the urban wear brands I’ve written about in this series and will write about, this is probably one that had the biggest impact on the industry! This was the brand that helped define urban fashion – Diddy literally invented the idea of athleisurewear, his brand Sean John was the beginning of this trend. When I say revolutionary, I mean revolutionary, this brand CHANGED THE GAME, look around you right now, athleisure wear dominates fashion and has been forever now! What was a tracksuit before Sean John? Nothing! He revolutionized what a tracksuit means in our community and to this day Sean John is well and alive because greatness never dies.
Sean John was launched at the height of Diddy’s career in 1998, the mogul was able to use his celebrity status to (like I said before and will keep saying) revolutionise the industry, he described his brand as fashion-tainment. Obviously, it was not the first clothing company to reflect hip-hop — or street or urban or black — aesthetic, however, it did have a unique selling point which was its luxurious point of view, mass-market goal and activist undertones. Sean John was way ahead of its time, imagine if Sean John launched in this era of social media, I really think it’d be up there with off-white, Gucci and Dior as the most popular brands of right now because Diddy was a master marketer on top of his game, this man disrupted the industry in more ways than one and does not get enough credit for it!! In 2001 (the year I was born if anyone wanted to know hehe), Sean John held the first nationally televised runway show. That’s BIG!!!! 22 years after its launch Combs was the first African American to win the CFDA’s Menswear Designer of the Year award in 2004, he still racks up over $400 million in annual sales, the brand is sold at Macy’s across the country, and Sean Combs is the blueprint for the celebrity-driven labels that followed like Fenty and Yeezy.
When Sean John officially launched in 1998, it’s competitors included the likes of Fubu, Phat Farm, Rocawear, Cross Colours, Karl Kani, and Akademiks. However, 20 years later in 2018, hardly any of the brands are still standing or hold a brand image as strong as Sean John and I think we can nail this all down due to the fact that those brands represented the “now” of the 90s, the difference with Sean John is that Diddy created a lifestyle brand with A VISION, his brand was the difference between mediocre fashion and style trendsetting – he set trends, he didn’t follow them. Throughout history, in menswear, there are few people that we can call style icons, especially in terms of urban wear but I have to say Combs is one of them and you simply cannot disagree with me. I will not argue with anyone over this. Not only is he a man with great personal style but also birthed one of the greatest brands of his generation. A man that will go down in fashion history.
In an interview with GQ Sean “Diddy” Combs said,“When I started Sean John, my goal was to leave my mark, to set the trends instead of chasing them, be a frontrunner and create collections that everyone would want to wear. With the Sean John brand we have built an incredible foundation that I believe will continue to inspire and draw new customers. To be a force in the fashion industry 20 years later makes me incredibly proud, and I look forward to taking it even further.” Transcending pop-culture, Sean Combs has taken on his personal mantra and translated it into the business world: “Can’t stop, won’t stop.”For Combs, this phrase is so much more than just a saying but a way of life. The feeling transcends all that he does and inspires the Sean John brand as it enters it third decade of providing fashion for men’s boys and girls.
Sean John’s first ever collection in 1998 consisted of only 11 pieces. Then in March 1999, Sean John made its debut in retail with a launch event at Bloomingdale’s in NYC. And before you know it, he had his first fashion show in February 2000, only 2 years after launching. Sean John has been praised for its innovative approach and received numerous awards and accolades – from the very beginning, Sean “Diddy” Combs and his Sean John brand set precedence with a seamless mix of fashion, music and entertainment— hence the term fashion-tainment. Sean John celebrated high-maintenance masculinity when fashion was emerging from a decade of grunge. Combs’s street-meets-boardroom sensibility reflected his personal style and that’s why the brand did so well, it was authentically very Diddy. He crafted an aura of wealth and power around the brand, but he also infused it with a lot of sex appeal. The brand’s aesthetic is truly prescient, its impact is still visible to this day from Paris to Joburg to New York. It is there in hoodies and velour tracksuits, and oversize parkas. It’s in Vetements, Off- White, Balenciaga, Fenty and Yeezy. Like I said it revolutionised the industry.
