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Fashion Designer Marc Ecko Turns To CE

11/22/2010 12:01:00 AM Eastern

NEW YORK — Fashion designer Marc Ecko has
teamed up with Mizco International for a line of Eckobranded
consumer electronics accessories based on
his artwork and design ethic. TWICE sat down with
Ecko in his New York office to discuss the new venture.
Below are excerpts from the interview.

TWICE: How did you find your partner, Mizco?

Marc Ecko: Some of my business development/
licensing guys met with [them], and they seemed to
have really good supply-side know-how, and they built
some credible products in the wireless space in terms
of Bluetooth headsets. It seemed like a really good fit,
and their willingness to pledge to evolve
the product and to go in and build this
thing with the proper runway — not to do it
like a one and done.

TWICE: Is this something that you had
thought about before, getting into electronics?
And why now?

Ecko: It’s a space that’s becoming more
democratized. Apple did an amazing job
to kind of bust open the style equation for
accessories around mobile devices — they
really instigated that whole conversation. I
think the consumer wanted to move away
from the ubiquitous white inner ear plugs,
and over the last two years, you’ve seen this
kind of evolution of the marketplace. Now
that these little computers are people’s primary
phones, or primary video-capturing
devices, their primary gaming devices in
some cases, it creates a lot of areas for
us to now entertain doing accessories to
electronics.

TWICE: I did a little Googling of designers and
consumer electronics, and it’s still fairly rare.

Ecko: Yeah, I think the consumer today doesn’t have
the tradition brand biases. Consumers now can give a
lot of upstart brands the space to come in and affect
their lifestyle, so there’s not this kind of nostalgia for
like, “I only get my headphones from Sony, Panasonic
or XY brand.” I think that we’ve built credibility with
our constituency and our audience, and consumers
are smart today. The world is much smaller. They’re
aware that when they’re buying their dishwashers, or
their cars even, that it’s all made at the same places.

So there’s an opportunity to come in — as long as we
offer good value, good quality. This first entree into the
market is really just to kind of put the flag in the ground,
try to establish some of the shelf space, establish a
good quotient between style and value and functionality,
and then kind of use that foothold to open up more
and broader opportunities around functionality.

TWICE: Is there a demographic that you’re going to
gear the products toward?

Ecko: I think it’s pretty much the emphasis of our
core Ecko Unlmtd. Rhino demo, which I’d say is like
14 to 24. I do think generationally now, we’ve gone
through a cycle where the brand has been here for
almost 20 years, so there are consumers that now
have kids that are kind of re-buying the brand based on
some nostalgia. But when we focus on a sweet spot,
we see it as that 14 to 24, that’s where I think the real
action’s at, and we think there’s a lot of white space to
develop. Right now, our key presentations are like, all
right, how do we make these kinds of nice aesthetically
cool-looking lifestyle products?

TWICE: How do you?

A lot of our conversations are around mobile computing,
mobile gaming and how we communicate. If you look
at a lot of the products that are out there in the non-headphone
space, like mobile speakers, hard drives, passport
drives, etc., not a lot of style is being communicated. So
I really think there’s a great opportunity for us to establish
a cool aesthetic, good value, speed to market, and
broaden the line out over the next 18 months.

TWICE: So do you foresee distribution in traditional
CE retail channels, or are you going to go
toward your current retailers?

Ecko: It’s interesting that there seems
to be a blending. For instance, a lot of the
footwear guys seem to be interested. If we
can establish a footprint that’s low maintenance,
like some kind of fixturing program
that’s low maintenance, with a relatively
low barrier to enter, and it could do really
good volume off of that small little footprint,
I think that there’s the opportunity to
build this brand in other soft goods and/or
footwear retailers.

TWICE: What categories are you looking
to expand into beyond audio, power
and cases?

Ecko: I think there’s even more opportunity
for us around mobile computing experiences
— that kind of hybrid, “I’m into music,
I’m into being active — not active like running, but
active like ‘I’m not sleeping.’” So I think that there’s a
big opportunity there — VoIP functionality into headphones
for example. We’re doing a study on mobile
Bluetooth — I think that’s a big white space. I don’t know
how much of that we really want to talk about, because
we don’t want to give away all our secrets.

