image: Muse

image: Muse

In an attempt to regain some of the momentum it had in its early-to-mid-2000’s heyday, Juicy Couture is undergoing a large-scale revamp. In addition to collaborating with Vetements and showing during New York Fashion Week in September (the collection got a thumbs-up from the fashion press), Juicy is putting its money where the music is. Katy Perry music, that is.

In addition to infiltrating the fashion industry by way of a much-hyped collaboration (and subsequent celebrity sighting in connection therewith) and a spot on the NYFW calendar, Juicy’s new creative director Jamie Mizrahi – the 29-year old, who took the creative helm of the brand in August – appears to be spearheading more than one avenue in Juicy’s return to relevance; she is doing more than merely putting forth fresh takes on the Juicy Couture archive.

As Nick Woodhouse, the president and chief marketing officer of ABG, which owns Juicy Couture, said this summer, Mizrahi’s role is to “bring the brand to its full potential and infuse a new and fresh design foundation.”

This is where Katy Perry comes in. From the outset, Mizrahi has held that exciting collaborations are in the works and one such collab comes by way of Perry’s tour merch, an oh-so-central part of the modern-day tour experience. In fact, merch has increasingly come to play a significant role in musicians’ business models, experientially and in terms of revenue, especially as more people stream (and/or illegally download music) as opposed to buying actual albums.

With that in mind, like any other modern-day artist, Perry – who is the midst of a massive world tour that began in September in Montreal and ends up in New Zealand in August 2018 – is supplementing the experience with merch. In mix, amongst t-shirts and sweatshirts? Juicy Couture sports bras that read “Goddess” and “Power.” 

The Modern Day Creative & the Need for Collabs

This is not just about a $25 bra top. That otherwise commonplace top speaks to what is expected of the modern day creative director and from fashion brands, in general, in 2017.  In addition to overseeing the creative/design elements, the chief creative is – in many cases – increasingly expected to deliver in terms of visibility and relevance, in larger part because many creatives are as branded as the people they dress.

Implicit in this is the role of social media. Much like big-name models, who are cast largely based on their ability to bring impression to the table, creative directors are no longer divorced from the numbers game. As Woodhouse told WWD in August, “Not only does Jamie have a great social following, her clients do too, and with a generation that’s so influenced by celebrity, she sees it all and lives that Juicy lifestyle.” 

Also part of the equation – in addition to maintaining a high personal profile – the modern creative (and his/her team) is expected to find ways to weave collaborative opportunities into the mix. For the recently revamped Helmut Lang, this is taking the form of its “artist in residence”-type model, in which the top designer will routinely be swapped out over time. The first such creative is Hood by Air’s Shayne Oliver. When consumers tire of his designs and/or the buzz surrounding his take on the brand dips, he can be swapped out for a more click-worthy figure.

Meanwhile, at Gucci, this has taken the form of artist collaborations. Since the start of Alessandro Michele’s tenure at Gucci, the Italian design house has enlisted the likes of Gucci Ghost, Coco Capitan, Unskilled Worker, Helen Downie, and Dapper Dan, among others, to fashion their own takes on the brand. Consistently inserting new takes on its DNA courtesy of different collaborators enables the brand to not only keep its output fresh, but allows it to consistently reach new audiences.

Is Fashion Enough?

This brings us back to Vetements and thus, Juicy. The Swiss-based “it” brand helped put Juicy back on the fashion map for Spring/Summer 2017 when Demna Gvasalia and co. teamed up with 20 different brands in one single season.

As Vetements’ CEO Guram Gvasalia told Vogue in September, while teaming up with that many different brands – ranging from Levi’s and Chamption to Dr. Martens and Reebok – was something of a novel take, the need for brands to put forth collaborations to cultivate excitement is now something of the norm.

“That season was exceptional and one of its kind,” Gvaslia told Vogue’s Mark Holgate. “Therefore, it is funny to see that now it is becoming almost a must for brands to come up with as many collaborations as possible,” regardless of whether they are “on brand” or not.

This raises the question of whether fashion, on its own – sans the nearly incessant rounds of musical chairs amongst the industry’s buzzy creatives or increasingly frequent “must have” collabs – is relevant enough to draw in consumers at this point in time, when social media has not only reconstructed any existing hierarchies (creating new levels of access that previously did not exist) and also sped-up the entire cycle to fit our ever-whittling digital-age attention spans.

The answer may be no, but even if it is, no, it is difficult to fault fashion for this. With an iPhone in his/her pocket, the consumer has an unprecedented amount of information at his/her finger tips at. all. times., making the consumer’s attention span a prize that can be downright difficult to achieve, as without it, there is simply no way to sell anything.

Moreover, if the answer is, in fact, no, it might not matter. While garments and accessories may have been enough in the past, that is not the case now and based on the increasingly over-the-top nature of runway shows and the all encompassing reliance on social media models that we have witnessed for the past however-many-years, this is not new. Fashion’s own reliance on “just fashion” has been waning for years.

Brands simply need to do more to cut through the noise that is life in 2018 and to build excitement. For now, that appears to be putting working rocket ships and waterfalls on the runway for those that can afford it and for everyone else, collaborations – and a lot of them.

As for what will be next, we likely will not need to wait very long to find out.