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Kenny chesney hasn’t worn a tie in more than 20 years, and that’s ok with him.
This story first appeared in the October 12, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I haven’t worn a tie since easter of 1986,” the country music superstar brags, prior to a private acoustic concert at the MAGIC trade show in Las Vegas in early September. “I’m pretty proud of that.”
It’s Chesney’s laid-back style that finally persuaded him to lend his name to an apparel collection, Blue Chair Bay, which will hit select stores, including Levy’s in Nashville and Fast Buck Freddie’s in Key West, Fla., just in time for the holiday selling season. “We started working on this about three years ago,” he says. “I’m pretty hands-on, but I wasn’t in this every day, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. When it fi nally came together, though, it was amazing. It’s really representative of the different parts of my life.”
The collection of men’s and women’s casual bottoms, T-shirts, woven shirts and jeans, which takes its name from one of Chesney’s more personal songs, “Old Blue Chair,” was designed to reflect his attitude offstage.
“I spend a lot of my time in the Virgin Islands when I’m not focused on [my music],” Chesney says. “It’s 180 degrees away from this.”
Dressed in khakis and a T-shirt and sipping a Red Bull Light prior to the show, Chesney tells a story about a good friend from the island of Tortola, whose mellow personal style helped shape the Blue Chair Bay collection. “He’s 65 years old, owns a campground on the beach and we would sit on his porch overlooking the Caribbean talking about life, love and songs.”
The man ventured out of the islands to attend one of Chesney’s concerts in Atlanta three years ago, and the singer realized “that [was] the first time I ever saw him in shoes. I thought about him, and me not wearing a tie, and that’s what I wanted this clothing line to represent.”
Chesney says he wanted the offerings to be comfortable and soft, and to “feel like they were drenched in sun and saltwater. And I think we did that.” He adds: “I’m 41, and I got out of college in 1990, but I still have a sweatshirt that I had then. I wanted the T-shirts to feel like that. Not slouchy, but with a bit of style. I would wear these clothes in Malibu, East Tennessee — where I’m from — or on my boat in St. John.”
The collection retails from $32 to $38 for T-shirts, $68 to $72 for khakis, $48 to $55 for shorts and $52 to $62 for woven shirts. Chesney’s name and image will not be part of the marketing for the line, but the hangtag reads, “Blue Chair Bay, a Kenny Chesney–inspired brand.”
The singer believes Blue Chair Bay, which drew a healthy crowd of retailers to the Airstream trailer it imported to the convention center at MAGIC, will appeal to fans and nonfans alike.
“It was really important that the clothing be separated from the music,” he says.
Although the jeans have lyrics from Chesney’s songs on the inside lining, “it’s not necessarily the people who are my fans who will wear these clothes,” he explains. “I don’t think the fans are going to show up in uniform. It’s fine if they do, but that’s not the driving factor.”
Chesney, a four-time Entertainer of the Year of both the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music with 19 number-one hits, is working on a new album and shooting a 3-D movie with footage from his concerts this past summer. He says he never aspired to have his name associated with an apparel collection, but signed on because Blue Chair Bay captured his “life out of the spotlight.”
“It was never a business I thought of getting into, but the entrepreneur in me was looking for a different challenge,” he says. “I don’t get bored with music, but this allows me to use my creativity and go places that I haven’t been before. It’s a way to fuel the fire.”