Art and commerce have collided like never before thanks to the media blitz brought on by The Met Gala and The Costume Institute’s opening of “Camp: Notes on Fashion.”
This year’s theatrical theme at the Costume Institute, the heavily contemporary designers on view, the pre- and post-gala media frenzy, celebrities’ arsenal of endorsement deals, ever-enterprising brands and the Met Store’s upsurge in designer tchotchkes have created a perfect storm of business opportunities — some highly orchestrated and others more organic.
While all things camp have dominated social media and pop culture this week, whether that translates into stronger sales for fashion brands remains a question mark. But Saks Fifth Avenue didn’t waste any time trying to tap into the buzz. This week the company launched a multibrand online shop with “a flair for the dramatic inspired by the Met’s annual gala.” Think rainbows, sequins, optical prints with Loewe, Gucci, Versace and Zuhair Murad being in the mix. Saks’ view on camp includes a $5,000 Judith Leiber couture gumball machine crystal clutch and a $2,400 Simone Rocha silk belted midi dress.
This year The Met Store also went all in with exhibition-inspired products, creating its largest designer assortment through its Camp and just-released Camp Icons collection. Blindness, Charlotte Olympia, Erdem, Gucci, Gypsy Sport, Maison Margiela, Marc Jacobs, Mary Katrantzou, Molly Goddard, Moschino, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White, and Vaquera are some of the 14 designers whose camp-inspired apparel and accessories are for sale in the museum’s Camp concept shop. Gypsy Sport was one of two outfits worn by Ciara at The Met gala. The New York-based label posted a video of her twerking arrival with “Big Freedia” on its home page, and Ciara shared a few with her 22 million Instagram followers.
Clearly consumers are responding, even though the exhibition has only been open for three days. The concept shop had sold out of three items by Thursday afternoon — a Gucci tote bag, Vaquera’s giant Renaissance Met button and a Moschino Barbie doll. Meanwhile, Off-White items were running low. While Off-White has designs in the actual exhibition, Charlotte Olympia is one of the camp-themed providers that does not.
Met Store staffers partnered with Vogue — Condé Nast, as has been the case in years past, helped sponsor the exhibition — to collaborate with the designers. The Icons assortment features Angelica Hicks’ illustrations of Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier, Alessandro Michele of Gucci (this year’s lead sponsor), Dapper Dan and Susan Sontag, whose essay “Notes on Camp” provided the framework for the exhibitions and is referenced extensively. Retailing between $10 for a patch to $38 for a T-shirt, many of the humorous designs spell out “camp.”
A Met spokeswoman said Thursday, “We couldn’t be happier to see the volume and diverse range of opinion about the exhibition and the gala. At the gala, guests are free to interpret the theme, and it’s always interesting to see how they do that. “
As for how the online Camp store will enhance future traffic, she said, “Broadly, The Met’s retail serves two purposes — to raise revenue to support a mission-driven nonprofit institution, and to bring the spirit of The Met outside the building to extend the experience.”
That said, there weren’t any reservations that featuring so many designers in the Met Store might make the exhibition appear too commercial. “No, we are thrilled that the shop devoted space to multiple sources.” the spokeswoman said.
And if the social media frenzy surrounding the gala weren’t enough, YouTube is doing even more through newly released, Met-themed content by gala attendees who have YouTube channels. With 2 billion users, YouTube has some serious reach. (The company also ponied up to host one of the tables, which ran between $200,000 and $300,000.) Karlie Kloss, for example, cooked up two videos — one for her beauty test run and the second highlighting her trip to Dapper Dan’s atelier in Harlem to create her Met gala Gucci look.
Jennifer Lopez, Alexander Wang, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Lilly Singh, James Charles, Alex Rodriguez and Alexa Chung are among the other notables now streaming Met-related videos. Lopez dedicated her video to Versace’s Luigi Massi, who died last month at the age of 56. Her pre-Met Versace fitting, primping and departure is followed by some footage of her and Rodriguez at the museum with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, and later singing during Cher’s performance. For its own YouTube channel, Louis Vuitton recruited Sophie Turner and Chloë Grace Moretz to whip up videos. Naomi Campbell, who teamed with Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli for her Met dress, teased her video Thursday with the full reveal planned for Friday.
Katy Perry’s chandelier for the Met gala and her hamburger costume for Moschino’s after party ramped up attention for the label and its creative director Jeremy Scott. His TV dinner is among several Moschino looks featured in “Camp: Notes on Fashion.” There are items from other generations of Moschino, too. Retailers have already inquired about trunk shows and other ways to keep the camp momentum going, said Michelle Stein, president of Aeffe USA, Moschino’s parent company.
“We don’t have requests for Katy’s chandelier or hamburger, but we certainly have requests for a lot of the other gowns or variations of those that everyone else wore — from Stella [Maxwell] to Sarah Paulson to Tracee Ellis Ross,” Stein said. “We also made quite a few couture gowns for The Met — not worn by celebrities, not gifted or loaned for the evening but actual sales. The trickle down is very difficult to quantify because it’s happening globally. The uptick in our stores and through calls is just phenomenal. Obviously, that’s what happens when you invest a tremendous amount in what is essentially a marketing initiative. You’re looking to capitalize over the long term if you can — at least a season or two.”
