Christian Audigier is working on keeping better company. Not his actual company, which he says brought in $250 million last year, but the people with whom the public associates him. Right now that would be Jon Gosselin and the cast of the "Jersey Shore," despite the fact Madonna, Britney Spears and Kanye West have all worn his designs.
According to Audigier, Gosselin spent a mere 15 minutes on his yacht last summer and there were never any plans to incorporate him into an Ed Hardy kids line. As for "The Situation," "Snooki" and the rest of their co-stars, Audigier says they're not even wearing his clothes, but rather knockoffs of his clothes. (Unlike most designers, he doesn't make a big fuss over the copycats, simply saying "they have to put food on the table, too.")
"I don't think I'm associated with them," he says of Gosselin and the "Jersey Shore" kids. "They're buying the product and wearing it. I'm everywhere in the world. Everyone is buying it and wearing it."
Audigier is in town for the apparel trade shows MAGIC and PROJECT at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, where he's showcasing three collections (Christian Audigier, Ed Hardy and The Same Guy) and, apparently, clearing up a few things.
To ensure there's no confusion as to who does and doesn't represent his brands, Audigier points to the larger-than-life banner hanging from the showroom ceiling of MAGIC and affirms that the man in the picture is the only celebrity face of Ed Hardy. It's Dwight Howard and his comic book muscular shoulders in an Ed Hardy T-shirt. Howard is best known for his athletic prowess with the Orlando Magic, not for enduring verbal whippings from his wife or pounding the air in night clubs. Howard represents Audigier's hope for the future of the Ed Hardy brand.
"I wanted to be big. I wanted to create a phenomenon," he says. "But, it's difficult to control who's wearing it."
In shooting for the phenomenon, Audigier issued more than 70 licenses between Christian Audigier and Ed Hardy to create a denim collection, leather collection, intimates collection, knits collection, shoe collection and on and on. The French designer wanted something big, but he wasn't prepared for it to get as big as it did.
That's when he brought Joe D'Aversa onboard as executive vice president of design. The two worked together 20 years ago in France where they helped launch about 50 different brands.
"My job is to refine the product. I'm bringing all the licenses together under one roof," he says. In addition to creating cohesion so the licenses naturally flow from one to the next, D'Aversa also hopes to change the perception of the brands and possibly get them into stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. That would mean going after an altogether different customer.
Right now the company has 27 stores. D'Aversa hopes to have 100 by the end of the year. As for the licensing, his pride and joy is the latest license, which is a Christian Audigier golf line.
Having worked on so many projects over the years -- including Von Dutch, a line of wines and his namesake nightclub at Treasure Island, to name a few -- Audigier often has people say to him "Oh, you're the same guy who did (fill in the blank)," which is where the name of his latest line came from.
A distinct departure from the flash and flair of the other two lines, The Same Guy is made up of basics modeled after your favorite worn-in pair of jeans. T-shirts are decorated, not with bling, but holes. Sweatshirts are cut "Flashdance" style and racer back tanks feel soft as cashmere. Prices range from $32 and $92. For the most part, the pieces are free of prints and pictures. For the most part.
Just as he begins explaining the importance of paring things down, Audigier returns to the mantra he's known for. "It's going to be the most famous brand in the world," he insists. To prove so he asks one of his staff members, who's wearing a shirt from The Same Guy, to turn around. Printed across the back top of the shirt are the words "The most famous brand in the world."
"See?" says Audigier with a smile.