TWICE: So are the designs based on your art?

Ecko: Yeah, it’s based on archival stuff and that’s
the direction that the brand is going in.

TWICE: What price points are you aiming at?

Ecko: We’re hitting the market where we think we’re
going to get a lot of traction right now — $19.99 to $49
on the headphones. We’re not trying to out-Bose Bose or
beat [Monster’s] Beats — we’re not trying to be anywhere
in their space right now. But I do think that there are spaces
that they’re not playing in that we could play in.

TWICE: Can I ask what your go-to devices are?

Ecko: My iPhone 3G S. I’m not a 4G guy yet. The one
reason I would maybe opt in for the 4G is just for the
camera, but because I use an HD Flip camera, it’s kind
of a little duplication, and I’m waiting to see where things
shake out with this whole Verizon/AT&T thing. My iPad is
a go-to device. My Sony Alpha SLR camera, those are
my go-tos. I also have a new Blackberry Torch.

TWICE: So you’re carrying at least two devices at
any given time?.

Ecko: Oh many, yeah. And I have my Sprint Wi-Fi
Hub. I have a lot of crap, like my bag is loaded with
chargers and stuff. And that’s why I think there’s got
to be a way to make it simpler, make it less, and make
things have more functionality.

Ecko Bio

Marc Ecko was born Marc
Milecofsky in New Jersey
in 1972 with his twin sister,
Marci. In the mid-80s, while
still in high school, Ecko
began designing custom
t-shirts in a makeshift
design studio in his parents’ garage. His designs caught
the attention of the hip-hop scene, and cultural icons like
Spike Lee and Chuck D began wearing his custom t-shirts.
He founded *Ecko Unltd. in 1993 at the age of 20. Over
the years, his portfolio has expanded to include an array of
progressive men’s and women’s lifestyle brands, including
*Ecko Unltd., Marc Ecko Cut & Sew, Zoo York, and Complex
Magazine and Media Network. In 2005, Ecko established
Sweat Equity Education (SEE) as an after-school
program created to give students access to opportunities
and experiences not typically found in the classroom.
In 2006, Marc launched Marc Ecko Entertainment and
released his first-ever video game with Atari called “Getting
Up: Contents Under Pressure.” It was well-received,
selling about a million units, earning an 8.4 rating (out of
10) from GameSpot.com and winning a MTV Video Music
Award for “Best Videogame Soundtrack.” Today, Marc
Ecko Entertainment is focused on creating branded mobile
content and social media, with Showtime recently enlisting
its services to execute interactive strategies surrounding the
Emmy Award-winning series “Dexter.”

Mizco's Mizrahi Comments
On Partnership With Ecko

NEW YORK — Marc Ecko’s partner in his new venture
is Mizco International. TWICE caught up with Maurice
Mizrahi, president of Mizco’s Digipower division, to
discuss the upcoming lines.

TWICE: I understand Mizco approached Ecko first.

Maurice Mizrahi: We wanted to do something
that’s a little bit different in the marketplace. We’ve
been researching what the consumer needs and what
the consumer wants, and we realized very quickly that
there’s a consumer out there who wants a different kind
of product to identify with their own. And we looked
for a nice brand that we thought we could be a good
match with. After a very brief search, we found Ecko.

TWICE: Why did you choose the initial launch
categories?

Mizrahi: We wanted to launch right away. So we
wanted to use whatever experiences we had, and
products that we could develop in a pretty quick way.
We’re shipping now. This is the first generation of
product — next spring we’ll add the second, and then
by next fall we’re going to have really unique items
that are going to be identified only by the Ecko brand

That’s really what we’re pushing for. Anybody can
take a product and slap a name on it, and that’s not
really what we want to do. We want the full experience.
We want the Ecko customer to be an Ecko
customer forever. So not only to buy the fashion and
the clothing and shoes and so on, but also to feel
that they also need that accessory that goes along,
and it matches their lifestyle. It’s all about lifestyle —
it’s all about who they are, it’s all about how they want
to interpret the next product that they buy.

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