« 2014 will be the most important for YG than any other years. To put it roughly, this year is going to be a year of gamble that will determine the next 10 years of YG.” » – Yang Hyun-Suk.
For a while now, YG Entertainment (YG), made its point clear. YG is not any regular record label, YG is different!
YG makes artists and not idols. YG is a trendsetter and doesn’t follow the trends. YG is not just about music, it’s about expanding an identity. In order to grow, YG Entertainment cannot just master its domestic market, it has to go global.
YG Entertainment surely knows how to keep us entertained and 2014 was the year of business expansion starting with entering the fashion industry, the cosmetic industry, launching new artists and keeping us on the edge with survival programs… YG activities are diversified and it’s proof that the company is healthy. The company has the ability to renew itself constantly and dares trying new things, new concepts puting sometimes itself at risk.
The growing popularity of K-pop worldwide, helped in re-thinking its approach of making music and reaching its audience. YG Entertainment is about to create a whole new business model, combining, Korean culture, music and fashion.
When music and fashion create NONA9ON.
In collaboration with SAMSUNG’s textile unit Cheil Industries, YG Entertainment launched on September, 11th, 2014, its fashion brand « NONA9ON ».
« NONAGON » symbolizes diversity and infinite growth. « The brand will portray the dynamics of Korean street culture such as music and dance », said Yang Hyun -suk, CEO of YG Entertainment and Natural Nine.
Indeed, the brand is heavily inspired by street culture and can be easily related to brands like DIESEL, G-Star RAW, Eleven Paris for its very casual yet slylish collection but also Sean John (owned by P. Diddy), Billionnaire Boys Club / Ice Cream (owned by Pharrell Williams), Trukfit (owned by Lil Wayne) and Rocawear (owned by Jay-Z) for its strong streetwear influences.
Why these brands ? Because they all have one thing in common. They all have been created by successfull Hip-Hop / R&B artists with strong street culture who took advantage of their popularity to expand their images and music business to enter the fashion industry. This way they can reach a wider audience, improve client loyalty and strengthen their community.
Following these successful models, this is with no exception and no suprise that YG Entertainment decided to also step in the fashion industry. First of all, because YG always had a very westernized management but also because the company has a very powerful brand image and brand value. For the record, YG Entertainment is part of the Big 3 composed of SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment and YG Entertainment. They are the most successfull record labels in Korea and YG Entertainment is home of well-known artists like SE7EN, BIGBANG, 2NE1, PSY and lately WINNER and IKON.
As far as I remember, music and fashion have always paired up. YG artists always worked in close relationships with top fashion designers to build their images as bands and as artists in order to create unique identities and styles. With success came various brand endorsements, for Cosmetics (Clio, Etude House – Sandara Park from 2NE1), for fashion (Adidas, The North Face – BIGBANG, 2NE1), for beverages (Cass Fresh Beer – TOP or Hite Beer), for smartphones, jewellry and so on. Brand endorsement can be a very useful marketing tool benefiting both the artist and the brand in building awareness and influencing consumer behaviour, since celebrities are considered as role models. It also helps in positioning a brand or indeed confirming its positioning as the best product compared to others.
Hence, in order to remain relevent in this highly competitive market, in constant evolution, YG Entertainment decided to step forward and in a way stop following trends by becoming « the trend » instead.
NONA9ON is the visual identity of the label.
To stand out in the very competitive K-pop industry you need to have a clear identity. What made YG artists so popular, is their individual charisma and personalities. Strong personalities stood out of each group and led the company to the top giving us the feeling that YG Entertainment is « different ».
NONA9ON, definitely portrays this strong state of mind. NONA9ON offers you clothes that speak for you, made of bold prints and designs, sporty allure yet classy and casual. It offers a unique lifestyle clothing for young raging individuals, style concious and successful.
“NONAGON will target youngsters aged between their late teens and early 30s enjoying the global young street culture,” Yang Hyun Suk said.
However, this is were I’m getting lost, unless mistaken it means that the brand should reach pretty much anyone interested in street culture. Yet, NONA9ON is positioned as a luxury brand. I’ve been very surprised by how expensive were the clothes compared to brands owned by other successfuls like Sean John, Pharrell Williams who is quite expensive but during the sales you can find some great discount so it’s definitely affordable once in a while.
Let’s take a few examples, starting with the must have item, the snapback.
On Beaker online store, the NONA9ON white leather snapback is worth $168.00 while Trukfit offers the same white leather snapbkack for $32.00. Regular snapbacks are between $52.00 and $84.00, when you can find the same types for an average price of $43.00 on the other online stores. What about the sweatpants ? The average prices range from NONA9ON $384.00 / BBC $150.00 / Rocawear $29.99 – $87.00 / toTrukfit $66.00. T-shirts with short sleeves : NONA9ON $196.49 up to $400.00 for a black faux leathher T-Shirt with studs / BBC $50.00 / Rocawear $35.00/ Trukfit $36.00. Finally, around $320.00 for a NONA9ON hoodie / BBC $168.00 / Trukfit $84.00 / Rocawear $64.00. What is more special about NONA9ON clothes that the others don’t have ? Especially, since NONA9ON line is not even created by worldwide acclaimed designers. What about the quality, is it really worth better than the others ? The brand is a rookie in the fashion industry and I find it quite cocky to position the brand that high compared to other artists who have launched more affordable brands.
To me, NONA9ON killed a great part of their prospects by setting prices that high. Who will recommend to buy NONA9ON clothes if not the dedicated fans of YG artists first ? What about them? The average age should be 20 years old or less. This population, for a great majority represent students, who don’t make a living yet and live with their parents who supply them with almost everything. So basically, when you are a YG stan and hear about this great new concept « NONA9ON » equals YG dream closet for real for real for real !
You just want to check it out, get your first buy and show off. But unfortunately for many of them they will just do some window shopping. Instead of making the brand affordable, they targeted young adults indeed but the wealthy part. The problem is the following, if K-pop has gone global, it’s not because of some wealthy individuals, it’s because of its internet based audience composed of very young individuals if not tee-na-gers. Young people listening to music they don’t understand, watching dramas on streaming they don’t understand and starting singing songs they can barely sing. These kids made K-pop go global because it created a feeling of belonging, through music.
So I’m really desapointed in that way. Because the contrast is too big, NONA9ON was supposed to strengthen this idea yet it has created a gap and divided its community. NONA9ON is no established fashion brand, so it cannot claim « I am the best » yet. K-pop is only starting to travel outside its national borders but it isn’t internationally acknowledged yet.
I understand that they decided to take a side, but in my opinion it’s too drastic. In the long term I think that it would be wise to revise the price policy or maybe launch a more affordable line.
The Invasion begins…
Additionally, about the promotion of the brand. YG Entertainment skills to raise anticipation and promote its concept has been very effective. I remember watching the first videos and even questionning myself about the concept to be soon launched. The commercials are very strong, mixing tribal dances, upbeat music and lastely YG fashion trend leaders, Taeyang and CL endorsed the brand.
Nevertheless, NONA9ON created the buzz and only 3 days after its first pop-up store opened, the icon item, the black bomber jacket with embroidery on the back (780.00 won) was sold out.
The goal is to reach $100 million sales by 2017 and despite criticisms I hope the brand will make the right choices in order to grow bigger and acquire international awareness. NONA9ON is the perfect way to extand YG Entertainment unique concept and identity. So let’s keep an eye on it and if you already acquired your first NONA9ON love, don’t hesitate to share your feelings.