Ed Hardy: What Happened to the Popular 2000s Clothing Brand?

ed hardy-marketing

Imagine it’s 2008 and a clothing brand is being promoted by Madonna, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Shakira, Kristin Cavallari, and Kim Kardashian. That’s a who’s who of female pop culture stars at the time. With that little bit of information, most people would say the present and future of this brand should be extremely bright.

So, what brand was this? And surely it has taken over the world by now, right? Well, not exactly.

That brand was Ed Hardy, and it became a pariah in the clothing industry seemingly overnight despite having this goldmine of influencers. As we all know, Ed Hardy has been the subject of jokes far more often than it has been described affectionately by consumers over the past few years.

What happened? How did it all go wrong?

Ed Hardy’s rise and demise were both swift and sad. The brand began as a unique way for popular tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy to expand and display his work. It was, at its core, about art above all else. When fashion designer Christian Audigier joined forces with the brand, influencer marketing efforts went through the roof. As it turns out, though, Audigier’s long list of prominent friends was quite possibly the worst thing for Ed Hardy. Just let the brand’s namesake tell you himself.

“Christian worships celebrities so much, he will get next to anyone who is famous for anything,” Hardy once told the New York Post. “If he could have gotten Charles Manson in a shirt, he would have.”

Audigier never had Manson wearing his stuff, but it doesn’t take a murderous cult leader to send a brand into a downhill spiral. All it took, according to Hardy, was Jon Gosselin. The former Jon & Kate Plus 8 star started wearing Ed Hardy regularly following his much-publicized divorced, an event that left him painted as an unpopular figure in the media.

“That Jon Gosselin thing was the nail in the coffin,” Hardy said. “That’s what tanked it.”

The affinity the Jersey Shore cast showed for Ed Hardy also did not help. The brand had quickly gone from flashy to trashy in the eyes of many consumers. Hardy goes as far as to say “morons dehumanized” the brand.  By 2011, the damage had been done and Audigier sold the brand for $62 million.

But, believe it or not, Ed Hardy isn’t completely irrelevant today. While the brand certainly isn’t anywhere near obtaining the prominence it once had, there has been a recent resurgence. A lot of that has occurred outside the United States, which isn’t a bad thing considering the negative connotations burned into the mind of American consumers.

Illustrated People, a clothing label based in the United Kingdom, has collaborated with Ed Hardy. The brand has even received some Instagram marketing traction with influencers such as Lottie Moss, the younger sister of Kate Moss, wearing an Ed Hardy jacket in the lead up to London Fashion Week in 2017.

While the brand isn’t totally dead, it’s not what it could’ve been and there is a key lesson to be learned from its fall. While pursuing prominent influencers that can take your brand to promising heights, make sure you’re attaining ones that align with your brand and will help you be successful longterm. Your marketing influencers can just as easily crash your brand as they can make it into something great.

Written by
Trent Shadid is a senior copywriter and editor at Engine.