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. Aprils 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
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.
AllHipHop.com: How did you come up with the concept for
Melvyn: There really wasnt 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. Its building up both brands with the signature pieces.
AllHipHop.com: 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.
AllHipHop.com: What is the significance of the King Ape
Melvyn: It just looks nice. [laughs] I dont 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].
AllHipHop.com: 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.
AllHipHop.com: Those are the codes?
Melvyn: Yes. Hence 750. If you look across the hallmark, on 18-carat
gold, thats where the 750 comes from. There was only one jean, so we figured lets
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.
Melvyn: Ive got the Hundred-dollar trainers [sneakers] over
AllHipHop.com: This is really
dope love the sweaters and jackets. I see you dont hold back and pay
attention to detail.
Melvyn: Yeah. We want to do a lot with the brand, its just
our focus to get the mens wear right. Get that going, and well start on the
womens. Were doing womens in 750 this season. Ive done all the jeans, but we havent put it
April: Once we have them, you can just ask me. Ill have the
AllHipHop.com: 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 werent 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, Lets do the opposite of the U.S. dollar, which is the the
Cuban Note with Che Guevara, The Columbian which weve done, and The Hundred-dollar at the moment. There is usually a story
behind [any] note that we use.
AllHipHop.com: [laughs] got a political undertone. You have
the jean with Japanese money, The Yen. Very nice.
Melvyn: Yes. The Yen - were only doing 200 pairs of these.
AllHipHop.com: 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 weve had are with The Hundred-dollar jean in the shops. Theyve been
ripped out, so we had to keep them locked up.
AllHipHop.com: How do you anticipate Money will be received
by the U.S. market, and how do you plan on maintaining the brands exclusivity?
Melvyn: We had a really good two years in Europe since weve
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,
well be happy. I feel the same will happen over here. Only time will tell!
April: You know you dont have to be everywhere to make
money. You just need to have the right relationships with the right retailers,
and thats what were pushing to our reps to do. So, take it one day at a time.
Melvyn: Its 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 Hermans in New York; The
Lounge, Up Against the Wall in D.C. and Virginia; and Lulus in Bal Harbour and
Miami. Those are the boutiques were 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 doesnt look like everything here. If
we keep that in mind, Money could have a real good shot in the United
AllHipHop.com: 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 weve got:
footwear, accessories, really nice belts and hats, and very casual basics to
get the name out. So get Money.