TV breaks out of the wardrobe department
By Nicola Copping
Published: July 15 2010 23:57 | Last updated: July 15 2010 23:57
|Back in style: the lauded show ‘Mad Men’ has revived a 1960s look|
Betty Draper, a glacial blonde housewife, wears prim, wasp-waist dresses in lemon, peach and pistachio. Flame-haired Joan Holloway, a smouldering and voluptuous advertising agency secretary, prefers hourglass silhouettes, shift dresses in primary colours, and leopard print coats worn with killer heels. Together, they encapsulate the seductive sartorial charm of fashion’s most beloved television series, Mad Men.
In September, the sumptuous early-1960s style worn by the show’s leading female characters will be available to all when Janie Bryant, costume designer on the show, launches Janie Bryant Mod, her own independent clothing collection, on QVC, the television shopping channel.
“Now is the time for me to come from behind the camera . . . to establish a direct rapport with the customer,” she says.
The timing could not be better. Ms Bryant’s collection will debut as the fourth season of the series airs on AMC television in the US later this month, when the characters’ costumes will veer subtly from the prim towards the progressive.
“We do get to see a different world this season,” the designer says, scanning through Betty Draper’s pastel-hued wardrobe in video footage released by the network to showcase the new look. “Characters are not so done up, there is a more mod lifestyle, a youth culture.”
At the same time that Ms Bryant appears on QVC to promote her collection, fashion boutiques will be filled with Mad Men-inspired clothing. Two of the most influential luxury brands, Louis Vuitton and Prada, have produced autumn collections replete with Mad Men leitmotifs: bosom-enhancing, waist-nipping, calf-skimming dresses at the former; full camel skirts, pointy-bra shapes and restrained Betty Draper classicism at the latter.
Ms Bryant, however, is not the first costume designer to break out from the confines of the television wardrobe department. The way was paved by one of the most influential costume designers of all time, Patricia Field of television series Sex and the City. When Ms Field collaborated with Marks and Spencer on a one-off, 35-piece collection in October 2008, the range made £1m in the first five days of trading.
Eyeing Ms Bryant’s merchandising potential, Matchbook Company, a US licensing agency, was appointed to develop and implement a licensing programme for the costume designer last October, two years after Mad Men debuted. The partnership found immediate success: Ms Bryant designed a suit in the style worn by Don Draper, the series’ swarthy male lead, for US men’s wear retailer Brooks Brothers – it sold out within two weeks.
As Linda Kearns, Matchbook’s marketing director, says: “Janie makes people look good for a living. Now she is able to go beyond actors and actresses and reach the masses.”
After the launch of Mod, Ms Bryant and Matchbook plan to develop a men’s wear collection and a women’s wear line for 2011 and 2012, while evening wear and home design will also be explored.
The two designers will not be the last examples of a television-to-fashion-trade trend. Although he is yet to launch a collection, Randall Christensen, costume designer of Dancing with the Stars, the US version of the British television show Strictly Come Dancing, is also signed up to Matchbook. “What we liked about him is he designs for all shapes and sizes, from size zero to size 18,” says Kristi McCormick, Matchbook’s founder.
The democratisation of luxury will also be instrumental to Ms Bryant’s success. The Mad Men aesthetic has plucked at the heart strings of women who yearn for clothes that suit curves.
As Hugh Devlin, a lawyer and brand consultant at Withers, the law firm, in London, says: “Mad Men is set towards the end of the golden age of haute couture, when women really looked fantastic and groomed. What the series has done is give real women a bit of fantasy.”
Now that fantasy can become reality.
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