In the mid-2000s, newly married and a first-time home buyer, I lived at the corner of Laurel and Selma, right down the street from one of the most exclusive night clubs – Hyde. These were the days when Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Nicole Ritchie were seen in all of the key celebrity magazines: Star, People, Vanity Fair. These were the days of hard partying in the Hollywood Hills and rehab, punctuated by the Britney Spears meltdown.
Finally, it all comes around full circle.
Britney is no longer under conservatorship. Paris Hilton has gotten married. And a few scandals have since come into the light.
The first big story to me was Kitson. It began with a lawsuit against Us Weekly after years of working in partnership with the paparazzi. It ended with being pitched the brand by a Japanese licensing agency who had purchased the name. At that point I did some armchair research to learn that he’d struggled with bankruptcy and had sold the rights to the Kitson name. Of course, he now has the rights use to the name again, but has plastered his windows with political messages rather than chasing celebrities. How times have changed from my early days in the licensed tee world when being in Kitson was the end all be all.
The second popped up recently – Von Dutch. Von Dutch launched as a brand around the same time that I started my first licensing role at a small apparel company. I didn’t think too much of the brand, given that it only had a logo and one piece of art. Nonetheless, it shaped the first licensing strategy I ever developed. The appearance of Von Dutch trucker hats on celebrities marked a massive change in direction from character and entertainment brands into Americana – tried and true American corporate brands such as Coca-Cola, Ford, and Anheuser-Busch. Little did I know at the time that Von Dutch was a racist or that the business itself would turn out to the be the scandal of the latest Netflix documentary. Wow! Murder and drug dealers and buy outs. Oh, and Christian Audigier.
He rose in stature starting with Von Dutch before taking on Ed Hardy. At the time, many of us snickered at the “barfed up” embellishments of the product line, especially as the licensed products collection became sillier and sillier. From tees to lighters to sunscreen and energy drinks, Ed Hardy was absolutely everywhere. And so was Christian Audigier’s name, sometimes incorporated directly into the graphics or as a secondary logo on so many Ed Hardy products. Eventually, he was sued for not paying Ed Hardy his full royalty earnings. And, of course, the products disappeared from store shelves. Now, Ed Hardy is finally getting recognition for the artist that he is while the brand lives on in the Iconix Brand Group’s portfolio.
And so goes the world of licensing.