By  on March 19, 2009

LONDON — Get ready, IMG — the talent and literary agency William Morris is stepping into the fashion arena. The agency has formed a partnership with Prima Management, a new talent, media and events company founded by IMG veteran Massimo Redaelli, to pursue fashion-led projects globally.

The partners will work on endorsements, sponsorships, corporate consulting, media and events. Their first projects include Aspen Fashion Week, which had a soft launch earlier this month, and Rio Summer, a South American beachwear showcase that will launch in November.

Redaelli said here that he and his partners at WMA are looking to reach a young, Internet-savvy audience, tap new sources of advertising revenue, drive media attention to younger, less-established designers and explore cross-marketing opportunities for celebrities and brands.

“The trade event is no longer sufficient to reach the consumer — and particularly the young consumer,” said Redaelli, who during his eight years at IMG organized events including fashion weeks in Moscow, Berlin and Mumbai, as well as London’s Fashion Fringe competition for young talent. “The industry has not yet spoken to the young consumer, to the teenager who gets his or her information online. We have to be able to reach out to a wider target audience through TV, Internet, music, books, film — with more exciting content.”

WMA president Dave Wirtschafter said the agency always considered fashion an interesting art and business form, but it didn’t have the right contacts to operate properly in the industry.

“In the past, we’d interacted with fashion intermittently through our clients, but it became obvious that we needed to find someone who was an expert in the business,” he said, adding he was excited that WMA’s “idea base” would be synched up with Redaelli’s “relationship base.”

Redaelli, who was senior vice president and executive director of IMG Fashion Europe, left that company last year to set up Prima, which has offices in London and Paris, and which also acts as a consultancy with clients including Kidrobot.

Although Wirtschafter declined to disclose the investment earmarked for the partnership, he said: “We will invest as much as is needed to do the best job we can. This is not a tangential, arm’s-length project for us, and we see a lot of opportunities out there.”

He talked about the possibility of future linkups between WMA’s artists — who include Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Crowe, Quentin Tarantino, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Duffy and Kanye West — and fashion events, as well as associations between the music and film industries and fashion. Wirtschafter added that one of the goals was to make fashion content — like that of music and film — available to a mass audience. WMA’s fashion clients include Rock & Republic, Swarovski, Cynthia Rowley, Bluefly.com, as well as the producers of “Project Runway: Full Picture,” Bunim-Murray Productions Inc., and Magical Elves.

Redaelli said the Aspen event will be focused on winter resort, ski and technical outerwear. While press and buyers will be invited to the show, he said much of the audience will be local consumers. “There’s an element of direct marketing to the local clientele, and the idea is that they will help to set the trends,” he said.

In Rio, Redaelli said the plan is to build entertainment around the fashion showcase in order to widen its appeal and to get the end consumer buying. “The music element will be strong because of the Brazilian culture, so we’re planning on DJs, parties, and concerts that will be open to the public.” The event will be held on the border of the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches.

Redaelli and William Morris aren’t the first to contemplate broadening the fashion audience and engaging more with the end consumer. IMG has toyed with the idea of in-season fashion shows for consumers, while Victoria’s Secret runway extravaganzas have fired up both males and censors — and crashed its Web site. More than a decade ago, the ABC network tried a short-lived effort to broadcast the couture shows, but eventually dropped the show after poor ratings.

That hasn’t stopped people from trying. Earlier this month, Simon Fuller and Sojin Lee unveiled Fashionair.com, a site that aims to serve up industry news, features, shopping tips — basically fashion as entertainment — to a fashion-hungry consumer audience.

Other projects in the WMA-Prima hopper include trawling for emerging talent in the worlds of fashion, design and art, then marketing it to young consumers. Redaelli also said the partners want to take celebrity brand endorsements to a new level with long-term cross-marketing deals and consistent strategies. “There is a tremendous opportunity out there for celebrities to do long-term deals that maintain their visibility,” he said.

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