Money Clothing: Special Delivery

In an era of cookie-cutter brands and counterfeit labels,

British design mavericks Melvyn de Villiers and Nick Cordell turned a job of

creating t-shirt ideas for artists’ album releases into a lucrative fashion

line called Money.

As former product merchandisers at Def Jam/Universal U.K.,

Melvyn and Nick worked with artists like Ja Rule and LL Cool J, lending fashion

input for their marketing campaigns. They turned their passion into an eight design

t-shirt line, and introduced it to Japan in 2003.

Two years ago, Money joined with urban wear pioneer April

Walker of Walker Wear. April’s design expertise has been present in mainstream brands

and couture houses. Amongst her many impressive career moves, she was a VP of

licensing at Phat Farm and is the founder of the Alliance of Minority

Designers, Inc.

After growing success overseas and landing placements on

some major celebrities, the Money team is on the verge of an anticipated U.S.

launch. We sat down with Melvyn de Villiers and April Walker to discuss how the

brand has composed the perfect blueprint for success with Money, literally. How did you come up with the concept for


Melvyn: There really wasn’t a concept in the beginning. It

grew as we developed the product… started off with t-shirts and we worked into

denim. Then we worked it so you get identified – Gucci, Prada everyone has their

signature pieces. It’s building up both brands with the signature pieces. What are the different divisions of the brand?

Melvyn: We got Money, and then Money 750 is the premium


April: Money is still premium, yet more mainstream, and the 750

is couture premium. What is the significance of the King Ape


Melvyn: It just looks nice. [laughs] I don’t want to make

something up… we needed a logo. So, we made one.

April: If you look at it, you see the “M” in [the King Ape logo]. Yes, that works… guerilla marketing. [laughs]

Did you have an ideal clientele in mind

when you were developing Money?

Melvyn: We separated the brand to sell it to a different

customer. Money is just an approach to modern casual wear. 750 is very product

and quality driven. The reason it started was, we were just doing Money and

then did The Hundred-dollar jean [actual $100 bill on the back of jean].

Around then we wanted to make the best deal in the world, and so we

collaborated with a Japanese denim company called Full Count, which makes the

best salvaged denim in the world.

After [asking], “What can we do to this jean?” we made 18-carat

gold rivets for the jean. The hallmark [brand-name] on the

rivet of the jean is 750 for Gold, Platinum is 950, and Silver 650. Those are the codes?

Melvyn: Yes. Hence…750. If you look across the hallmark, on 18-carat

gold, that’s where the 750 comes from. There was only one jean, so we figured “let’s

put a shirt to go with the jean”. These

shirts [man-tailored /button-ups] we do, with a touch of gold-plated buttons here

are made by Fleets of London. The track tops are all hand-embroidered as well,

with real gold thread. Brilliant.

Melvyn: I’ve got the Hundred-dollar trainers [sneakers] over

there. This is really

dope… love the sweaters and jackets. I see you don’t hold back and pay

attention to detail.

Melvyn: Yeah. We want to do a lot with the brand, it’s just

our focus to get the men’s wear right. Get that going, and we’ll start on the

women’s. We’re doing women’s in 750 this season. I’ve done all the jeans, but we haven’t put it

out yet.

April: Once we have them, you can just ask me. I’ll have the

sample on. Your brand has made a mark by using various

types of [actual] currency. Where does it come from?

Melvyn: We were just messing around… used to chop it up and

use it as an appliqué originally. Then we found out we weren’t allowed to do

that. [laughs] So, then we were thinking

of other ways to apply it and we used on the jean [air-tight plastic seal, so that legal tender is not damaged]. We put it out first in Italy and it sold really well. From

there we thought, “Let’s do the opposite of the U.S. dollar,” which is the the

Cuban Note with Che Guevara, The Columbian which we’ve done, and The Hundred-dollar at the moment. There is usually a story

behind [any] note that we use. [laughs]… got a political undertone. You have

the jean with Japanese money, The Yen. Very nice.

Melvyn: Yes. The Yen - we’re only doing 200 pairs of these. From a marketing perspective, using real currency

has its pros and cons. Do you feel that could backfire and people may be afraid

to buy Money?

Melvyn: The Money Dollar-Bill jeans have been okay. Only

problems we’ve had are with The Hundred-dollar jean in the shops. They’ve been

ripped out, so we had to keep them locked up. How do you anticipate Money will be received

by the U.S. market, and how do you plan on maintaining the brand’s exclusivity?

Melvyn: We had a really good two years in Europe since we’ve

launched in 2003, done really well in shops and had a good time with it. In

regards to exclusivity, that would be the agents putting it in the right shops.

But, if it does anything like it does in Europe,

we’ll be happy. I feel the same will happen over here. Only time will tell!

April: You know… you don’t have to be everywhere to make

money. You just need to have the right relationships with the right retailers,

and that’s what we’re pushing to our reps to do. So, take it one day at a time.

Melvyn: It’s a tight package - the 750 denims, track

jackets, jewelry, the belt [Vicious and Money], and bag. The Money Swag bag

[with currency sealed inside] which sells for $2,000 has sold quickly. I think Fred

Segal just bought it.

April: Yes. Fred Segal L.A.; Ron Herman’s in New York; The

Lounge, Up Against the Wall in D.C. and Virginia; and Lulu’s in Bal Harbour and

Miami. Those are the boutiques we’re selling in right now. Like I said, we just

really want to continue to build up great relationships with the independent retail

shops we sell in, and then take it from there in terms of expansion. You know

the thing about Money that I think is special is, everything from the fabrics

to the designs has its own identity and doesn’t look like everything here. If

we keep that in mind, Money could have a real good shot in the United

States. What can we look forward to from the brands’

Spring ’08 collections?

Melvyn: This is a Money jacket which has a gold-plated

zipper that sold really well last season. We have new colors. In the 750, we have

two styles of vintage jeans.

April: Along with some really good fashion pieces we’ve got:

footwear, accessories, really nice belts and hats, and very casual basics to

get the name out. So get Money.