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Never Underestimate the Power of Politicos and Celebrities

Thursday October 23, 2008
New York, NY

Celebrity style – from Hollywood’s A-list to Washington, D.C.’s political elite – intrigues the average person. When the perfect style is worn by the right person, it can be a powerful marketing tool – for designers and retailers, alike.

Take Michelle Obama’s appearance on “The View” for instance. The wife of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama caused a media sensation when she wore a black-and-white printed dress by Donna Ricco on the show. Consumers immediately snapped up the cotton dress that was selling at the affordable price point of $148, causing it to sell out, nationwide. “My dresses are worn on TV quite often and photographed for newspapers and magazines regularly,” Ricco says. “But the magnitude of press that followed Michelle’s appearance on “The View” was astounding. It’s been a very exciting season for us.”

That’s the power of the celebrity endorsement. Among all women, 60% cite fashion magazines, TV shows and celebrities as their top sources for clothing ideas, according to Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor™. In addition to Michelle Obama, Ricco’s pieces have been worn by Queen Latifah, Chelsea Handler, Dayna Devin, Jann Carl and Allyson Hannigan. “It’s another opportunity to get the brand out,” the designer says. “When you have someone wearing your dresses that you respect and admire it’s exciting not only for me but for my customers as well.”

The celebrity factor affects women of all ages, and the younger they are, the heavier the influence. Of Monitor respondents age 56 to 70, 34% say they pay attention to who is wearing what on TV and in magazines. The majority (51%) of women age 35 to 55, and 64% of the 25-to-34-year-old set look to the stars for guidance. The real sweet spot, though, is young women age 13 to 24, an astounding 88% of whom turn to the media to cultivate their fashion savvy.

No wonder, then, that The New York Times ran an item on the back-to-school fashion influence of “Gossip Girl.” The CW network series features Manhattan private school students who have elevated prep school chic to new levels. In turn, teens and 20-somethings are ravenous for the same outfits. The show’s website lists items worn by each character, and provides links for viewers who want to buy the pieces immediately.

The Internet has made it easy to transition from obtaining information about an item, to buying it; as reflected in Monitor stats that show 72% of women browsed the Internet for clothes in 2008, an increase from 5% in 1997.

While entertainers regularly set fashion trends, an election year can turn the candidates’ wives into fashion arbiters. Both Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama are appearing in classic looks that are well established inside the Beltway.

McCain has elected structured suits in bold palettes reminiscent of Oscar de la Renta, while Michelle Obama appears to be channeling early Jacqueline Kennedy with more demure, Dior-inspired choices. Whoever wins the vote in November, America will have a First Lady of Fashion.

Cotton Incorporated, funded by U.S. growers of upland cotton and importers of cotton and cotton textile products, is the research and marketing company representing upland cotton. The Program is designed and operated to improve the demand for and profitability of cotton.

 

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