Luxury men’s sneaker label LVL XIII, founded by Antonio Brown and brand ambassador Jason Derulo, is on a serious growth path.
The two business partners were part of a panel discussion at the WWD Men’s Wear Summit yesterday, held in New York City. The presentation touched on topics from growing a business from scratch to using Derulo’s celebrity status as a marketing tool.
In an exclusive with Footwear News last year, Derulo spoke about joining the label as an investor and brand ambassador. Since then, Brown and Derulo have expanded LVL XIII into the apparel category (selections from which Derulo can be seen wearing in his new music video “Swalla”). They’ve also landed an exclusive retail partnership with Bloomingdale’s, with their fall ’17 collection becoming available in August.
FN caught up with the duo to get an update.
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It’s been about a year since you launched. How have you both grown LVL XIII?
Jason Derulo: [The Bloomingdale’s launch] is the official release to the world. This is the massive push that we’ve been waiting for. Everything building up to this point has been us figuring things out. This partnership with Bloomingdale’s is obviously a dream come true.”
Antonio Brown: “We started the brand from the ground up. We’re not one of those generational brands that have been in the market for 20 years. Everything we’re doing, we’re doing ourselves. We’re very hands-on with the brands. It speaks to the quality and impact we’ve had on the market.”
You’re now adding apparel into the mix. How will it connect to the sneaker collection?
AB: I would say [it will] because of Jason. Just to have our footwear, he’s been forced to wear other [apparel] brands, which we don’t mind because we want him to wear what he wants to wear. But to give him clothing options that he can incorporate into his everyday looks is super-important.
JD: The apparel line is something I feel very comfortable in. As my style has evolved throughout the years, I wanted to make sure that our brand was something that’s coming next — not something that necessarily fits in with what [retailers are] selling now, but what they’ll be selling later.
Tell us about the fall ’17 sneaker collection.
AB: We’re launching our fall-winter ’17 collection in August in Bloomingdale’s. We have some runners coming out, which are new. These are our take on a casual shoe, but we’re still doing them in a way that’s sporty and cool. We have three different styles of luxury runners. We have a good variety that’s coming to the market.
JD: They’re crazy-cool.
How have you incorporated consumer feedback as you’ve grown the collection?
AB: We ourselves are our customer, too. Jason would buy the brand before he even invested in it. We do value customer feedback, but we also take into consideration that if Jason doesn’t like the shape or how it fits, all of those things are really important. Jason is a consumer too at the end of the day.
JD: One of my largest purchases has been clothing. I’ve bought a lot of stuff. So I know what fits well and how things are supposed to look like. When I’m putting my outfit together and I see that the shoe is sticking out in a way that’s not flattering to the jean, it’s easy to make those kinds of alterations. This shoe I’m wearing now actually started with a white strip, but I noticed that every time I put on a suit, the white strip took away attention from the suit. So doing simple changes like that.
What have been your major learning curves since launching?
AB: We spent a lot of money [laughs]. That was a learning curve. Footwear is so complex. One shoe has like 75 different pieces. It’s so easy to spend so much money trying to get it right. We’re both perfectionists, so a lot of money went into getting the collection perfect. It was a learning process — you never know how fast a million dollars can go. Especially when you’re building a men’s lifestyle brand.
Jason, tell us about what you have coming up in the music world.
JD: I’ve got new music coming. “Swalla” is the first single. I really want to do something different this time. It won’t be single, single, album. I want to throw some exclusives to a few different streaming sites. Share more music than I have in the past. It’s the perfect opportunity, now that the music industry has changed, to allow people to get a taste of more product. I make hundreds and hundreds of songs, and to whittle it down to 12 songs is always a feat. Especially this time where I’m doing different kinds of songs that don’t fit into the whole project. So I’m super-excited about releasing the new music and putting out that album.