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Pharrell, Nigo Expand Their Galaxy

If megaproducer and performer Pharrell Williams and his business partner, Japanese fashion designer Nigo, needed any proof of how well their new Billionaire...

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NEW YORK — If megaproducer and performer Pharrell Williams and his business partner, Japanese fashion designer Nigo, needed any proof of how well their new Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream shop might do, they got it Tuesday during an unpublicized preview day — all 100 pairs of a limited edition light blue Ice Cream sneaker sold out within minutes.

This story first appeared in the November 29, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“We had about a dozen people sleeping outside on the sidewalk on Monday night,” said brand manager Loic Villepontoux. “Then when I came in at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, there were about 40 people lined up to get in. It was madness.”

The store was closed again on Wednesday and the official opening is today. The 2,000-square-foot store, which is spread over two levels, is the mastermind of Williams and Nigo, who collaborate on the design of the two apparel and sneaker labels. Both brands launched four years ago and are sold in high-end specialty stores worldwide, including Barneys New York and Colette in Paris. Billionaire Boys Club, Williams said, was born from his own “ghetto” aspirations.

“Everyone was talking millions when we started, and I said, ‘F-that, I want billions,'” he joked of where the brand name came from.

Today, Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream (which is a play on hip-hop speak with ice meaning “jewels” and cream as “cash”) are both high-end skateboard-inspired brands, with product wholesaling from $45 for a graphic T-shirt to $880 for a crystal-encrusted jacket. Reebok produces the Ice Cream skateboarder sneakers (or board flips, as they are known), but all other styles are produced in-house.

“When we started the brands four years ago, the dream was to open a store in Tokyo and New York,” Nigo said, speaking through a translator. Besides his role with Williams, Nigo is also the mastermind behind the cult streetwear label A Bathing Ape. “This is really making the dream happen.”

Ice Cream is the more playful of the brands, with colors like pastel pink, bright yellow and mint green splashed throughout the array of hoodies, T-shirts and sneakers. Billionaire Boys Club is the more mature label, with high-end Japanese denim jeans and embroidered logos on hoodies. The clothes are sized from XS to XXL, with the smaller sizes being geared to women. The sneakers are available in both women’s and men’s sizes.

The store, which is located at 455 West Broadway, has a Space Age, ice-cream parlor feeling. There are clean white walls as a backdrop for the ice-cream sandwich benches, stainless steel ice-cream display cases that house the candy-colored sneakers and long racks of perfectly pressed T-shirts and hoodies. In the back, a pitch-black staircase, lit with tiny blue lights, takes customers to the second floor. On the upper level is where the Billionaire Boys Club merchandise sits. The floor is meant to look like the surface of the moon and the walls and ceiling are sprayed with multicolor stars, all on a dark blue background.

This is the third store for Williams and Nigo. Their first shop opened in Tokyo about two years ago and the second launched in Hong Kong three months ago. The design of the new space took about three months to put together, but that was after a long period of waiting for the stainless steel fixtures and specially made shelves to come in from Japanese manufacturer D-Brain.

Company executives said they expect first-year sales of about $3 million.

Williams said while he is proud of what he has accomplished with the building of these two brands, he remains cautious when it comes to expansion.

“We really want to concentrate on these three stores and our wholesale businesses now,” he said. “In all of this, I am just a student, Nigo is the teacher. He has taught me that quality is so much more important than quantity, and you will not find better quality Japanese fabrics. You create a great quality product, design what you believe in, and the money will follow. That’s what I’ve learned in all of this.”

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