The rhino is about to have a new face.
Ecko Unltd., the young men’s brand famous for its rhinoceros logo, is partnering with pop star Prince Royce to be the ambassador of the brand.
Ecko was founded by Marc Ecko in 1993 is now owned by Iconix Brand Group. The brand management firm bought a majority stake in 2009 and acquired full ownership of the label in 2013. It is distributed in over 5,000 stores in 60 countries including Dillard’s and J.C. Penney in the U.S.
Royce, who is on tour with Pitbull this summer, has cumulative social reach of over 40 million and some 1 billion views on Vevo. Of Dominican descent, Royce was born in the Bronx and has a strong hold on the young Latino audience.
“Our brand appeals to a multicultural consumer so teaming with Prince Royce was a natural,” said Vincent Nesi, senior vice president of the men’s division for Iconix. “He embodies who the Ecko customer is.”
Nesi said 27-year-old Royce will be featured in the marketing materials for the brand this fall. He will also curate a capsule collection with Ecko next spring.
“I was a fan of Ecko back in the day,” Royce told WWD. “Growing up, I used to skateboard and I remember rocking Ecko sweaters and shirts. So we decided to join forces and create a line.”
He said the capsule will be “so different than what people are used to Ecko doing. At first, I didn’t know how it would work, but it’s something cool and different. I saw some samples already and it’s really dope stuff.”
He said first and foremost, the collection has to be comfortable. “I was in Italy and they brought me the clothes. The jeans fit great, there were super cool blazers and sweaters. I would definitely wear it on stage, to events or out clubbing.” He added that he had to “hit the gym so I can sport Ecko.”
Royce said that it has “always been on my bucket list to release my own line. I’m super involved and they’re taking my ideas and making them better.”
He said he has “big plans” for the line since “not a lot of artists have their own lines. I’m going to put 110 percent in it.”
That will include reaching out to his fans on social media. “I love uploading pictures and videos. It makes people feel so connected,” he said. “They want to see your everyday life.” He said he has also been known to ask his fan base for their style advice. He’ll put up a couple of outfit options and ask them to weigh in. “I like constructive criticism, whether it’s on my music, what I wear, my hair style. People are so involved nowadays.”
For the fall ad campaign, Ecko shot Royce in a behind-the-scenes All Access style, which the singer described as “very candid and really fun. It started during the day and headed into the night.” So the camera followed him to the pool, catching lunch, at the airport, having dinner, he said. The campaign will be used for digital and print ads.
The deal also includes meet-and-greets in 14 cities while he’s on tour, Nesi said, as well as behind-the-scenes video content, Facebook Live sessions, Snapchat posts of unseen tour footage, in-store appearances and VIP sweepstakes to his shows.
Royce, who said he admires Justin Timberlake’s look, “because he mixes it up,” describes his own style as “not too crazy — less is more.” At the gym, he opts for “cool laid-back tanks and sweats,” while on stage, it’s more dressy.
“I love jackets a lot, especially ones with cool pockets and zippers. And I like fitted stuff — not too tight though — and caps and fedoras. I also love suits and bow ties.” His favorite colors are black and white since “you can’t go wrong with that.”
Royce said that in addition to his Ecko association, he’s currently working on his fourth Spanish album that is expected to be released around the same time as the Ecko campaign hits this fall.
Nesi said the association with Royce will continue through 2018 and “we hope it will be a long-term partnership. Royce is our marquee ambassador.
“This is a brand labeled as street/Hispanic/skate, but it appeals to a broad lifestyle. When it lost its point of view was when we shied away from our core product.”
Today, Nesi said, 80 percent of Ecko’s offering is core product, such as Ts, polos, shorts, hoodies and sweatshirts, and the strategy is paying off. “In three years, it will be larger than it was in its heyday,” he predicted. Sales are “north of $100 million now,” he said, “and the goal is in “the $500 million range.”
Nesi is hoping that by appealing to Royce’s fans, it will help the brand reach that goal and overcome some of its recent problems. The company has been mired in difficulties over the past year as its struggled with executive changes and an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission that led its stock to lose 70 percent of its value. Earlier this week, it cut its 2016 diluted earnings-per-share guidance as a result of share increase due to the repurchase of convertible notes.