Stein said the phenomenon is no comparison to anything in the past. “The excitement surrounding the brand and the demand for product has been palpable. We’ll see how it plays out globally over the next couple of weeks, but in the U.S. our stores had great days leading up to The Met,” she said. “Jeremy has already anointed himself, ‘King of Camp,’ which he is certainly. That’s evident based on the number of [Moschino] items that are featured in the show and our turnout on the red carpet.”
Moschino fan Perry started Wednesday morning with some self-branding on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” For a six-minute chat with Robin Roberts, Michael Strahan and George Stephanopoulos about the gala, Perry wheeled out a cart loaded down with shoes from her signature footwear. Handing over a pair of hamburger-inspired shoes to Roberts, the 13-time Grammy nominee told the show’s estimated 4.5 million viewers that her shoes retail from $50 to $150. Strahan was given a pair of scented Gelis from her line. There was also talk of the 40-pound chandelier and, of course, the dancing-inhibiting hamburger.
Another Moschino-wearing gala goer, Kacey Mugraves arrived at the Met dressed like the Barbie that went on sale the following day and in a Barbie-inspired Corvette, helping to fuel the sellout of 500 units of the doll at The Met Store in four hours. “Chevrolet was not involved in Kacey Musgraves’ Met Gala plans, but we do applaud her choice to arrive in style,” a GM spokesman said. Mattel first partnered with Scott in 2008 and the two parties created the latest doll “in record time for the Met Gala and it was so meaningful for us to see Kacey Musgraves bring the look to life on the carpet,” a Mattel spokesman said, noting how it reimagined a spring 2015 Moschino couture look.
Zac Posen also made an appearance on “Good Morning America” on Wednesday to talk up his collaboration with GE for 3-D designs. His friends Jourdan Dunn, Nina Dobrev, Katie Holmes, Julia Garner and Gia Coppola were his unofficial models for the night. But on ABC’s morning show Wednesday, a GE engineer who had worked on the project modeled the rose-petaled 3-D dress that Dunn had worn. Post-Met, Posen’s site saw a 250 percent increase in visitors and its social media platform saw a spike in engagements and followers, a company spokeswoman said.
Posen also suited up Andrew Garfield, Vito Schnabel and himself in Brooks Brothers. Posen is the brand’s creative director for women’s wear. Garfield wound up in the mix, since he and Coppola will appear in Sony’s “Mainstream,” which the latter has co-written and is directing.
Tommy Hilfiger’s collaborator Zendaya arrived on the event’s pink carpet dressed like Cinderella with her stylist Law Roach waving a wand to illuminate the dress. She is not involved with Sony’s remake of “Cinderella,” but Zendaya is producing and starring in another Sony-supported flick, “A White Lie,” that is in development.
Hilfiger’s night out with his favorite collaborator paid off with the company seeing a 580 percent increase in Instagram interactions Monday and Tuesday. The pair were mentioned more than 10,000 times across Instagram and Twitter, regarding their designs and the pink carpet. In addition, posts from Hilfiger-invited attendees garnered 2.2 billion potential impressions and 14 million earned engagements, according to Pearl Lee, senior vice president of communications at Tommy Hilfiger.
Talking about the brand’s inclusion in the exhibition, Vaquera’s founder Patric DiCaprio said, “We’re perceived sort of as an art project, and as this young brand that’s so artsy and blah, blah, blah. It’s nice to have someone as legitimate as The Met and Andrew Bolton acknowledge us as an established brand enough to be included in The Met. That is something that will last forever. It’s happening now, but it will give us legitimacy for years to come.”
Earlier this week, an unidentified multichain retailer that Vaquera had been courting finally committed to an order. DiCaprio and co-designers Bryn Taubensee and Claire Sully suspect The Met connection helped make that happen. “It means a lot to stores, our fans and everyone to see us up there with these people who are masters of our class. We’re there with Margiela and [John] Galliano and all these people that we really look up to. It means so much for Andrew Bolton [to say] this work that you’re making, and even work from two years ago, is just as important as those master works.”
The Vaquera-designed oversize $16 Renaissance Met button and $155 sock bag (envision an athletic sock-shaped purse) were created to appeal to a wider audience. Vaquera’s New York-made collection is considerably pricier with a ruffle dress retailing for $700 and denim trousers at $500. The Met store has already reordered six times. Restocking again would not be an issue. “Anything’s possible — we’ll make it work,” DiCaprio said.
Serena Williams, a Met gala co-chair and a Nike-sponsored athlete, doubled up her support for the athletic brand by wearing Nike x Virgil Abloh Air Force 1 Volts. Although the sneakers are no longer available at retail, Nike’s ongoing partnership with Abloh means new gear with Nike will be released this month, according to a Nike spokeswoman. Williams also moonlights as a Lincoln brand ambassador, which is why she took the seven-block journey to the Met in the 80th anniversary Continental Coach Door Edition. A Lincoln spokeswoman noted that Williams learned to drive in a Lincoln. And the car maker lined up street photographer Scott Schuman, better known as “The Sartorialist” to capture the moment. As of Thursday, the post on his Instagram page had nearly 8,000 likes. By Friday Lincoln had amassed 250,000 likes and Williams had raked in 280,000 with their respective posts of Schuman’s photo.
But not everyone is sold on the prospect of camp taking over fashion. “The idea of camp is so elusive that I don’t think its influence would be anything but fleeting,” said fashion veteran Stan Herman. “People don’t have the attention span anymore to take something like camp and build it into a force. I’m of the Susan Sontag era. I actually knew the lady. When she first used that word, it seemed to have big meaning. Right now, camp doesn’t have the meaning that people are forcing on it.”