The Divine Miss M

April 08 2011
Courtesy of Blavish

Lately I’ve been thinking about Kate Moss. Her boyfriend, Jamie Hince, part of the indie duo The Kills, has just released a new album and is getting lots of press coverage.  Miss Moss is always mentioned in these articles, particuarly as the press is inevitably more interested in Kate than they are in Jamie, despite his cult-like status. What particularly interests me about her is that her own brand supercedes everything else that she touches, and that her brand, despite the trouble she’s seen, always remains super cool and kind of unshakeable. Think back to the time after she was busted for cocaine use, and lost a number of her lucrative and most visible brand relationships. Twelve months later, she was bigger than ever, winning contracts for major advertisers like Rimmel, Agent Provocateur, Virgin Mobile, Calvin Klein Jeans, Longchamp, and Burberry. According to Forbes, Moss has earned more money since her cocaine scandal than ever before: her 2004–2005 earnings were $5 million, 2005–2006 earnings were $8 million, and in 2007, with  earnings of $9 million, she was the second highest paid model in the world.

Courtesy of London Evening Standard

Kate is also legendary as an influential fashion individualist, someone whose personal style and ability to mix fashion trends with vintage and personal pieces is constantly reported on in the fashion press. So here is where another part of the brand piece comes in. She designs the Kate Moss collection for TopShop, the major British high street retailer. It’s not upmarket, folks, but smack in the middle so that it is accessible and aspirational at the same time. Her next fashion designs were for Longchamp, where she designed a line of bags with prices that were a bit higher on the food chain, but not stratospherically priced like other couture bags.

So it’s once again the perfect brand of high/low that we saw in the Olson’s work as well. Women want to dress like Kate so they can be cool, too! They want to buy into HER brand — not something perceived as being fabricated by a designer, but emanating from Kate herself.

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PDN Online Calls Beth the "Photo Whisperer"

March 17 2011

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Miss Russell Rules

February 09 2011
Cover image collage from the NY Times

The unveiling of Margaret Russell’s new Architectural Digest is bound to be both evolutionary and revolutionary. AD has a large male readership, unlike the other remaining shelter magazines, as well as a traditionally older demographic. The magazine needs a serious shake-up in order to be relevent to a younger, design-savvy audience, and Miss Russell is determined to do just that. The March issue cover line is “The Age of Elegance,” a claim that would have been made on the cover and the pages of Elle Décor under Russell’s direction. Let’s see how things – ahem – unfold – as we watch how she differentiates AD from the magazine she headed up for 10 years


Seeing Double

January 29 2011

Aren’t the Olsen twins something else? Not only are they deeply involved in the design of their well-received high-end clothing line, The Row, they have already developed a chic (and not inexepensive) bridge line loved by fashion trendsters which is called Elizabeth and James. as well as Olsenboye (their spelling, not mine) for J.C. Penney. In a recent interview in WWD, they talked about their ambitions to build a domestically produced clothing empire, starting with clothing, then moving on to shoes and accessories. They see The Row developing into a lifestyle brand, complete with retail outlets and collaborations with other brands.

Okay, what’s interesting here is that they are moving the big brand umbrella along in more than one direction at the same time. They have had very canny management, and are clearly incredible, discerning trend-watchers with a clear sense of the high, and low, of the marketplace. In the past, many fashion brands would have been afraid to bastardize their image at a such a young point in their development. The Olsens are working on all three tiers at once -- high-end, bridge, and mass. They clearly understand that THEY are the brand, the price point doesn’t matter. Their vision makes sense to buyers at many different economic levels. This is something that Martha Stewart has done very effectively, with everything from Bernhardt to K-mart. And they are only twenty-four years old!!

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Hi Heidi!

September 14 2010

Courtesy of Heidi Klum

Frau Heidi Klum, aka The Body — wife of Seal, mother of four, hostess of Project Runway, hostess and co-producer of Germany’s Next Top Model, Victoria’s Secret model, designer (did you know that? For Jordache, Birkenstock and Victoria’s Secret Beauty and Body), fragrance maven (Heidi Klum, and Me) and triple Gemini for those of you who wonder who the real Heidi may be — has just inked a deal to be the Creative Director and face of Astor, Coty’s European-only brand of cosmetics. Whew.

Astor is at an interesting moment in their brand development. They have been around since the early 1950s, selling modestly priced make-up allowing women to “express her beautiful best in any situation.” According to their website, Astor Live Beautifully is about the pleasure of feeling beautiful and confident; it is about the beautiful moments of life; above all it is about how beautiful it is to be a woman, to be yourself. Meanwhile, it’s clear that they are entering a moment of brand reinvention and are looking for a way to be relevent in the crowded beauty marketplace. The voice of the brand seems a bit out of step with the products and lines that women seem to gravitate towards these days, everything from Maybelline (Maybe she’s born with it, still with the best-selling Great Lash mascara beloved by women everythere) to Chanel (every time they launch a new nail polish color, it sells out in a megasecond — it’s the perfect blend of classic and trendsetting) to a playful and accessible brand like Stila.

Bernd Beetz, chief executive officer at Coty, said: "We are very excited about the new partnership between Heidi Klum and Astor. As one of the most beautiful, talented and most recognized women in the world, Heidi will play an important role in ensuring that the Astor brand continues to be seen as relevant, modern and sophisticated." Stephen Mormoris, senior vice president of global marketing at Coty Beauty, said: "Heidi Klum was an obvious choice for us for brand ambassador for Astor. Her beauty is glamorous and feminine but she's also down to earth and approachable, that's why she is an inspirational role model for women of all ages." So there you are. The brand is trying to spread out, modernize, and become a more relevent player. At this point, Heidi’s powerhouse brand is bigger than theirs, and will bring them credibility and visibility through her incredible reach. According to the brand, she is going to be involved in the design of product collections "inspired by the latest runway trends". Project Runway designers, watch out! Your brand extensions are knocking at the door!



Say Cheese

August 11 2010

The other week I attended the New York Fancy Food Show at the Javits Centre and was delighted to see the refined emphasis placed on branding by the food industry. After much delicious grazing, I worked my way over to the British Pavilion and discovered Ford Farm, a small English farm making artisanal English cheese, who have recently won the Queen’s Award for International Enterprise, as well as many other awards. That's "The Queen," as in Queen Elizabeth ll. Despite their size, one of their cheeses, Coastal, is currently the largest English Cheddar brand in the US. At a time when other food manufacturers are concerned about the future and staying alive, the establishment of a clearly defined, prestige brand has set Ford Farm apart from its competitors, some of which are large businesses with much greater resources.

The business was formed when two cheese farmers, each facing closure because Margaret Thatcher restructured their industry, put their businesses together. Luckily each had what the other did not, one having the products and customers and the other having the production facility and cows. Interestingly enough, now they sell one third of their production to the US and have increased sales, staff and production. Good for them, good for Britain. Hence the visit with Her Royal Highness.

How did they do this? Through developing and using the power of branding. Rather than make private label products for large retailers, Ford Farm consistently reinforces their brand name and quality in the US market. The brand is not just the cheese -- they understand the product is comprised of the cheese itself, on-time delivery, US customer support and personal visits by the English principals, technical support and extensive customer service. So they are communicating and supporting both the personal and heritage aspects of their brand in everything that they do.

By the way, the products are very tasty! I especially loved their Coastal Cheddar which crunches as the calcium crystallises in the cheese. So they say. I can only tell you that I can't stop eating that cheese!



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