Beyonce’s Ivy Park brand will no longer be a joint venture with Topshop - and it’s been a long time coming.
Beyoncé is making headlines this week, and not with an internet-breaking social media post or a new musical release. The singer has cut ties with Topshop, the Philip Green-owned retailer she teamed up with four years ago to found her athleisure label, Ivy Park.
Accessible and affordable, Ivy Park tapped into an increasing demand for wear-anywhere activewear. It was launched as a joint venture with Topshop, with the high street brand and the R&B superstar each owning a 50% stake in the business.
But as Green was revealed in parliament last month as the businessman at the centre of workplace-based sexual harassment and bullying claims, commentators questioned Beyoncé’s future with his brand. Green, who used non-disclosure agreements to silence the allegations against him, denies all the claims. Nevertheless, as a proud feminist, distancing herself from the billionaire seemed a logical step for Beyoncé to take.
As a result, many have assumed that the singer chose to pull Ivy Park from Topshop as a result of the allegations against Green. But it seems that the timing of the news is pure serendipity. It would take more than a few weeks to unpick the contractual agreements in such a venture, especially as Ivy Park is stocked at additional retailers including Next and JD Sports.
In reality, Beyoncé’s decision to end her relationship with Topshop has been almost 12 months in the making. A spokesperson for Ivy Park confirmed that Parkwood, the US-based private entertainment company founded by Beyoncé in 2010, has “acquired 100% of the Ivy Park brand” after “discussions of almost a year”. Topshop will fulfil its existing orders for Ivy Park clothes, but after that, the brand will be solely operated by Parkwood.
Beyoncé has not yet offered an explanation for why she decided to buy out Topshop’s stake in Ivy Park. Maybe she has bigger plans for the label, or perhaps she wanted complete control over a brand that represents her creative vision (and bears her eldest daughter’s middle name, Ivy). But whatever her motivation, she’s not alone in wanting to regain ownership of a brand that she founded.
Earlier this year, Stella McCartney bought back the 50% stake of her brand from Kering. The French luxury conglomerate helped the designer establish her eponymous label 17 years ago, and has stakes in heavyweights Gucci and Alexander McQueen. However, McCartney exercised her option to buy out the stake, saying that she wanted to be able to lead her brand as she saw fit.
“It is the right moment to acquire the full control of the company bearing my name,” McCartney observed. “This opportunity represents a crucial patrimonial decision for me.”
Losing control over one’s own name can be a strange, unfortunate casualty of when relationships – particularly with investors – turn sour in the fashion industry. Karen Millen, who sold her fashion business to an Icelandic investor in 2004, recently lost a high court battle to use her name on new designs.
However, other female founders have managed to muscle their way back in to regain complete ownership of their brands. Linda Bennett, who launched the Duchess of Cambridge-approved women’s retailer L.K Bennett from a high street in Wimbledon in 1990, bought the business back from private equity partners last year, nine years after selling. Today, she’s hands-on with all aspects of the brand.
We can’t know for sure what made Beyoncé decide, one year ago, that she wanted to buy out Topshop’s stake in Ivy Park. But what is certain is that the singer can no longer be accused of keeping bad company, which would doubtless have happened if she’d maintained a working relationship with Green.
Instead, she’s now one of several female fashion entrepreneurs taking back control of their own brands – and that’s something worth celebrating.
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