Started From The Bottom: The Rise Of October's Very Own, The Brand
Started From The Bottom: The Rise Of October's Very Own, The Brand
- Words Frendy Lemorin
- Date November 16, 2016
Once an artist perfects his or her craft, they can do no wrong in the eyes of their adoring fans. Drake is certainly no exception. The self-proclaimed "6 God" would still be able to operate efficiently even if he was blindfolded thanks to his arguable Midas touch and collective of minds around him. Alongside longtime friends Oliver El-Khatib and Noah "40" Shebib, Drizzy has converted their OVO imprint into a multi-million dollar business, ranging from a booming record label, a can't miss music festival, Apple Music radio show and a thriving clothing line.
It all started back in April 2008 with the inception of the October’s Very Own blog. El-Khatib, Drake's day one homie and manager, served as the site's content creator under the alias "Oliver The Parisian Gangster." El-Khatib showcased his handpicked favorites in all areas of entertainment, art, fashion and spotlighted Drake as well as other OVO affiliates. In a 2014 Billboard interview, El-Khatib explained why he created the OVO hotbed: "We knew that no matter how big his (Drake) career would get and how big his celebrity would get, we wanted to offset that with something that always reminded everybody and us of what we set out to do." He continued, "There would always be this contrast of the high-level, 'Okay Drake, we're going to try and get as big as possible and we're going to try and have as much success as possible,' [but] we're going to have this local blog of ground-level energy that's OVO—that's untainted, that's not for sale, that's uncompromised." To this day, the company utilizes the same simple, yet effective, Google-owned Blogspot blogging platform despite accumulating an unprecedented amount of success.
The OVO clothing line itself came from the minds of Drake and El-Khatib, who ironically first met at a downtown Toronto streetwear shop called Lounge. The crew's official owl logo comes from the bird-like look of the letters that form OVO. According to ancient Greek mythology, the nocturnal bird of prey is a symbol of wisdom, mysticism and wealth, all of which perfectly embodies the team's savoir-faire.
October's Very Own initial offering was a murdered-out Chilliwack parka, made in collaboration with Canadian luxury outerwear apparel company, Canada Goose. The exclusive jacket was released in November 2010 at select retailers. Almost an entire year passed before the famed Canadian crew finally released official merchandise that was initially sported by close friends and family. The items, commemorating the 2nd annual OVO fest, included T-shirts, sweaters and a varsity jacket made with environmentally friendly Canadian apparel line, Roots. A year later, the now sought-after brand unleashed its second collaboration with Roots in the form of "Away From Home" tour jackets retailing at $500. Following their exclusive business model, the piece was again only available at select retailers like Toronto's Nomad and New York's Japanese-focused Nepenthes.
Due to an extremely high demand for more OVO gear, bootlegs began to creep up on the scene. This prompted the Toronto-based squad to open up an official OVO web shop on October 24th, 2012, Drake's 26th birthday. OVO's initial in-house offering consisted of black and gold T-shirts featuring the iconic owl logo and shortly after in December, unveiled a line of "No New Friends" tees in collaboration with Nepenthes in honor of DJ Khaled's lead single, featuring Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne, from his seventh studio album Suffering from Success.
OVO continued to keep things homegrown, working with the Toronto Blue Jays to produce a pair of custom hats, which were only available at 2013's fourth annual OVO Fest. The following month, Drizzy continued his venture into the professional sports arena by joining forces with his hometown Toronto Raptors, officially becoming the team's global ambassador. For one single day in September 2013, the OVO squad opened "Compliments of The Company" pop-up shops in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto to give away merchandise from his third studio album, Nothing Was The Same, for free.
In December 2014, OVO paid tribute to their label boss Bryan "Baby" Williams' empire Cash Money Records by releasing the "Welcome To The Family" collection. The capsule included tees, sweaters and headwear, which served as perfect stocking stuffers for the holiday season. Furthermore, coinciding pop-up shops were opened across the country in retail spaces like Alife NYC, UNKNWN Miami, Chicago's RSVP Gallery Refresh in New Orleans, Y&R Showroom in Los Angeles and Capsule in Toronto.
