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The Jackson brothers are hoping the fashion business is as easy as ABC.
This story first appeared in the November 8, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy Jackson — along with the estate of the late Michael Jackson — are launching their first licensed apparel line under the J5 Collection name, commemorating their decades as The Jackson 5. The men’s and women’s T-shirts and jackets will be in stores in February and incorporate imagery from their years as the so-called First Family of Music.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. I’ve seen other friends be successful with their lines, like Puffy with Sean John,” said eldest brother Jackie Jackson, who was the driving force behind the project. “I’ve been in this business for a long time and our name is known around the world.”
The Jacksons have partnered with licensee Steeve Bohbot, who owns the L.A. showroom Connected International Sales which reps 17 brands, including Jump shoes, Maui & Sons and Kid Dangerous. Bohbot in turn tapped manufacturer Belmont Apparel to produce the J5 Collection, which for spring includes a range of T-shirts and replicas of the iconic leather jackets Michael Jackson wore in the “Thriller” and “Beat It” videos. More outerwear styles, along with footwear and eyewear, are planned for coming seasons.
“I’ve been a fan of the Jackson 5 forever and I had never seen a Jackson 5 T-shirt, and I really thought we could make this happen,” said Bohbot of the line’s initial genesis. “I reached out to the Jacksons’ management and agents and was very persistent. A week after Michael Jackson’s funeral [in July 2009], Jackie came to visit my showroom and it took off from there.”
T-shirts will retail for between $32 to $58 and the jackets for about $600. Bohbot worked with Rafi Weisman, the original designer of the “Thriller” and “Beat It” jackets, on the replicas. Weisman at the time worked under the Marc Laurent label, which adorned the original Michael Jackson jackets.
“The jackets are incredible. They are the real thing,” said Jackie Jackson. “I didn’t really think of them as tributes to Michael in the beginning, but that’s what they are. They represent everything he stood for and everything he’s done in this industry, 100 percent.”
The J5 Collection has been picked up by retailers including Urban Outfitters, Pac Sun, Kitson Men, Revolveclothing.com and 80spurple.com. Bohbot has also signed a Japanese distributor to handle accounts in that market and on Friday launched an e-commerce site at J5collection.com.
The eldest Jackson first worked on the inception of J5 Collection with Bohbot and then later informed his other brothers of the line. “They are all over the world doing their own things, so it was easier to get it started on my own,” he recalled. “Jermaine was in Europe and Marlon is working on a big real estate project in Nigeria with hotels and golf courses and Tito is out with his blues band. So I did it without them at first, but now they are all very excited. As long as it was getting done I didn’t really need their help. You know, you can have too many hands in the pie. But now they think it looks great.”
The T-shirts include 24 images and illustrations of the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers — from the Sixties when the Jacksons were kids, to their Seventies Afro period and to their triumphant Victory Tour in the Eighties. The men’s line includes short sleeve crew necks in jersey and tri-blends, V-necks, and long sleeve raglans. The women’s collection includes raglans, racer-back jersey tanks, scoop necks and cropped tops.
This past summer, Bohbot met Jackson in his hometown of Las Vegas and the two pored over a mountain of memorabilia to find images for the collection.
“We had so much stuff there it was unbelievable,” said Jackson. “Stuff that I had accumulated over the years and I’m so glad I saved it. I think it’s going to really work with what’s going on in fashion now, with people looking for things that are authentic.”
In addition to launching the J5 Collection, Jackson recently released a single, titled “We Know What’s Going On,” which features a snippet of a Michael Jackson speech. He’s also pitching a dance competition show to the major television networks and on Thursday was featured on “Oprah” as the talk show queen’s teenage crush.
The Jackson brothers are contemplating a reunion tour, as well, said Jackson.
“There’s been some talk of a tour. I would love to do it, it would be incredible,” he noted. “I think it would be great to do it one more time for the fans and for Michael. I think the fans would like some sort of closure. Maybe get Janet on the tour at the same time.”
The group has not performed together since September 2001, when all six brothers performed at two Michael Jackson tribute concerts.