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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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