Friday, May 7, 2010

Fit For Consumption: Fashion’s Branded Future

By Sarah Fones

With the imminent launch of Belvedere’s Pink Grapefruit flavor, the vodka purveyor is set to open a 6,000-square-foot pop-up shop across the street from Matthew Williamson’s Meatpacking District boutique. The temporary space is slated to house a series of promotional events for the launch, including a partnership with Williamson on a $1,540 limited-edition kaftan, which will be unveiled when the store opens on on May 12th. The designer claims that the piece was inspired “by the vitality of sultry high-summer evenings,” a description that could also apply to any number of the his Ibiza-themed wares from past seasons. Given the proliferation of branded partnerships these days—of which Williamson and Belvedere’s is but one of many—”fashion” has now become fit for consumption off the rack, on the screen and in the bottle.

Like Belvedere, SKYY vodka has gotten in on the game in a high profile way, enlisting Sex and The City 2 costume designer Pat Field to create a movie-themed bottle. Whereas Williamson has paired with model/DJ Leigh Lezark to promote the current collaboration (Belvedere did likewise with designer Jonathan Kelsey and Estelle last year), SKYY has four ready-made muses. Anyone familiar with SJP’s cosmo-swilling penchants might consider this a savvy bit of marketing, especially given the fact that consumers who purchase the limited edition bottle will also receive a discount on tickets to the movie sequel. From a fiscal standpoint too, investing in a bottle of booze is infinitely less expensive than dropping serious money on a pair of Louboutins, which, even as the economy improves, still isn’t the purview of most moviegoers.

While film’s influence on fashion has arguably waned, the medium still holds tremendous appeal when it comes to product placement and promotional tie-ins. 2002’s Die Another Day—also dubbed Buy Another Day—is widely regarded as having kickstarted the film-as-infomercial trend with cameos from Bollinger, Omega, Samsonite and BMW. For its part, SATC 2 promises brand star-turns from Lipton Tea, Moët & Chandon, Swarovski and Hewlett-Packard, among others. Anyone surprised by Carrie’s decision to ditch Apple for a PC this go-round will be less taken aback by the Halston dress she dons in the film’s posters. Parker is, after all, Halston Heritage’s new designer, and an equity stake holder in the company.

Disney, meanwhile, invested big money earlier this year in partnerships with labels such as Stella McCartney, Furla, Tom Binns and Sue Wong to promote Alice in Wonderland. The goods understandably received a great deal of editorial attention, so, provided grown-ups still want a pricey piece of the fairy tale, we can expect similar branding trends to continue. On the flipside, Avatar reportedly inspired Jean Paul Gaultier and Donatella Versace for fall—albeit more subtly than Marc Jacobs’ Marie Antoinette-edged runway flourishes in 2007.

The same cannot be said for television and video, where many believe fashion’s influence will ultimately be most readily felt, primarily via in-your-face product placement (see Gossip Girl, 30 Rock and most notably, Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” video). Heavily branded, female-centric films like SATC 2 may prove this theory wrong, but many consumers are also now infinitely more discerning when it comes to pulling out their credit cards—something we know Carrie never worried about on HBO.

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