Yomi Martin, cousin of Hip Hop superstar Nelly and the newly named president and managing partner of Apple Bottoms Clothing line, has recently signed two licensing deals with New York-based Check Group LLC for Nelly’s Vokal and Apple Bottoms clothing lines.
Nelly’s Apple Bottoms team consists of his Vokal partners, Yomi Martin and Ian Kelly. In April of ’04, Nelly and his Apple Bottoms team developed a licensing relationship with Check Group, L.L.C. for Apple Bottoms. This relationship has now expanded into the Vokal License executed in October 2004. Under this new deal, Check Group LLC will manufacture, sell, and distribute the men’s and women’s clothing that is designed by Vokal and Apple Bottoms. Vokal and Apple Bottoms will also handle the marketing and advertising campaigns as to stay true to the nature and core consumer values of these unique and original Brands.
The projected sales over the next 18 months for the Vokal line are $25 million and $50 million for Apple Bottoms line. The licensing agreement for Vokal is for 4 years and the Apple Bottoms deal is for 9 years. The headquarters for the Vokal/Apple Bottoms is in the fashion district in New York City and Apple Bottoms even has a showroom at 1385 Broadway, Suite 1410 in New York. They also have offices in Saint Louis, the hometown of Nelly, and the St. Lunatics. The latest office addition to the organization resides, a newly designed Apple Bottoms showroom has just opened its doors in the Los Angeles garment district.
In 1997, Nelly and Kyjuan, 2 rappers from the group St. Lunatics and Nelly’s cousin Yomi Martin each kicked in $100 to have 30 T-shirts made featuring the St. Lunatics music group. Martin then sold the shirts for $20.00 each at a concert. Since then, with the soaring success of Nelly and the St. Lunatics, Vokal has evolved from T-shirts into an entire urban clothing line that includes jeans, jerseys, jackets, sweatpants, hats and headbands. Last year alone, Vokal reported $20 million in revenue.
The new deals link Vokal and Apple Bottoms with entrepreneurs Lawrence Jemal and Ruben Azrak, who launched Check Group LLC in 1999. Azrak was president of New York-based Phat Fashions, which reported $300 million in sales last year and was sold in January to St. Louis-based Kellwood, a $2.4 billion marketer of apparel and consumer soft goods. Jemal was the former chief executive of Nobody beats the Wiz, a New York-based consumer electronics retail chain.
In addition to Apple Bottoms and Vokal, Check Group holds the underwear and loungewear licenses for Phat Farm, Akademiks and Outkast.
“Nelly is hot as hell,” Azrak said. “We’re involved with a superstar, and he wears the line, he raps about the line — what could be better marketing?”
Following the success of Vokal, Nelly launched Apple Bottoms clothing for the ladies in August 2003, kicking it off with a nationwide model search for The Apple Bottoms Girl, an event that was televised on VH1. The jeans were so popular; they were sold out in a two-week period. “This was a great launch pad for Apple Bottoms, and presently Apple Bottoms is developing a whole new series which will take the model search to the next level, so our consumers should definitely stay tuned for a Fall ’05 debut of the new model search/series, which should prove to bring a whole new edge to reality television,” Kelly said.
Apple Bottoms jeans Apple Bottoms is an urban clothing line that targets females of all shapes and sizes, and seek to highlight and accentuate the curves of a woman. The women’s clothing line, which includes jeans, skirts, tops, jackets and accessories, will be available in 1,000 stores in time for the holidays, up from the 388 locations the brand was in last April. Vokal will be in about 600 stores by summer after the line is re-launched.
“We will change the Vokal line up a little bit,” Martin said. “It will be a little more dressy. That’s where the market is going for urban clothing for men. We will come up with more trendy and edgier designs. We like to go where other people are afraid to go in fashion.”
In addition to the Vokal and Apple Bottoms lines, the company is designing an upscale urban line called A-Klass, which will be primarily available in department stores. Martin plans to start advertising the line by next fall. “Our goal is to get people asking for it before we actually ship it.”