Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Man Behind Von Dutch & Ed Hardy, Chrisitan Audigier, The New King of Bling

Christian Audigier, the man himself
He seemingly came out of nowhere with Von Dutch eight years ago. Like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, he resurfaces again with Ed Hardy by Christian Audigier .

People ask who is this is Christian Audigier behind the names of Von Dutch and Ed Hardy?
To further confuse matters, he’s setting the world on fire launching multiple brands under his umbrella, SMET with French singer, John Hallyday; Christian Audigier, his own namesake; Paco Chicano for the growing Hispanic population, then the latest branch, Crystal Rock, his daughter’s own fashion line for edgy tweens and teens who want to copy their big Ed Hardy wearing sibling.

James Aguiar of the Full Frontal Fashion TV calls him, “a merchandising machine.”
So, who is this multi-headed, multi-armed hydra?
Christian Audigier's "American Lord" Line
Time to lift the curtain.

Christian Audigier is a 34 years veteran of denim merchandising and marketing.

He learned the trade the old fashion way-simply doing it, toiling away in the nitty-gritty downtown Los Angeles’ rough and tumble garment district, making all-American brands, such as GUESS, Levi’s, Lee’s, and American Eagle Outfitters look cool while he made Diesel look sexy, cool and sexy enough to make people want to buy and become loyal brand patrons.

A product of a single mother who was abandoned by his father in France, Audigier calls himself “a child of the Fifties.” Having the television keeping him company, he watches iconic American movies and Hollywood stars, such as Marlon Brando and James Dean. These motorcycling Californian bad boys formed the basis of what Audigier considers cool to this day, road-weary leather jackets and trousers paired with rough-up tees and jeans.
He always dreamt of America.

He spins his legend at beginning, quitting high school at age 14 to work in a trendy denim boutique. It was a different time then. Something that he wouldn’t allow his sixteen years-old daughter, Crystal, to do.

“Blessed by God that I can pair color with a pair of jeans,” Christian was discovered by a MacKeen Jeans executive who later developed Blue Cult denim. He set the sixteen years old on his path to the American Dream, moving to Manhattan to work for them, MacKeen Jeans for Bloomingdales.

From there, Christian was bouncing between Los Angeles, New York, France, and Italy, learning the art of making things “look cool” for Bisou Bisou, Naf Naf, Diesel, Fiorucci, XOXO, Guess, Lee’s, Levi’s, and American Eagle Outfitters.

Christian Audigier's "American Lord" head to toe

After making others “look cool” and making them tons of money for doing so, it hits him “That the freedom you got is your own brand, you know.”

After discovering an archive of hot rod drawings by a dead but crazy hot rod detailer, Kenny Howard aka “Von Dutch,” Christian was wise enough to it buy out from the late man’s daughters.

Being a keen observer of human behavior and an omnivorous reader of pop culture, particularly of rock and hip-hop magazines and a MTV fan, Audigier slap Kenny Howard’s hot rod designs on stuff people wear and use daily-baseball/trucker caps, tees, tanks, ski jackets, jeans, and bowling bags as totes.

This was the birth of Von Dutch as we know it. He was smart to slap a pair of trucker caps on rising teens, Britteny Spears and Justin Timberlake. Von Dutch was launched.
Then, it died with a lawsuit from the old man’s daughters.

Letting go of Von Dutch the brand was the most difficult thing for Christian. To settle everything, he had to let it go.

His advice to all and any aspiring or young designers, “Lawsuits-have lawyers take care of you and fix the issue.”

Resorting to his keen eyes, he noticed that all these Hollywood cuties were walking tattooed to the hilt. Why not wear a different tattoo everyday on a tee-shirt or a tank top or a cap, instead being stuck with one design.

He tracked down the teacher of all those tattoo artists. It was the still living, semi-retired Ed Hardy, the former student of the original All-American Naval tattoo, Sailor Jerry Collins.

Christian started the process all over again, promise the man a percentage of the profit or what they call, royalties, in return of buying his entire portfolio of tattoo fleshies.

Realizing he can retire permanently, Mr. Hardy sold his archives to Audigier.

Ed Hardy model with Ed Hardy Energy Drink

This is how we know Christian Audigier today, slapping tattoo fleshies on tees, tanks, dresses, purses, Smart Cars, perfume, flasks, cocktail glasses, sunglasses, totes, bags, jeans, kid clothes, bottled water, energy drinks (for all that nightclubbing), wine, champagne, and vodka, and hotels. You name it, he will tattoo it.

Ed Hardy dancer turn dancer

His other form of marketing is turning a stoic runway show into a live MTV video with hip-hop dancer and break-dancing kids. He knows his audience-the MTV/FUSE crowd emulating their idols.

But, living off another artist’s hard work can’t last forever.

According to Mr. Aguiar, the brand “Christian Audigier,” is Audigier’s attempt at establishing his own brand, his identity so his growing legion of fans would quit confusing him with his previous incarnations.

He gone as far as setting his own trade show, “When I Move, You Move,” at the Caesar’s Palace, selling his entire lines.

As a teenager, Christian always wanted to be a rock n’ roll singer but he can’t sing. So, he parlayed his business acumen into doing fashion collections with rock musicians. Rock Fabulous with Dave Stewart. Other collaborations are in the works, such as Michael Jackson and Britteny Spears. Using his admiration and business skills for them isn’t a bed of roses.

“Working with celebrities. Dealing with lawyers. Is the process to do it. Just a long process.”
But, it’s a long process that is paying off. Christian always wanted to be Mick Jagger. Now, Mick Jagger is wearing his clothes.

Ironically, his model for world domination is Ralph Lauren. He uses Lauren’s formula for a lifestyle brand for his “urban couture.”

The Crystal Rock Girls/Dancers

The next challenge is establishing the new generation of Audigier, his daughter , Crystal Rock.
On her Sweet Sixteen Birthday, as a birthday gift, he launched her own fashion line and a boutique named after her.

The Young Lady herself, Crystal Rock Audigier

The big curiosity factor can she carry on the business acumen and the creativity of brand extension as her old man or will that be the end?

As for putting up his company for sale at $700 Million dollars, Christian may take the money and live the dream if the right buyer came along.

But, he warned that the brands can’t and wouldn’t survive without him and his visions.

He’s moving onto Eviel Knivel, turning his x-rays of broken bones into patterns. The family is very pleased.

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