The Ambition Archive – contextualizing the present hip hop culture by exploring the past.

The Ambition Archive #6 – The relevance of Sean John

Welcome to our format #AmbitionArchive where we will contextualize the present hip hop culture by exploring the past.

This time we look at the clothing brand Sean John and how they managed to stay relevant for over 20 years.

The approach

When we think of urban fashion in the late 90s or early 00s brands like Fubu, Phat Farm, Karl Kani, Rocawear or Cross Colors come into our minds – all brands that were big for a certain period of time and than became irrelevant. But one particular brand stood the time and became a staple in urban fashion: Sean John. 

The brand established by Sean „Diddy“ Combs, founder of the legendary label Bad Boy Records, managed to stay relevant for over 20 years and even created some truly timeless fashion pieces – like the velour track suit. But if you look closely, it comes as no surprise, since the approach of Sean John was slightly different from alle the other brands. 

„I launched Sean John in 1998 with the goal of building a premium brand that shattered tradition and introduced Hip Hop to high-fashion on a global scale“ Diddy said in an interview with Forbes. „Seeing how streetwear has evolved to rewrite the rules of fashion and impact culture across categories, I’m ready to reclaim ownership of the brand, build a team of visionary designers and global partners to write the next chapter of Sean John’s legacy.” 

Critical success leads to commercial success

The Sean John men’s sportswear line launched in the spring of 1999 and instantly became a huge success by attracting a wide range of customers and earning admiration in the fashion world. Only one year after the initial drop, Combs was nominated for a Council of Fashion Designers of America Award (it´s like the Oscar for fashion designers) for Men’s Outfitter of the Year. Despite not winning the award in 2000, the nomination alone brought Combs into the exclusive circle of elite designers like Anna Sui or Marc Jacobs. Eventually, in the year 2004, Combs did win the award and beat out Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors. 

Critical success led to commercial success and the Sean John brand grew into a $450 million business by the year 2004.

And since Y2K fashion is making a huge comeback nowadays, it is no wonder, that Sean John is at the forefront of the hype. Young trend setters like designer Sean Brown, German rapper Shindy or US rapper Bia are all seen rocking that Sean John.