by rapper/entrepreneur Nas' HSTRY available on HSTRYclothing.com, Nordstrom in the U.S., as well as Selfridges in the U.K. and EU.
Cole Wassner, founder and chief executive officer, Wassner Management Group, spoke to
about how the collaboration came to be and why Nas was destined to work with "Coming 2 America."
License Global: How did the collaboration with Paramount Pictures for a "Coming 2 America" apparel line begin?
Cole Wassner: I spoke with Paramount's team about the film in December 2019. We met in New York – in person – during Fashion Week in February 2020 and began working immediately afterward once I got familiar with the story and, in particular, the sketches from costume designer Ruth E. Carter. I had worked with Paramountin the past. I did three licenses for them around the 40th anniversary of "Grease" with Simon Miller, Olympia Le-Tan and School of Sock (Simon Miller was brought to Nordstrom through [email protected]).
How long was the process, from initial pitch to clothing production?
The initial pitch to Nas was five minutes. He loves the original film; it impacted him as a young Black man from Queens. It took some time to go through the assets with him and his team and decide upon the right direction, product categories and line-up of the collection, and get him some behind-the-scenes looks at the film and Ruth's sketches to use as inspiration. We originally planned to launch in December 2020, so the collection was just about ready to go before Amazon bought the film from Paramount.
Did the switch from Paramount's on-screen release to streaming it on Amazon Prime affect your production of the apparel?
Luckily, Nas' team and his production partners were one step ahead of the timelines to ensure they delivered on time. We were ready for the December launch, but the shift of timelines allowed us to create some promotional products that Amazon sent out to a select group of people and gifted internally. With the collection launching on Mar. 5, the day and date to the film's release on Prime Video, Nas, HSTRY and Twila True Enterprises (one of his operating partners) were so professional and a pleasure to work with.
Did you have to work with specific designers? If so, did it come from Paramount?
Paramount, understandably, given the film and what it's about, wanted to work with a Black designer and, ideally, an African designer at that. They didn't have a specific designer in mind, but certain parameters to be met. I put together a list of various designers who fit the criteria. I pushed the studio toward Nas and HSTRY for the simple reason that he is, without question, the "King of Queens." He was born and raised in Queens, rapped about Queens and has so much influence from Africa in his music ranging from album covers to lyrics. I knew that he would understand how to merge Queens and Africa and bring the elements of streetwear inherent to the film to life.
Paramount agreed after a call with Nas' team after understanding how perfectly they interpreted the direction we wanted to go.
WMG remained very hands throughout the process to help everyone make sure they got the materials they needed, the timelines and deadlines were met, submissions for approvals were sent with extra time and that approvals were expedited to hit the timelines.
How did you get Nas to work on the project?
I had worked with Nas years ago on a project for Sony Pictures. We did acelebration of the original 1984 "Ghostbusters"
film with (Nas' company) HSTRY when the female-led "Ghostbusters" was being released in 2018. Nas knows the projects he wants to work on, and he seemingly needs to love the concept to agree. "Coming 2 America" was a speedy reply given what the first film meant to him growing up in Queens.
How hands-on was Nas on the designs?
Incredibly! He is one of the best celebrities I've been able to work with because he is 100 percent behind the projects he works on. He modeled for the lifestyle shoot. He is the creative director for the brand and approves every aspect of the collection. He even did an interview (via Zoom) with Eddie Murphy and Jermaine Fowler.
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