I would say that my legacy is for all black designers. Diversity is essential, but black designers have a hard time, and we’re the most fashionable people on planet earth. So [Sean John] gave birth to this moment; it empowered these young creatives to know that their talent and their ideas and their designs had value and that they had power. I see the trickle-down effect, and that was the intention, going with the goal of breaking down the doors for other people.”
I think out of all the brands, this was my oldest brothers favourite! I kid you not, there would be days that I’d see him in head to toe ROCAWEAR. I have the photos to prove it but I don’t want him to hate me hahaha. From its beginnings, ROCAWEAR planned on being the biggest player in this game we call fashion – but more specifically streetwear. They were on the way to becoming an international company that would compete with the biggest brands of our generation. I am talking Supreme, Dsquared, Comme des Garcon, bathing ape etc. So my question is, where did it all go wrong? Right now ROCAWEAR should be dominating the streetwear scene, we should be looking to them for our urban style outfits, not the likes of Givenchy and off white.
This brand had so much potential because ROCAWEAR was more than just your average fashion brand but a lifestyle. A lifestyle that everyone aspired to – one including; private jets, yachts, and penthouse suites but on top of that, it was also a community that was all about goodwill, and never forgetting your roots. That is what ROCAWEAR stood for. Style, music, the high life, sex appeal. They instinctively knew the definition of the latest trends and fashion because they lived them. From the streets to the design studio, they knew trust started with the people, so that’s where they took their inspiration from. They watched the trends on the New York City streets, then translated these into fresh looks that rocked that fashion world. Showing up on the runways in Milan, New York, London and Paris, ROCAWEAR introduced a new, casual glamour with a streetwise sensibility. They didn’t just sell clothes, they sold an image—and the brand took off, becoming one of the hottest in 90s fashion and an international sensation!
This was ROCAWEARS 20th anniversary collection;
The crazy thing is that I don’t hate the collection, everything about it actually has potential. But it’s the same thing with Akademiks. The entire team need to be FIRED. The design team, the branding team, marketing team, social media team. EVERYONE. They all need to get in the bing because how can they disgrace a brand that was once the king of the game like this!! Personally, I think if Jay Z gives me the opportunity to handle his brand, with my team of creatives, I could take ROCAWEAR to different levels. And the crazy thing is that I’m literally not even being cocky. I’m just speaking straight facts.
Times like this where people are coming to support black-owned brands, where streetwear and urban wear is dominating the scene, where 90s fashion is prominent in everyone’s wardrobes. Right now ROCAWEAR should be taking advantage but they’re here just making clothes for the purpose of making clothes. There is ZERO passion and that’s the thing that pisses me off. You can tell that no detailed market research has been done whatsoever because these are clothes that my dad and uncles would wear, not people of this generation. It’s sad really. The core values of ROCAWEAR that I previously describe in this post no longer live in the brand we see today.
Now let’s compare it to past campaigns
ARE YOU GUYS SEEING THE DIFFERENCE!!!!! Look at the passion that was placed in their old campaigns! Look at the lifestyle, the brand image, everything. I mean they had Naomi model for them yet in 2019 they think it’s appropriate to make DJ Khaled the brand ambassador??? You really can’t write this shit. I just pray that ROCAWEAR finally wake up one day and become the brand that it was set to be back when it first launched because really and truly this is not it!
Founded in 1992 by Daymond John, J. Alexander Martin, Keith Perrin, and Carlton Brown as a hat company FUBU ( “For Us By Us”) became a fashion staple during the 1990s street-wear scene. By the early 2000s, it was known globally as the “IT” brand for many black teens. So where did the idea come from? During the 80s, wool hats with cut tops were very popular amongst rappers. Huge companies sold these hats at an average price of around $20 which you can imagine at the time for a wool hat was a little ?. This is where John spotted an opportunity. He went home and shared the idea with his friend Carlton Brown. They both made around 80 hats and went out in New York the next day selling each hat for $10. They managed to sell out the same day ending up with $800 in revenue. That same day John went home and persuaded his mother to take out a loan, mortgaging their apartment. They borrowed $100, 000 in start-up cash and invested the money into the business. And that is how FUBU was born.
