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As More Break In, Pop Star Designers Gain Bigger Backers

High-profile musicians have stormed through fashion in recent years, but now they’re dealing as never before, lining up serious financial backing.

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Pharrell Williams

Photo By WWD Staff

Ashanti

Photo By WWD Staff

Beyoncé Knowles and Jay-Z

Photo By WWD Staff

NEW YORK — High-profile musicians have stormed through the apparel business in recent years, but this month they’re wheeling and dealing as never before.

Savvy enough to know it takes more than their names to maintain a successful business, celebrities are lining up serious financial backing. Pharrell Williams is now on board with Reebok International, Russell Simmons’ Phat Fashions is said to be close to a deal with Kellwood, Damon Dash and Jay-Z are in talks to sell the majority share of Continued from page one

Rocawear, Beyoncé Knowles is at work on a signature collection and Ashanti is eyeing one, too.

All this action follows similar ventures, like last month’s agreement for Liz Claiborne to acquire the fast-growing Enyce brand for $114 million from Fila. And in September, Sean Combs signed a deal with California billionaire Ron Burkle, managing partner of The Yucaipa Cos., a Los Angeles-based private equity firm. Burkle has invested about $100 million in the Sean John brand, which pulls in $325 million at retail. This summer, Kellwood signed licensing deals for Def Jam University and Run Athletics with Simmons, founder and chief executive of Phat Fashions Inc. and his brother, Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons.

“We are in final talks with a big public company, but if they were to back out I have others lined up to buy,” Simmons said of his deal in the works for the purchase of Phat Fashions, although he declined to name the firm. He said the sudden spurt of large companies looking to pick up urban labels is something he knew would happen — it was just a matter of time.

“These large public companies were so arrogant thinking our numbers were temporary,” he said. “Now they see that we have the staying power and they want a piece of it.”

While he said he doesn’t have a timeline for the sale of his brand, he did say he is confident that Phat Fashions will grow next year, no matter what happens.

“Phat Farm had a bad year three years ago and we still grew by 30 percent,” he said. “Now we are on a huge spurt and stores are begging for more merchandise. That shows that this customer is growing and maturing with our brand — he may be 28 years old by now and started wearing Phat Farm when he was 16…he’s still wearing Phat Farm.”
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