Understanding the narrative and nuance behind the carefully curated hit factory that’s become a merch monster.
Steven Victor is tough to label.
A man of many hats — despite staying faithful to his blue Dodgers fitted — the Billboard breadwinner behind Pop Smoke smashes and Clipse comebacks needs not introduce himself to any of music or fashion’s elite.
Still, he can’t help but repeat himself.
Victor Victor — a record label and publishing company when followed by the very accurate word ‘Worldwide’ — is also a clothing company.
For years, Steven’s name has appeared on the fine print of album art and liner notes. Jumping from jackets made of paper to those made of leather and wool, his surname now styles the artists in his orbit. Preferred by Pusha-T and A$AP Rocky, hip-hop’s trendsetters have co-signed Victor Victor on wax and through fabric.
When it comes to pop culture’s coolest, they’re not alone.
Athletes like Victor Cruz and Stefon Diggs have all signed sartorial letters of intent, wearing the trademark varsity jacket in the tunnel and on the sideline. Down with the king, even LeBron James has hopped onto the Victor Victor wave, arriving in items that match the perfunctory palette of his own investments.
Brooklyn-born and Morehouse-made, the man in the Dodgers cap has hit his Jackie Robinson year where age is concerned, assembling a bullpen of hitmakers. This time around, he’s playing more than just manager.
Knowing NIGO and being friends with Fabolous, Steven Victor carries the cache to hit heavyweights in hip-hop and fashion for features while reaching out to multi-hyphenates for both definitions of production.
Having worked under the likes of Jay-Z and Paul Rosenberg, Victor understands how focused branding can reach a mass audience. A collector of Enzos, Air Jordans, and KAWS collabs, he also knows the beauty of poignant portioning and the frenzied fan bases such positioning can also attain.
With his labels — both aesthetic and sonic — Victor’s aligned himself with the tastemakers of the ’00s, ’10s, and beyond.
By signing “Mo Bamba” producer 16yrold and rapid-fire rapper Ski Mask the Slump God to his imprint in their early ascent, he’s proved to have the ear to keep up with the kids and business brass to do it himself.
“The next step was for me to have my own label,” Victor told Rich Kleiman on Out of Office. “I just didn’t know it would all be within this package.”
On a map, Victor’s ventures canvas Brooklyn drill to South Florida Soundcloud, opening doors to Kyto ateliers and Italian Ferrari factories. In the boardroom, his coordinates connect living legends like Rick Owens to shooting stars such as Lil Uzi Vert, putting his network to power through publishing deals and apparel drops.
Still, it remains carefully curated and done at scale. Boutique allotting aligns with the wearable art Victor grew to love while bold branding doubles down on the early eras of Pharrell’s Star Trak. Whether music or merch, never does it feel forced or over-amplified as a cash grab.
Instead, it appears premium and tasteful. The reason why? He only works with the best; they just happen to be his friends.
“NIGO did the logo,” Victor told Boardroom. “I went to Japan. I saw him in New York and told him, ‘You need to do my logo.’ I went to Japan for a day just to meet with this guy.”
Doing joint distribution deals with Republic and Def Jam, the man behind Victor Victor clearly has that dog in him as his emblem epitomizes. Still, his bite is brasher than his bark, leaving marks through quality output and real relationships.
“I wanted to make varsity jackets for my artists and people that work on my label,” Victor recalled to The Complex Sneakers Podcast in Feb. 2022. “They designed a jacket and they sent me some.”
Wearing what was meant for Victor Victor colleagues and counsel, seen through a marketing lens, a buddy realized there was a greater reach.
“My friend, photographer Harrison Boyce, was like, ‘You should really sell these jackets. Not only should you sell the jackets, you should start putting out t-shirts,'” Victor said.
From there, Victor reached out to Jon Wexler, an industry titan in his own right who had recently left Yeezy for Shopify. Quickly the two business-bred creatives put their heads together to take the merch to market. Even quicker went the launch of the varsity jackets.
“They sold out in like 30 seconds,” Victor told Complex.
Since then, Victor Victor has been doing more of the same, but not too much. It’s been a labor of love that appears effortless, and adored by all involved.
“Victor Victor is one of my favorite things to see happen over the last year,” Wexler told Boardroom in May 2022. “To be able to say that I played a part in that somehow? That was so cool.”
Since taking to t-shirts, hoodies, and jackets, collaborative clothing capsules come out seldom and smartly, always pulling a unique partner in the fold and often featuring a philanthropic tie-in.
In July 2021, Victor Victor celebrated Pop Smoke’s posthumous No. 1 album through matching merch that was on brand but not too on the nose like the cut-and-paste bundles that flood the market. To remain refined, Victor brought in NIGO’s Human Made for apparel production with a portion of proceeds benefitting Victor Victor’s in-house foundation. Recently in October 2022, Victor Victor partnered with PANGAIA for an iced-out hoody equipped to fight global warming and fund Flint’s water crisis.
“Everything that I’m doing has to have some sort of me in it creatively,” Victor told Boardroom.
Spanning sonics and style from Shay Haley to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Steven Victor has seen it all while still looking ahead. Part Esquire, part ESQ, Victor’s vision allows him to connect the dots and drop merch and music at a pace that’s not a race.
A label twice over, Victor Victor is capitalizing on connections. In a world where athletes want to be artists and artists want to be athletes, Steven Victor and his namesake imprint prove that the new cache belongs to that of the exec.
“The music industry provides a level of cool that you can’t get anywhere else.”
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