In the beginning, they were sewing the FUBU logo on t-shirts, jackets and other clothes trying to make the brand popular. However, they didn’t see the same success as they had had with their hats. Things were tough. The clothing line was not an instant success. In an interview with Hot97 in 2017, John explained that for three years— from 1989-1992— FUBU didn’t make any money. In fact, the company was closed down three times before it began to generate income. However, In 1994, things began to pick up, John exposed his clothing on the popular trade show Magic, held in Las Vegas. Despite FUBU couldn’t even afford to rent a booth, they got orders for around $300 000. They were about to become really popular. In the next years, FUBU signed some decent contracts with big names like NBA, JC Penny, and some others. By the year 1998, the company declared around $350 million in sales. Today, FUBU’s sales are around $6 billion, Daymond John’s net worth has reached $250 million in 2015.
In 1995, a few years after John mortgaged his house for $100,000 to invest into FUBU with his business partners (and run the company out of that same house), Samsung became investors of the company after seeing John’s ad in the NY Times which read”A million dollars in orders, need financing.” By 1998, FUBU was totalling $350 million in yearly sales.
Then by luck, John managed to convince LL Cool J (who lived in the same neighbourhood as him and was a good friend of his) to wear a promotional t-shirt with the FUBU brand on it on some of his videos (around 40). Later, LL Cool J wore a FUBU hat while shooting a short video clip for The Gap which gave the company there exposure they needed!
“He was wearing a pair of Gap jeans and a Gap shirt, but he was somehow able to sport one of our hats during the commercial. Then during his thirty-second freestyle rap, he looks directly into the camera and says, ‘For Us, By Us, on the low.’ No one at Gap nor any of their ad execs thought anything of it. It wasn’t until a month later that someone at the Gap found out, pulled the commercial, and fired a whole bunch of people after they had spent about $30 million running this campaign.”
But the damage was already done.
However, just like the other brands in this series, their reign didn’t last after a few missteps and investing $5 million into a compilation album titled ‘the good life’, FUBU left the U.S. market completely in 2003. In a book he co-authored, The Brand Within, John explained that one of the major factors that led to the company’s demise is that they had too much product. “Once you hit mark-down bins, it’s tough to climb out, because you’ve lost the sense that your clothes are fresh and vibrant,” he writes.
Having said that, FUBU did make a comeback and last year they paired with Sorella Boutique for a collaboration, releasing a new 90s inspired women’s collection. They also came out with a Black lives matter capsule collection in late 2019 and patent suits under their name too. So hopefully FUBU can be the brand that it once was “for us by us”
We need to take into consideration that Kanye West, he had made several attempts in the fashion industry before Yeezy became a household name, most notably 9 years ago with the debut of Dw by Kanye West named after his late mother, Donda West. However, the critics did not give ’Ye an easy out. “Kanye West’s collection was so Givenchy-esque that it’s embarrassing that Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci was an expected guest,” wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Christina Binkley in her review.
Naturally, West hit back with a signature rant at the show’s afterparty. “This is my first collection. Please be easy. Please give me a chance to grow. This is not some celebrity shit. I don’t fuck with celebrities. I fuck with the creatives in this room, the amazing people who spend every day of their life trying to make the world a more beautiful place. The number of people that tried to get me a celebrity fucking deal. They said, ‘You need to do boot-cut jeans, or you won’t sell.’ Shut the fuck up!”
Despite this, his fashion show came to be the most hyped of the entire spring 2012 season, creating expectations that are often impossible to live up to, even for trained, established designers but it, unfortunately, lasted for just two seasons, funded solely by the rapper-turned-designer, and was ultimately shuttered without the backing of a larger brand.
