Sean John, P. Diddy’s clothing line, has proven more staying power than his latest name – whatever that might be. Born Sean John Combs, Puffy, Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy, and now “Love – whatever you call him, he is for one thing a successful entrepreneur.
Today, 48-year-old Diddy is chairman and chief executive officer of Combs Enterprises, a portfolio of businesses and investments. He oversees Bad Boy Entertainment, Combs Wine & Spirits (Ciroc and Deleon), Aquahydrate, The Blue Flame Agency, Bad Boy Touring, Janice Combs Publishing, Revolt Films, Revolt Media & TV and Capital Prep Harlem.
His earnings in 2017 alone, according to Forbes, were $130 million and his net worth is estimated at $820 million, edging out even Jay Z, who is worth a mere $810 million. Not bad for someone who dropped out of business school in his sophomore year.
Diddy started off throwing parties during his college years and began his business careers as an intern for Uptown Records. In 1993, he founded his own label, Bad Boy Entertainment, as a joint venture with Arista Records with artists from The Notorious B.I.G. to Faith Evans. He recorded his first single in 1997 under the name Puff Daddy and his debut single “Can’t Hold Me Down” held the number one spot on Billboard Hot 100 charts for 28 weeks.
When he started Sean John in 1998, Fubu, Phat Farm, Ecko and others were racking up big sales in the urban fashion market. His initial line featured track suits, hoodies, overalls and fur-trimmed parkas, which were squarely on point and appealed to his music base, who were quick to embrace his line.
“When we started, there were 30 brands doing what we did, but we’re the last man standing. I took risks and that’s what great fashion is all about,” Diddy told WWD Magazine during a recent interview.
What does the rarely modest Diddy suggest contributes to the brands success?
First of all, he says he did his homework before starting the line. He spent time with Tommy Hilfiger, who was successfully catering to urban markets, and Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour.
“When I started, Tommy let me come into his office and ask a bunch of questions,” Combs told WWD. “He served as my mentor. He let me look behind the curtain and learn.”
Instead of remaining stagnant, Diddy made sure the clothing line matured and evolved. Today, the line features more suits and “furnishings” than track suits. Sean John was the most high fashion of the street brands.
Despite evolving, the line has remained real and authentic to Combs and his followers. “We never followed trends. We were always about staying authentic and creating an emotional [connection] to that consumer and the community who looks like them,” he told WWD
The line is undoubtedly a fashion success, with annual retail sales of $525 million. If the dollars aren’t proof enough, in 2004 – his fourth year in a row being nominated — Combs won the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s top men’s wear designer of the year award, beating out Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors. With the recognition, he became the first African American to win a CFDA Award.
Of course the line has had a few ups and downs. Urban Sales cooled and so did the brand’s sales. He’s attempted to launch a women’s line several times, but the lines never caught on. Estee Lauder cancelled his license for the once hot fragrance Unforgivable. He opened and closed a huge Sean John store on Fifth Avenue in New York and despite plans to expand overseas, so far the product is limited to U.S. distribution.
Under the licensing model, now used by most major fashion brands, companies’ contract with manufactures to produce fashions branded with their logo for a fee or royalty. It’s a process that allows the brands to grow into areas where they don’t necessarily have the capacity or capabilities. Currently Sean John has 18 licensed categories.
Global Brands Group, Sean John’s largest licensed partner produces that brands sporting goods line that represents nearly 50% of the company’s revenue. In November 2016 sold a majority interest in Sean John to Global Brands Group Holding Ltd. Combs is believed to have retained a 20% stake in the brand.
The sell, is a move Diddy believes will make Sean John a global brand with more than $1 billion in sales.
Since 2010, Sean John’s sportswear has been exclusive to Macy’s, available in more than 400 doors. Other products are sold at retailers including Dillard’s and Lord & Taylor.