Backstage at the Burberry Prorsum spring 2014 show – where I happened to take this photo – Cara Delevingne was running amok in a black balaclava marked with the letters BS. I’ll confess I didn’t at that time know what the letters stood for. I later found out they stood for Blackscore.
The man behind Blackscore is a successful designer in his own right under his long-established eponymous label, Simeon Farrar. Having now launched two labels and, through the likes of Cara Delevingne, an unplanned instagram campaign like no other, could there be a man better equipped to talk about building a brand?
Probably not. And so, it was with great pleasure that I attended Simeon Farrar’s talk last night, hosted by The Industry London. After the break are 6 key takeaways from the night.
If you’re building a brand, or thinking about starting one – especially one that’s culturally relevant and a little non-traditional, like Blackscore – it’s worth taking in a few points from Simeon Farrar. Namely:
Diversify rather than diverge.
If you have an established brand but find yourself diverging too far away from its core, it can be worth creating a sub-brand or new label. This allows you full creativity without alienating your existing audience. When it came to the Simeon Farrar brand, “instead of dumbing it down or diluting it” Farrar created a second brand with a lower price point (Blackscore).
If your brand is unknown, view it as an advantage.
Ok so you want your brand to become known, obviously. But at the start, embrace the fact that no-one knows your brand and use it to your advantage. Farrar discusses this when talking about the rise of Blackscore. “I wanted to have some kind of presence at London fashion week for Blackscore, but I didn’t want to be there officially,” he says. “So I thought, Blackscore is really new. Because no-one knows it I have the freedom to do whatever I want. And that’s brilliant – when you’ve got something that no-one knows about you can do anything. If it doesn’t work, no-one knew about it anyway.”
For Farrar that meant printing 400-odd t-shirts with fashion references on them, giving them out outside London fashion week, and getting pictures of everyone they gave them to holding them up. Giving Cara Delevingne and Jourdan Dunn each a “Tom Ford is my Homeboy” t-shirt started a relationship that went on to truly make the brand visible.
Go through the proper channels.
When Blackscore created tees with slogans like “Totes Jel of My Chanel” it wasn’t without legal repercussions. Farrar describes legal letters from several major fashion houses (Chanel and Dior included), product recalls and settlement sums. Consider all legal risks up front and decide whether you’re willing to take them.
Associate your brand with the right brand advocates.
It was a collaboration with Grazia and Matches during fashion week that saw Blackscore create t-shirts to give to bloggers and show-attendees. They were emblazoned with Queen Delevingne, No. 1 Dunn and Got Swagger (Georgia May Jagger), and when Farrar got them in the hands of Delevingne and Dunn, no better marketing could have been found.
Delevingne gave one to singer Rita Ora, who wore it to the Burberry Prorsum show. Delevingne herself gave permission for the t-shirt to be reproduced and sold (Farrar having now learnt his lesson about legal issues) by posting a photo of it on instagram – sending Blackscore’s account into overdrive. He later gifted her one of the balaclavas from his “Rogue Models” campaign, which she wore incessantly during fashion week.
While it goes without saying that celebrity endorsement works, the best method is to make something that the right brand advocate will genuinely love – and let them tell people how much they love it.
Rita Ora at the Burberry Prorsum show. Photo: Blackscore.
“As an artist,” says Farrar, “you only have to worry about yourself. You have no ability to delegate.” Moving past being purely an artist into being a business person means having a team and delegating. You can’t produce everything yourself, so don’t burn yourself out trying. Find a great team and make the most of them.
Use social media as a testing ground.
“We use instagram as a democratic platform,” explains Farrar, who posts up draft designs before they go into production. With a platform like instagram you don’t even need to ask for feedback, the number of ‘likes’ a design gets is the modern day equivalent of a focus group.
The downside to this is of course the risk that competitors will see and copy your designs. It’s up to you (depending on what your designs are and whether they’re liable to be imitated) to weight this up against the value of getting a feel for your audience’s response before you put money into production.
Thanks to The Industry London for another event filled with more insights than I can summarise in a few short points. It’s definitely worth checking out theindustrylondon.com and heading to future events. To check out Blackscore head to blackscore.co.uk.