Kanye outlines his frustrations with the fashion industry during an interview On BBC Radio 1 With Zane Lowe
In this extensive and endlessly talked-about interview with Zane Lowe, West expanded at length on the ideas from “Black Skinhead,” articulating his frustrations and gripes with the fashion industry in great detail. Over the course of an hour, he made the case for why he deserved the chance to design a full collection, not simply collaborate on one-offs. He explained to Zane Lowe that in traditional celebrity endorsement deals, the celeb’s input on the products themselves usually amounts to nothing more than “patina,” and took shots at the empty “creative director” titles celebrities are often given. By contrast, he said he has so more to offer to brands, and to the world, as an actual designer of products, from high school basketball uniforms to film.
“I want a joint venture the way Stella McCartney has,” he told Lowe. This was the first time West expressed his feeling that he couldn’t impact culture with fashion without the support of a mega-corporation like Adidas to back his mega aspirations. (He told Lowe he hopes to eventually be “the anchor of the first trillion-dollar company.”) He said that without a large corporation’s infrastructure, the most he would be able to design would be T-shirts, likening his limitations to the time before Rocafella gave him a record deal. “Me doing the Yeezys and not having a joint venture with Nike the next day would have been like if I made ‘Jesus Walks’ and then wasn’t allowed to make an album,” West said. “There’s a reason I was the only rapper allowed to design a shoe with Nike,” he stated, “which means there has to be another step. It has to keep going. People didn’t love the Yeezys the way they did for no reason.”
Kanye Reveals He Previously Designed Sneakers for Giuseppe Zanotti and Balmain
In an interview with Los Angeles-based 97.1 Amp Radio, Ye revealed that he had worked on sneakers for high-end fashion labels without previously taking any credit.
“I designed the [Giuseppe] Zanotti sneakers and people don’t know that. I designed Balmain sneakers and people don’t know that,” he said to demonstrate his authenticity and to be taken seriously as a legitimate voice in the fashion industry.
West Leaves Nike For Adidas
2013 was the year Kanye began his battle to be recognized in the corporate world. His album Yeezus was him at his most anti-establishment with songs like “New Slaves,” but the drive really can be pinpointed to his frustration with Nike for only being interested in his name, not his ideas. By the end of the year, West had moved over to Adidas who have allowed him to be one step closer to creating a trillion-dollar fashion business!
A.P.C. X KANYE WEST
Before West presented us with Yeezy season 1, he already had two collaborations with French brand A.P.C. underway. Released in 2013 and 2014, his first ready-to-wear collection with the line included rugged denim pieces, pants, shirts, sweaters, coats, and even accessories.
YEEZY SEASON 1
In early 2015, after a couple of years attending rather shows, the rapper returned to the fashion week scene, this time in New York launching his Yeezy line. With this came a few now-signature aspects, as it was a striking stagnant presentation which used relatively unknown models and mixed neutral basics with athleisure. And it was from this moment that athleisure wear became one of the biggest trends of the decade, all thanks to MR West!
To date, no shoe has been more successful or (in)famous than the Yeezy Boost. Especially in 2015 and 2016. They retail for between $200 and $350, but because they are so limited, people often resell them for ridiculous prices and make an enormous profit.
PABLO POP-UP SHOPS
The rapper’s 2016 album, The Life of Pablo, came when interest in his fashion endeavours were at it’s highest, so he capitalized on this through limited-edition merchandise, which sold at his tour stops as well as 21 temporary stores.
