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05/09/2009 09:46



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Showbiz moguls target the world of style By Lucie Greene Published: September 5 2009 01:24 | Last updated: September 5 2009 01:24


Attending the 2008 Paris Fashion Week (from left) are Marc Almond, Dita Von Teese, Claudia Schiffer, Victoria Beckham and Simon Fuller EDITOR’S CHOICE


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This week pop culture maestro Simon Fuller, the man who created the Spice Girls and the American Idol format, launched his new venture, Fashionair, an online fashion-meetsentertainment platform. It is yet another signal that some of the hottest action in the style world is occurring off the catwalk. As media moguls set their sights on fashion domination, the industry as we know it is poised for change. The launch of Fashionair follows the announcement last month of Fuller’s acquisition of a 51per cent stake in Storm Model Management, the agency that represents Kate Moss, Eva Herzigova, Lily Cole and Jourdan Dunn. More importantly, it signals Fuller’s plans to create joint platforms for modelling, fashion and celebrity talent. Fuller’s former partner and rival Simon Cowell is loathe to be left behind: he has teamed up with Topshop/Arcardia owner Sir Philip Green, and both have procured the support of Kate Moss, to plan a “multi-billion-dollar” international entertainment group with merchandise and fashion retail arms (not too dissimilar, say, to Disney). Then there’s movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who produces the TV show Project Runway and has made major forays into the fashion world with investments in Marchesa (the designer label run by his wife Georgina Chapman) and Halston . Finally, last March the William Morris entertainment agency announced a partnership with former IMG executive Massimo Redaelli’s new talent, media and events company, Prima Management, to expand into fashion with a flurry of projects that include endorsements, sponsorships, corporate consulting, media and events, such as the Rio Summer and Aspen Fashion Weeks.

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Fashion and entertainment combined may be a new concept, but it’s not a very surprising one. As Fuller told fashion industry journal Women’s Wear Daily in March, he believes fashion is currently the hotbed of pop culture: “I want to be surrounded by this creative energy as I am thinking about new forms of entertainment, and looking at how formats and ideas impact into the mass market.” After all, fashion itself has become a medium for mass entertainment. No longer an insider subject, it is followed by large, savvy audiences. MTV’s reality show The City, featuring Diane Von Furstenberg’s HQ, has audience figures of an estimated 1.6m-plus; its predecessor, The Hills, which at one point counted 4.6m viewers, launched fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone,

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05/09/2009 09:46

founder of fashion publicity house People’s Revolution, into celebrity-dom – she is filming her own reality series with Bravo network. “Until recently the entertainment media sector has been very backward in exploiting its brands,” says Rita Clifton, director at brand consultancy Interbrand. “They’ve been behind the curve in realising that it isn’t just about key rings and T-shirts; there’s a real opportunity to create strong fashion brands as an extension of powerful media brands. Simon Fuller was one of the first to understand this.” Case in point: Victoria Beckham, currently a part of Fuller’s 19 Entertainment stable, and Harvey Weinstein and wife Georgina Chapman her dVb by Victoria Beckham line, which has helped rebrand her from footballer’s wife to fashion icon. Her association with luminaries Marc Jacobs and Giorgio Armani (she has appeared in both designers’ advertising campaigns) has elevated her credibility, while her celebrity brand status has ensured vast reach, which will broaden with her reported £3m signing to TV show American Idol as judge. (Wardrobe, no doubt, based entirely on her own collection.) Now Fuller hopes Fashionair will drive user traffic to more than 500 e-tailers worldwide, with a potential audience of 22m, creating lucrative retail and advertising opportunities. After all, merchandise such as toys, accessories, DVDs and CDs from Hannah Montana and High School Musical, the popular Disney franchises, raked in a reported $2.7bn in retail sales for 2008, and when MTV launched a fashion line by Lauren Conrad, star of The Hills, last year, it generated $5m-$10m in annual revenue and was stocked in 250 stores across the US. In the same gold-plated vein, last month celebrity blogger Perez Hilton launched Coco Perez, a new fashion blog that involves a mix of red-carpet style “critiques”, fashion news, comments and exclusive video releases. “It was a natural progression for me,” says Hilton. “The majority of my readers are female and in their twenties. They love celebrity, but what else do they love? Fashion. My main blog has 10m hits per day; if one-tenth of that transfers to Coco Perez, then I’ll be blowing my competitors out of the water.” As Nina Ferguson, director of Inca Productions, an agency that connects brands with designers and celebrities for sponsorship, says: “Fashion has been demystified. It’s no longer niche, it’s part of mass culture. It’s come to the fore in entertainment because the main consumer groups are women. Everyone from technology brands to mobile phone companies is trying to access the female audience through fashion. Women are the ones driving consumer spending; they’re savvy, sophisticated, and fashion is the perfect way to reach them.” .................... Details .................... SUPERMODEL STYLE: From Kate Moss to Yasmin Le Bon Can he do it again? Hot on the heels of Kate Moss’s 11th collection for Topshop, Arcadia owner Sir Philip Green is introducing YLB, a range designed for Wallis by the original British 1980s supermodel Yasmin Le Bon (pictured). The range is launched online next week, writes Beatrice Aidin. But who is Le Bon these days, and what makes Green think women will want to buy clothes designed by her? “She [Yasmin] is the perfect fit for Wallis,” Green says. “She looks great, she’s elegant and stylish.” According to Alyn Horton of creative consultancy Alyn UK, who works with designers Christopher Kane and Henry Holland: “With the models’ collections, you are trading in that person.” Still, Le Bon is certainly not a designer, and as trained

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designer Hussein Chalayan said of Kate Moss’s collection for Topshop: “It’s kind of insulting to us [designers], because it’s like saying – and I don’t mean this personally – ‘I can sell more clothes off my name, off my brand, than you can, even though you’re a better designer.’ If I was a celebrity, I would honestly try to inspire people in another way.” In response, Le Bon says: “There are plenty of people who are designers and haven’t been trained. However, I bring to the table 26 years working in the business, so that’s a pretty good apprenticeship.” “It is a model’s business to sell clothes,” says David Letherbridge, chief executive of, a celebritywatching website. “As a result, models have credibility when it comes to selling fashion.” Alyn Horton adds: “Because of their job, models absorb knowledge and they soon know what works and what doesn’t work on a human body.” Sir Philip Green also defends the idea: “I don’t think you have to be a designer – I’m not a designer,” he says. “But I do think I know what people want to wear.” Le Bon herself laughs off the pressure: “I’m trying not to think too much about it, otherwise I will be afraid, and won’t enjoy it,” she says. One thing’s for sure: Green sees great potential in this particular fashion concept. “In my head I’ve got the idea of the perfect person for each of the [Arcadia] brands,” he says. When it comes to models designing for the high street, lightning can strike not just twice, but multiple times. YLB for Wallis launches atwww.ylb4wallis.comon September 12 and in selected stores from September 15 Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from and redistribute by email or post to the web. Print article

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Showbiz moguls target the world of style, Financial Times | 05.09.09  

This week pop culture maestro Simon Fuller, the man who created the Spice Girls and the American Idol format, launched his new venture, Fash...

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