Rumors of Rocawear's demise have been greatly exaggerated, or so said the brand's executives in a wide-ranging interview with WWD that ran today. Regardless, 2011 wasn't a particularly kind year to Jay-Z's flagship brand: sales were down, an ill-advised stab at commodifying the Occupy movement backfired and rumors persisted that the rapper/CEO was about to disembark from his own company's sinking ship. However, things are looking up, his execs insist.
Rocawear is transitioning to the harsh realities of today's retail climate, says Neil Cole, president and chief executive officer of Iconix, the brand group that bought Jay-Z's label for $204 million in 2007 when annual profits were in the neighborhood of $700 million (they have since slipped to $500 million). Urban-wear as a whole has taken a severe hit in the recession; in Rocawear's case, men's sales now account for just over 15% of their overall intake; children's and international sales are more successful and where the brand will focus its energies for now.
Jay-Z isn't jumping ship – he just renewed his contract for another three years, commiting to stay on until 2014. He also just filmed Rocawear's first-ever television commercial, "From Marcy to Madison Square," which will hit screens this spring. Directed by Anthony Mandler, the ad showcases Jay-Z's spectacular rags-to-riches success story with vignettes contrasting his youth spent selling CDs from his car in the Marcy Projects of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, to headlining November's Watch the Throne concert at Madison Square Garden. It will air on MTV, BET and TNT during NBA basketball games, as well as online.
"Of course, he’s a busy guy between his tour and his new baby and his music," Cole says of Jay-Z. "Are there times when he’s not on tour and not in the studio where we get more time with him? Yes. And are there times when we have to work via e-mail and through other channels? Yes. But we are lucky enough to get a lot of his time and caring."