I think you can all agree with me when I say Hip hop and fashion have always been intertwined, I mean where do you think streetwear came from? In my opinion, Black Hip Hop artists invented streetwear! No one can ever tell me they didn’t. The Notorious B.I.G. and Puff Daddy literally put Versace on the map for so many black youths back in the day. Then we have Aaliyah who pretty much made Tommy Hilfiger a household name after posing in heavily rotated commercials and advertisements for the brand in the ‘90s and let’s not forget the fact that whenever anyone ever dresses like Aaliyah they always incorporate Tommy Hilfiger. However, many of these signs of affection often went unreciprocated and to be fair today, still do. Look at the number of black artists that wear/ rap about these brands yet how many of them cast black models for their shows/ invite rappers to their shows. These brands don’t appreciate us as much as we appreciate them which is why we see rappers like Jhus and singers like Rihanna starting their own luxury brands. Just like back then these lines are our answer to the corporate white world that wants so desperately to shut us out.
As of now streetwear is at its peak and stronger than ever which is why I thought why not do a Throwback Thursday. In today’s blog post we’re going back down memory lane and checking out some of the Urban brands that defined the late 90s/ early 2000s because before the Migos rapped about “Versace” or Lil Yachty linked up with Nautica, hip hop fashion looked a lot different! LL Cool J was always seen in FUBU, Jay-Z had a closet filled with RocaWear, and everyone wore Sean John. Anyone who grew up in that era knows that those were the brands to be seen in!! Fuck Gucci belts and LV bags, it was all about AUTHENTIC URBAN WEAR. Think Phat Farm polos and apple bottom jeans (yes that was an actual brand, not just a catchy song). Sadly, more than 20 years these clothing lines have all but vanished from the public consciousness.
If you’re wondering where I got this inspiration from, I was basically cleaning our attic (or loft) the other day when I came across a bunch of my brothers’ old clothes and I just instantly felt so nostalgic. I know I was too young to apart of that culture, however, I remember being 5 and I used to take pictures of my brother in these brands, he would literally wear them from head to toe. If I could show you the pictures I would because he was honestly the epitome of a 90s black child – he had it all – the baggy jeans, sweatshirts etc but I’m 100% he’d kill me ahaha. Back then never could I have imagined me writing a blog post about how much I miss those brands and how I would be stealing them to wear for myself as part of my summer wardrobe.
The 90s and early 2000s witnessed the rise of the “for us, by us” mentality, an era of innovation and entrepreneurship within the hip-hop community. By staking a claim in the fashion world and turning their labels into multi-million dollar companies, black business owners and rappers rivalled the Ralph Laurens and Tommy Hilfigers of the world by creating label-based clothing we could relate to. But somewhere down the line the baggy jeans, oversized sweatshirts, and label-ridden clothing fell off the fashion radar, rappers stopped sporting FUBU hats and started looking back to Paris and Milan, to a legacy that was not created with them in mind.
Is anyone else completely over the Balenciaga Triple S sneakers? I feel like they’re so 2018/2019. They were never going to be a staple shoe, in my opinion, they were forever going to the shoe of that moment aka the shoe of 2018 and 2019. Don’t get me wrong I still love dad trainers, I’m just not a fan of the Triple S’ anymore, they served their time in fashion and now it’s time for another sneaker to take the crown. Any guesses on what it will be? Personally I think this year the show of the moment will for a fact be the Dior B23 sneaker but I could be wrong. It’s just a hunch.
This summer with sneakers it’s all about colours, just as it has been with clothing, the last summers we have seen bright colours take over runways, fashion campaigns, our wardrobes, shop floors and most importantly our hearts. We’re deep into this 80s fashion vibe and I could not be more obsessed. I know coloured trainers are not the most versatile but they are a show that you won’t regret purchasing. If you only own black or white sneakers then you’re boring as hell and need to get a life. But it’s okay because I am here to give you a helping hand by providing you with 10 shoes I am loving this summer and will be purchasing as new editions to my ever-growing sneaker wardrobe.
Here are some of my favourite sneakers atm;
Nike Air Force 1 Shadow SE
Nike Air Force 1 Sage Green Suede Trainers
Adidas Yeezy Boost 700 Inertia
Puma Future Rider
Nike LD Waffle Sacai
B23 DIOR AND DANIEL ARSHAM HIGH-TOP SNEAKER IN “NEWSPAPER” PRINT