While merchandising and music have gone hand-in-hand for as long as I can remember, it's generally been the same story. In its attempt to further capitalise on its investment in an artist, a record label throws the artist's logo or picture onto a mass-produced t-shirt and tries to unload as many units as possible. However, under no circumstances do the terms "fashion" and "quality" fit into the description of this practice.
I spent the better part of my teenage years sporting band tees as a way to express my interests, so I'll never decry this practice. But happily, labels around the world are taking a different approach to music merchandising. While many record labels are stuck on the status quo, some are branching out into disciplines such as fashion, replacing the heavily branded experience with a more authentic and progressive one by creating clothes more in line with street fashion. Call them dilettantes; call them parishioners of the Renaissance, or whatever you will. Sometimes, not over-specialising is the key to both success and personal freedom.
Tigersushi Furs Retail Space, Paris
One such company is Paris music and clothing label, Tigersushi. While a basic online search may turn up an undesirable number of websites offering raw fish, the Parisian indie powerhouse is well-known not only for releasing superior quality artists (such as Joakim, Principles of Geometry, Guillaume Teyssier, and DyE), but also for giving them the freedom to articulate their artistic visions. Tigersushi's approach has positioned it as an eclectic force within Paris' musical hotbed.
Started by Charles Hagelsteen and Joakim Bouaziz in 2001, the label is known for being musically distinct and well-versed in French music of the last several decades. Its mentality also feeds into the label's well-respected clothing line, Tigersushi Furs, which has gained enough notoriety to boast international sales and its own retail shop in Le Marais.
Led by a cousin of one of the label owners, Tigersushi Furs utilises a relatively timeless approach to design that blurs the lines between casual and chic, blending bright and washed colours with established cuts and designs, as well as their own take on traditional items. The retail location is a fair representation of the clothing, graphic and musical style of Tigersushi, selling both the Furs apparel and label's records in vinyl and CD format.
Tigersushi Furs' pieces are easily wearable by anyone, so the brand doesn't worry about having to release separate lines for men and women. Showing no resemblance to the rock t-shirts many North Americans grew up with, the collection sports a healthy number of tees, cardigans, sweaters and collared shirts. One wouldn't expect the average band to be slinging high-end cashmere cardigans to fans at a show. While the collection isn't as large as those of the many design houses that only work with apparel, the pieces are of high quality and have unique design concepts that will catch the eye of the casual-chic connoisseur.
There is something to be said about finding the right balance so that music and clothing can come together under one roof. One reason why Tigersushi manages to pull this off so well is not simply because of its love of quality sounds, colours and designs, but also its ability to position personal taste within everything they produce - be it audio or apparel. In releasing music, Hagelsteen and Bouaziz have stated that they make music for the small majority, as well as championing classic sounds, through their mixtape releases and compilations of pre-80's sounds. The same can be said about the clothing; many pieces would be at home beside anything from Rag & Bone, Comme Des Garcons, Prada and Chauncey. The colour palette often harkens back to a pre-80's era that utilised brighter, more varied colour schemes, as opposed to the grey-scale staples many lines now rely on.
While other record labels using Tigersushi's merchandising approach may not be producing such high-ticket items, many of them have begun to avoid typical band merchandisings. One example is Los Angeles-based label, Dim Mak Records. Best known recently for its electronic and DJ roster headed by Steve Aoki, the group actively creates various streetwear lines inspired by Los Angeles and Paris graphical and street style. With such a prominent roster of international jetsetter DJs, it's no wonder that a label of its orientation would move into clothing. Specialising in graphic prints, one might immediately think back to the typical band tee. However, it's clear that a lot more time and effort goes into design, pulling from collaborative art projects with companies like ALIFE and photographers such as The Cobra Snake, while effectively utilising pop culture references and repurposing them as artwork.
Dim Mak x Tokidoki Collaboration
Dim Mak is also one of many labels and artist collectives that have recently taken advantage of the pop-up shop industry by opening temporary retail locations. The pop-up shop is an effective and accessible way of testing the waters with clothing concepts as well as increasing visibility. Some artists have even taken the pop-up shop idea into their own hands, launching short-term shops while touring around a particular area. Tyler the Creator and Odd Future started a pop-up location in Australia during their most recent tour. Creating the designs and running the shop themselves, the move allowed them to showcase their design talents, while already on the road for musical performances.
Many people are passionate about both music and fashion, so it's not surprising that the two would eventually come together under the same umbrella. Smaller groups are also moving in this direction. Denim specialist company, dutil, is also starting a mini-label and is currently accepting submissions for its first compilation record.
By fusing different facets of the music and fashion industries, labels are moving beyond simple consumer goods and are better able to offer the concept of complete personal style. Instead of selling two-dimensional paraphernalia, they are bringing an all-in-one package that better demonstrates what they are about, while also better serving the interests of their patrons.
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