October's Very Own mark in the menswear realm was solidified with a collection with famed Parisian boutique, Colette, in February 2014, and capitalized on their flourishing fashion status as their garments were sold at Nordstrom as part of the American retailer's "Heartbreakers Club" pop-up shop, which also included collaborations with BLK DNM, Hood By Air, Nike, Kitsuné, Mark McNairy and others.
2014 was surely a dominating year for the OVO team. Not only did their clothing line continue their collaboration spree with London High-Fashion retailer, Browns, but Drake and El-Khatib's brainchild curated a slew of new Owl-branded merchandise commemorating Houston Appreciation Week, a project Drake created to give back to the American city instrumental in the birth of his career.
One month after OVO offered a small collection with Capcom, the brand opened its very own brick-and-mortar store in the Little Portugal section of Toronto on December 6th, 2014. Commemorating the historical occasion, a new collection titled, "6 God," was released and the brand started producing seasonal lookbooks as the frequency of their collections increased.
At the top of 2015, OVO dropped new apparel, which included another Roots varsity jacket priced at $878. There were only 50 made and exclusively available at the OVO flagship. Following their latest venture with the Toronto Raptors in March, the OVO traversed the border once again, premiering a pop-up shop in the La Brea area of Los Angeles open for the month of April. It was speculated that the OVO x Air Jordan Xs were to released at the shop without any notice. OVO's following summer 2015 collection provided more an even more diverse range of pieces, featuring everything from button-up shirts to track suits and even bags.
During the fall of 2015, OVO dropped not one, but two pre-fall collections with deliveries including an array of sportswear-influenced pieces. On September 12th, 2015, Drake's first collaboration with Jordan Brand, the "OVO" Air Jordan X in white and gold ($225), dropped and, as to be expected, instantly sold out and hit the secondary market for insanely marked up prices. After releasing their F/W 2015 collection, OVO and Mitchell & Ness released a Toronto Raptors-centric collection consisting of garments in a black and gold colorway, with various OVO and Raptors branding.
No strangers to dominating the holiday season, OVO finally unleashed its first ever women's collection at their Toronto on November 21st, 2015. The capsule, made in an entirely black and gold palette, consisted of leggings, tops, hoodies and T-shirt dresses. OVO ended 2015 on a high note by opening their very first flagship store in the States, located in the La Brea area of Los Angeles.
2016 started with a bang as OVO released a spring collection with The Toronto Raptors and Mitchell & Ness available at Real Sports inside the Air Canada Centre and on the Raptors' website, but what really got Drake's legions of fans excited was the release of the much-anticipated OVO Air Jordan 10 Retro and accompanying apparel collection on February 13th. The coveted sneakers were available at OVO’s Toronto and LA Flagship stores as well as a limited run on their official website.
With the anticipation for Drake's Views at an all time high, OVO opened up surprise pop-up shops commemorating the album in NYC on April 18 and Miami the following day. In April, the brand dropped a new collection with their own artist Roy Woods serving as the model. The new apparel returned to a cozy, sportswear-inspired vibe with tracksuits, distressed jeans and denim shirts.
During the New York leg of his Summer Sixteen tour, Drake opened a three-day pop-up shop on NYC's Bowery Street quickly followed by OVO unveiling its 2016 Pre-Fall collection, featuring newly added souvenir jackets, terry-cloth tracksuits and trucker hats.
Drake and OVO continued their Summer Sweet Sixteen pop-ups during the third annual H.A.W. weekend in September. Later that month, OVO released their very own shop app, which served as a convenient platform for future releases and restocks of the brand's older collaborations with Air Jordan. After some teasing, the OVO Air Jordan 12 Retro and apparel line finally released on October 1st.
Throughout it all, Drake and El-Khatib have remained faithful to the title of Views opening track, "Keep The Family Close," not only building an everlasting bond with OVO brand partners, but their business model of providing quality products in limited quantities, ultimately placing their brand on a level beyond mere artist merch. Their movement is a way of life built on honest hard work that resonates with fans. "If there is any idea that this is some massive corporate entity that's worth billions of dollars, then that's a misconception," El-Khatib stated in a recent interview with FADER. "There's a few of us putting our blood, sweat, and tears into this 24/7. It's a lifestyle. It's not a job that we all go home from. It's something that we've put our own time and money and equity into, and we're building it with hammers and nails."
Read more of Frendy Lemorin's work here.