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On Beyoncé's IVY PARK & The Expectations Of Black Creatives' Profitability
Culture & Entertainment

On Beyoncé's IVY PARK & The Expectations Of Black Creatives' Profitability

It’s been a few weeks since the fashion industry was shaken to its core with the announcement of a co-designed collaboration between Beyoncé and Balmain. Since then, the newly released images have saturated the internet and group chats alike as the fashion industry tries to piece together the journey of Beyoncé's design career. It wasn’t too long ago that ADIDAS and Beyoncé cut ties on IVY PARK, with ADIDAS retaining ownership of the brand and parting ways with the woman who founded it all, leaving many to say, “Now, what?”


For those unfamiliar, here’s a quick history of how IVY PARK came to be.

Where IVY Park Began

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Beyoncé created IVY PARK in 2016 with Phillip Green, the mogul behind TOPSHOP. Beyoncé was able to launch IVY PARK to her global audience with an international company like TOPSHOP, but amidst scandal in 2018, Beyoncé acquired full ownership of her company. A year later, Beyoncé announced a position as a creative design partner with ADIDAS and subsequently decided to relaunch IVY PARK under its umbrella, championing it as the "partnership of a lifetime."

In 2020, the first collection was released, featuring gender-neutral clothing and four footwear styles, celebrating "power, freedom, and individuality for anyone who has the confidence to take chances and live unapologetically." The brand handed Beyoncé full creative control and a nice $20 million annual paycheck, with the hopes of replicating the success of Kanye West's Yeezy but appealing to women.

The Demise of IVY PARK

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To the average consumer, IVY PARK seems like a cash cow for the sneaker brand, but unfortunately, that was not the case. Despite the iconic iconography and cult social moments that accompanied each IVY PARK drop, only 5 of the 6 collections (not including this year's) sold roughly half of the merchandise that was produced. In fact, in February, ADIDAS reported a 50% loss over the last year for IVY PARK. Ultimately, with Beyoncé's contract set to end this year, the teams agreed to part ways with the future of IVY PARK to be determined.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Beyoncé and ADIDAS creative teams disagreed on how to label and market their products, with ADIDAS pushing for IVY PARK to align more with the overall aesthetic of the brand. It could be argued that this shift, to make IVY PARK fit in rather than stand-out, led to the demise of the brand. If a consumer can shop the same look for less on the ADIDAS website, why wouldn't they do that? The strategy seemed to dismiss the very reason IVY PARK catapulted to success; losing that unique and innovative feeling of its past.

Another significant element to the demise of this partnership was Kanye West, and the void left when ADIDAS released him in late 2022. The Void of Ye and ADIDAS' failures with their overall business and marketing strategy resulted in IVY PARK being overpromised and under-delivering. In trying to mitigate the loss gap, prices for IVY PARK have increased over the year, with the highest-selling item increasing to $600 versus $300 with TOPSHOP.

A Monumental New Beginning

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This recent deal, and her subsequent announcement with Balmain, put a huge spotlight on an ongoing conversation within the luxury fashion industry: the expectations of a Black creative’s profitability. Too often, the measurement of success placed on Black people far outweighs those of their white counterparts. One could point to as recently as 2021, when Rihanna paused her luxury line with LVMH “pending better conditions,” despite the line only launching in 2019.

Even further back in the history books of fashion, one could point to Anne Lowe and Jay Jackson; two Black designers responsible for some of the most iconic looks of the 20th century, with little to no mainstream recognition at the time. The constant dismissal of Black talent led to overlooked appointments and expedited tenures, which created the incessant void of Black and brown people in the luxury space.

It’s a trope we’ve seen time and time again, which is why the news of Balmain and Beyoncé co-designing is so monumental. To see a project born from love and intentional on celebrating the Black creative, as opposed to profiting off of them, is a surreal experience. This collection screams authenticity in a way IVY PARK couldn’t anymore, and potentially never could again. The inspiration was her, the vision was hers, and the consumer buy-in was for her; it had nothing to do with ADIDAS.

This collection is more than optics, though. When announced, Oliver said, “this appears to be the 1st time that a Black woman has overseen the couture offering from a historic Parisian house.” Balmain wanted to pay homage to the illustrious house while honoring the heritage of this magical performer. Keep scrolling to see more images from this historic and iconic collaboration.

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Featured image by Mason Poole/Parkwood Media/Getty Images for Atlantis The Royal

 

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