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Express-ing Themselves With Independent Spirit

NEW YORK — Lights, camera, Express.<br><br>Aiming to promote an identity as a forward, young brand with an innovative spirit, the Express division of Limited Brands is staging a pair of marketing plays that tie-in Express with independent film...

An Express Your Gratitude Boutique will be featured at the Independent Spirit Awards.

An Express Your Gratitude Boutique will be featured at the Independent Spirit Awards.

WWD Staff

NEW YORK — Lights, camera, Express.

Aiming to promote an identity as a forward, young brand with an innovative spirit, the Express division of Limited Brands is staging a pair of marketing plays that tie-in Express with independent film projects. And the brand, which targets customers in their mid-20s, is currently exploring similar promotions in other industries, including link-ups with independent music projects.

“We’re trying to figure out some unique things we can bring to our customers to spread the name of the Express brand,” Derek Ungless, executive vice president of marketing at Express, said in an exclusive interview. “People in their twenties these days are particularly interested in achievement; in what they can do, even at a young age.”

An Express wardrobe trailer arrived Monday on the Los Angeles set of “The Battle of Shaker Heights,” where Express will provide wardrobe for principal cast members and crew. The film’s costume supervisor, Bega Metzner — daughter of fashion photographer Sheila Metzner — has already filled the Express wardrobe trailer with more than $10,000 worth of spring-summer Express merchandise and is collaborating with the brand’s design studio to create custom pieces for the indie project. The Express logo and Web site address are wrapped around the trailer.

The movie is being produced under the auspices of Project Greenlight — the second such endeavor — and is being supported by Miramax, which is providing a minimum of $1 million for its production budget, and Live Planet, in addition to Express, which is the exclusive fashion sponsor. Live Planet seeks to create entertainment that breaks down barriers between traditional media, new media, and the physical world. It was founded in June 2000 by Ben Affleck, Sean Bailey, Matt Damon and Chris Moore.

“Project Greenlight is a revolutionary idea that is closely aligned with our brand objective: providing an outlet for individuality and creativity, whether through film, music, art or fashion,” Ungless stated. “It’s all about personal expression and having the passion to help those with great ideas get to the next level.”

“The Battle of Shaker Heights” is centered around a young war re-enactor who makes a friend on the battlefield, who helps him develop a strategy to take on an enemy at his high school. Driven by a newfound sense of confidence, he risks that friendship when he seduces his friend’s sister. Cast members include Amy Smart (“Road Trip,” “Varsity Blues”), Elden Henson (“The Mighty,” “Idle Hands”), Shiri Appleby (“Roswell,” “Swimfan”) Billy Kay (LIE) and newcomer Shia LeBeouf as the lead. The movie is slated to premiere in Los Angeles in August.

In addition to its newfound association with Project Greenlight, Express is sponsoring the Independent Spirit Awards, for the third straight year, and mounting a wardrobing program that helps defray the cost of those clothes for the low-budget, indie films to be honored by those awards.

At this year’s awards, given this Saturday, on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., Express will open an Express Your Gratitude Boutique, to celebrate the spirit of indie films. The boutique will give the film stars, producers, directors and agents a chance to thank those who helped them achieve success. Participants will pick items from Express’ spring collection with which to thank the one person who most helped them get to where they are today.

The Independent Spirit Awards will be hosted by director John Waters and co-chaired by Halle Berry. Express will also outfit the Spirit Award statuette presenters, who include Daniel Day-Lewis, Mena Suvari, Adrien Brody, Brittany Murphy and Jake Gyllenhaal. Among the nominees are Jennifer Aniston, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Julianne Moore, Parker Posey and Juliette Lewis.

“These are people who represent an independent spirit, a young Hollywood attitude toward movie making in America,” Ungless noted. “There’s an alignment between where we’re positioning the Express brand and what these guys are up to — a moving forward,” he added. “This represents the spirit of our aspirational customer, many of whom are first-jobbers.”