Besides his hit songs and controversial outbursts, Kanye West has always been connected to the fashion world. At one point he took a break from the rap world to intern for famed couture designer Louis Vuitton, and while there, West designed a special edition sneaker (which cost $1,000 a pair). Now the hip-hop superstar has debuted his own fashion line, DW.
DW, which is named after West’s late mother Donda West, is a high-end line of women’s clothing. West launched the line with a start-studded fashion sow recently in Paris. He introduced the ready-to-wear (RTW) spring/summer 2012 collection, which critics praised as edgy and sophisticated.
Celebrity or not, however, the fashion world is a rough business. And, says fashion and business expert Deborrah Gilbert, CEO of StylishAttitudes.com, West needs to be prepared for the ups and downs of the field. “Aside from a talented entertainer and performer, a well-structured business plan and his global brand awareness lends itself to the greater probability of success – especially in this complex economic environment. Fortunately, he already has a measure of success, so he is positioned to strategically diversify and build upon that success through the launch of his fashion line. The pace with which he expands, and the selection of his supply chain, is going to be key to the long-term success of his endeavor,” she says.
Going the RTW route might turn out to be a great choice for West. Ready-to-wear clothes are a cross between Haute Couture and Mass Market. Made in small quantities to guarantee exclusivity, RTW clothes can be expensive. West, however, has yet to release the price points for his line. But the line includes pants, tops, and dresses in cutting-edge designs and daring fabrics. According to Gilbert, the line reflects West’s public image as it is: bold. But she points out that West will need to connect with the average consumer for the line to be a success.
“The woman’s fashion line is a smart expansion of his brand because women possess key purchasing power and are economic drivers in the consumer fashion industry. The success of his line will also be dependent upon how well it reflects the needs of ‘real-women’,” she says. “As the brand’s visionary, it’s important that he connects to what moves a woman to not only wear clothes, but what moves her to express who she is through what graces her body.”
Directing his energies to a women’s line versus urban wear or men’s clothing was a wise business move, according to Gilbert. According to studies, a man spends about spends $52,972 in a lifetime on his wardrobe. Compare this to women. Black women spend $20 billion a year on clothes. American women, in general, spend about $5 trillion annually.
“I celebrate Kanye’s success. He’s unique. He’s bold. Being deliberate about connecting to what motivates a woman to buy is also an important key to success. Like a trade secret, he’s got to know that in any economy. Understanding a woman’s economic power and then translating it into the intimate language of how she expresses herself through fashion. Women are not distracted buyers,” says Gilbert. “We know how to move markets. We build home economies. It’s short-sighted to think less. That may feel bold. It is. And when artists/ entertainers/entrepreneurs launch a women’s fashion line, they fall to risk if they forget.”
But, says Gilbert, West needs to understand the needs of women in order to market his line. “For Kanye or any designer entrepreneur, the challenge is to find, know and design for the woman you intend to dress. Don’t miss that. As a former fashion model, I know personally it takes more to launch a successful fashion line onto the curves of the female form,” she points out. “You need to know how to also motivate her to be loyal to the brand – essential to sustaining the gains. Dressing the woman’s form is signature art. It’s beautiful and alluring. The business of it is smart and sexy. When a visionary understands that and the business and supply chain synchronizes to these ideas, the outcome can’t be anything less than global, legendary and continued success.”