Having attended many fashion parties that were no
than an excuse to down a bunch of free drinks before going
out for your real night on the town, we must admit that most of them are throw-aways, except in the rare instance that they shed some light on some real branding work.
While such is by far the rarest of breed in the Fashion Week party line up, Ben Sherman's party Friday night at the brand's Soho flagship proved to be a rumination on the execution of a rebranding, if not a somewhat nostalgic trip down memory lane for us (pictures left, via LastNightsParty.com).
If you haven't checked in with Ben Sherman in a while you should, because it's likely very different than you remember. The U.S. vp-marketing, Dana Dynamite has been working to give the brand some serious hipster cred, starting out first with a MySpace site several years ago (one of the first to jump on that now über-popular chuck wagon) and extending relationships with a series of downtown New York nightlife's more prominent partiers (and all too often, party promoters by default... hey, even hipsters gotta eat!).
Most recently, the brand inked a partnership with Merlin Bronques, a downtown scene photographer á la, but predating MisShapes (R.I.P.) and The Cobra Snake (we're fairly sure about this, facts about these guys are usually anecdotal at best) as well as newcomers like Nicky Digital (if you don't know these names, you're either over 35 years old or need to seriously re-read your Hipster Handbook). Bronques produced a series of stills—in k eeping with his hipster verité styles—of downtown's denizens that were used for a Christmas OOH campaign here in New York. Alongside Bronques came a slew of other night-lifers, such as the DJ/comic (huh?) Mike Nouveau (who's really a web marketing and ad sales guy for Paper, and prior to that held similar duties over at Rolling Stone, pictured, left, with friends) and DJ Jess (the skinny, seemingly sexually ambidextrous DJ who used to, and perhaps still does, spin at Rififfi, where you can expect to hear "Kids in America" and "Common People" about 1.75 times each hour).
So, at the party, it all became clear how these kids—we have to laugh here a little bit, since we've seen them evolve over the past four years from awkward kids our friends used to hook up with to something of legitimate (?) nightlife figures, and speaking of Merlin, why did you lose the wig!!??—have been perfectly deployed to revamp this aged British apparel brand both on and offline (they all promote each other via MySpace pages).
The party was thronged with young kids (check out all the images, here.), which isn't such a surprising thing at fashion events, particularly during Fashion Week. But it was thronged with the kinds of people that we recognize, obviously a direct appeal to young twentysomethings who make the rounds at various clubs decked out in DIY and bargain fashions. The walls were splattered with images from the current campaign, and the room packed with a bunch of young, mod-ish looking pretties that posed for Bronques' pictures. (Though due diligence requires us to report that there were some aging club queens out as well, but that's par for the course around downtown NYC. It wouldn't feel like home without them.)
And while our friend did note that the new outdoor campaign looked like "American Apparel Lite" (which, to be fair, is, itself pretty much "1970s-Era Gym Porn Lite"), Ben Sherman was effectively communicating its new message. After being off of our radar for years, Ben Sherman suddenly felt hip. And the product wasn't—particularly the party dresses—bad either.
And it's not just our musings either. Agyness Deyn, that pixie-faced model you've been seeing in nearly everyone's campaigns this year, popped into the party, wearing some super high shouldered blue jacket and with a mini-entourage of bottle blonds in tow. That surely says something, whether she was comp'ed for the night or not. Though I'm starting to worry about Agyness as a brand spokesperson—seems she's been a bit of the village bicycle lately and while we love her look, we have to wonder how much Agyness we'll have to see before we get fatigue and move on.
And speaking of moving on, while we love the 1980s, I think it's time we stopped LITERALLY reinterpreting the decadent decade. Seriously, there's a way to pull off hip without being a literal reproduction of a Salt N' Peppa album cover. Cheap, clunky gold chain and patent purses were always passé people!