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Friday afternoon, a.k.a. the most infamously terrible time to announce anything you care about, is when Nautica dropped its
anchor breaking news to WWD: Atlanta rapper Lil Yachty is its new creative designer. And this isn’t just any Friday afternoon, the United States government just declassified the Russian hacking report so WHAT ARE YOU DOING, NAUTICA? This is awesome, this is weird, this is Monday-morning-quality news you should be proud of.
If you aren’t familiar with the auteur Lil Yachty, he is a 19-year-old rapper from Atlanta who is probably best known for his hit song with D.R.A.M., “Broccoli.” Lil Yachty has different personas — like Darnell Boat, Lil Yachty’s “uncle” — however, designer is not really one of them.
Yachty’s credentials for a designer go something like this: model during Kanye’s Yeezy Season 3 show, a solid collection of merch, his name serves as absolutely fantastic brand synergy with Nautica, and he’s the self-appointed “King of the Teens.” The last point is by far the most important.
Brands, those much bigger and with more esteemed reputations to uphold than Nautica, are all playing this game. Puma appointed Rihanna as creative director, even though she doesn’t have any design experience (she is Rihanna, though), and it looks like a smarter move every quarter that sales rise. On the opposite end, legendary Italian suiting company Brioni hired buyer and street style star Justin O’Shea in a move that collapsed in record speed. The point is that brands are willing to do whatever it takes to sell clothes and make money.
Appointing Lil Yachty as creative designer is clearly a grasp for relevance by Nautica, but it’s only following along with the latest trend in the industry. You think Pia Mia is staying late at the design studio dreaming up the latest Material Girl items? Or Gigi Hadid contracting carpal tunnel after long sketching sessions with Tommy Hilfiger? Is Zayn really the trained designer Versus Versace needs to lead them? The answer is almost definitely no, but these types of moves bring publicity and a new type of audience.
For Nautica, the audience it needs is the one snapping up all sorts of retro ‘90s streetwear and basking in the glow of an era it wasn’t even around to experience. Nautica was one of those great ‘90s brand beloved by rappers — similar to Tommy or Ralph Lauren, just on a smaller scale. With Lil Yachty at the helm, they can get in front of the consumers who care about that sort of thing — even if Lil Yachty, ironically, has said he doesn’t care about ‘90s legends like Tupac or Notorious B.I.G.
And Lil Yachty and Nautica do claim that there is some chemistry here. The rapper has long been a fan of the brand’s vintage style, according to WWD. Whatever “long” means to a 19-year-old.
Yachty is someone who, love it or hate it, has carved out a role for himself with an unusual sound and style. He makes happy and joyous music that’s rarely seen in the rap genre and his defined sense of style is what could make this successful. It’s what, at the very least, has made partnerships like Rihanna and Puma’s successful. (No, I’m not saying Lil Yachty is even close to Rihanna as a style icon.) Yes, creative director or designer is basically a glorified brand ambassador, but during a shaky times for brands and retailers, it’s something that’s working. And that’s enough.
Yachty will be designing capsule collections for Nautica in this new role, and part of that kicks off now with a “ limited-edition collection of pieces curated” by him that you can shop now. Looks like this is the start of a beautiful partnership.