The “Golden Age” opportunity for luxury brands

Although it has been more than 2 months, I still can’t get over the incredible editorials and pictorials of the December edition of the French VOGUE, one of the last issues under the direction of Carine Roitfeld, which portrayed Tom Ford’s multiple genius facets, fashion designer, photographer and director.

The issue garnered huge international attention and kindled an enormous buzz due to the publishing of the exclusive photos from the very private fashion show which Tom Ford organized with the occasion of the launch of its own women’s wear label, photos which had been kept secret since late September 2010, when the event actually took place in the designer’s boutique on Madison Avenue in New York. Initially, the fact that Ford featured solely celebrities as models and that most of them were in their late 40’s and 50’ did surprise me and neither did catch my attention or even curiosity. Knowing Ford’s work and unique talent, I wasn’t expecting anything less than an exceptional collection which would mark a new stage in his maturity as a designer.

It was only when I came across the French VOGUE issue that I realized Ford had taken a completely direction, previously unexplored by other fashion designers. As he was saying in the interview with Roitfeld, he wouldn’t get involved or pursue any project which he would not find challenging. Apparently, boredom was the main reason he left Gucci and decided to try his hand at directing movies. Then, why would he go back into fashion design if that meant going into a similar territory and inevitably doing the same things over and over again? To show that fashion can be more than about skinny teenage models running down on catwalks and spectacular event venues, all part of the huge fashion marketing ‘’machine’’. Well, he managed to generate attention with a private show, without photographers and staging the entire event in his men’s store on Mandison Avenue. Every single piece of the collection was a statement of elegance and Golden Age glamour. And here I am referring to the Golden Age of the cinema represented by Katherine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Grace Kelly and Lauren Bacall, the only living legend of American cinema now at 86.

In one of the pictorials in the French Vogue, which he personally shot, he chose to feature an elderly couple, in their late 60’s, using little make up and highlighting all the marks of aging such as lines and thinning hair. Despite their age, the couple features the most glamorous outfits, from jewellery to clothing and accessories. The ‘’bling’’ twist of the picture story also suggested an ‘’old money’’ elegance, which has completely vanished from all marketing segmentation in the past two decades. The L.A., Las Vegas and Palm Springs of the 40’s and 50’s come almost instantly to my mind.

Whether Tom Ford actually intended to target the completely ignored segment of elderly wealthy consumers and, through them, re-creating desirability and aspiration, or whether this is also part of my imagination, that remains to be seen, and only time can tell…

The ‘’Golden Age’’ trend seems to be spreading even further, over half of the Oscars (March) issue of Vanity Fair perfectly illustrating the period and making subtle connection with today’s scene. In a rare interview, Lauren Bacall dares the editor asking the reason for the interview ‘’What’s the argument for this story? That I am still breathing? I don’t talk about the past’’. The interview features stunning photos of Bacall from her marriage with Humphrey Bogart and her ‘’fashion’’ pictorials, the most impressive being the cover of BAZAAR which she graced in 1943. She was born in the Bronx and her mother and grandmother were Jewish immigrants from Romania. Her story is the more fascinating, having personally met the entire hall of fame of Hollywood.

DORCHESTER COLLECTION chain of hotels which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei was among the first companies in luxury to realize the potential of the ”Golden Age” marketing positioning, unveling 2 years ago, an advertising campaign featuring Hollywood movie stars who used to stay at its major properties. The ads were created using 3D sketches of the celebritries’ portraits, in settings such as the piano bar at the Dorchester Hotel in London. The celebrities included were Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Sellers, Joan Collins, Thandie Newton and Andy Warhol.

In a recent article in the IHT, Suzy Menkes praises the inspiration behind the latest advertising of CHARLOTTE OLYMPIA luxury shoes brand and writes: ”The boudoir is blush red and plush with velvet, an opulent setting for the mysterious figure in the mirror. She has a Rita Hayworth hairdo but not much else, except a garter belt and stockinged legs, which are given a sensuous massage by a lascivious maid. And — oh yes — a pair of glam 1940s-style shoes “To Die For.”

That it the name of the mini-film made to express the spirit of Charlotte Olympia shoes, which look like something out of an old film noir, with their thick soles and heels but intensely decorated uppers.“It is meant to be a bit of fun — tongue in cheek. Í always have a pin-up and I love Agatha Christie,” said the designer, referring to the famous 20th-century crime writer. So the heroine of the movie is Arlena Stuart Marshall, from the 1941 Christie detective story “Evil Under the Sun”

(to be continued March 2011)

Oliver Petcu