Leave it to Madonna to know how to stay in the limelight, even indirectly. The superstar has crowned 19-year-old singer and social media phenom Pia Mia as the new face — and first-ever “fashion director” — for her exclusive Macy’s juniors line Material Girl. “Her creativity, confidence and unique sense of style make her a perfect addition to the brand,” said Madonna in a statement first released to WWD.
Founded in 2010 under parent MG Icon — a partnership between Iconix Brand Group Inc., Madonna and her longtime manager Guy Oseary — the label has a history of tapping on-the-verge musical talent including Zendaya, Rita Ora and Taylor Momsen, as well as famous offspring Kelly Osbourne, Georgia May Jagger and Sofia Richie. After all, the line’s original inspiration was Madonna’s 19-year-old daughter, Lourdes Leon.
Now Pia Mia, whose full name is Pia Mia Perez, is poised to strike gold on the music and fashion fronts. Perez first found fame at 11 years old via the YouTube videos her sisters would post of her singing at home in Guam. Several singing and acting jobs, a deal with Interscope Records and four million Instagram followers later, she’s now part of the new crop of multitalented singers with catchy solo singles and collaborations with rap and R&B artists including Chris Brown, Tyga, G-Eazy and Will.i.am. She’s already recorded 150 songs for her forthcoming debut album. At the same time, she’s found a following for her DIY style, a blend of Gwen Stefani tomboy and Christina Aguilera bombshell. This is, in a nutshell, what Material Girl needs to remain relevant among a sea of fast-fashion labels nipping at the heels of juniors brands.
“The fact that Madonna chose me to do this literally makes me die,” said Perez, who called WWD from the set of her first Material Girl ads, set to break in July for back-to-school.
“We think Pia will bring her distinct perspective to the clothing as well as the overall voice of the brand. Lending both her fashion and social influence will not only bring fresh energy and elevate brand recognition, but as a vested ambassador for Material Girl, she has already proven her passion to see this partnership be a success,” said Preeti Singh, senior director of marketing for the women’s division at Iconix.
In a strategic move to amplify the moment across social media, Material Girl has formed its first partnership with content creator StyleHaul to produce a six-episode digital docu-series about Perez’s life, which she’s also executive producing, including her new role at Material Girl. Some segments follow Perez through the process — she’s already been filmed in design meetings at Macy’s in New York and on location at the fall 2016 Material Girl shoot at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, Calif. She also will wear Material girl pieces along with her own in every episode and links to buy the clothes will be featured in the description box of each as well as in the social media posts from Perez, StyleHaul and its network of influencers. The series will make its trailer debut at the Newfronts, the digital version of the broadcast television Upfronts, on May 10 in New York.
Mia Goldwyn, chief content officer at StyleHaul, said when Iconix contacted the content creator about the project, it knew it wanted to take a different approach. “Rather than shooting a more traditional branded content campaign, we wanted to do something more engaging and emotional, to track her and not only glimpse the clothing but also who she is as an artist and how clothing is integrated into her world,” Goldwyn said.
Given Perez’s Instagram following and StyleHaul’s 280 million-plus network subscribers and its 6,400 digital influencers, whose content attracts more than 60 million unique viewers and 1.3 billion page views each month, the reach for Material Girl could be staggering.
As for the collection, the products are aimed at the 16- to 24-year-olds with retail price points of $20 to $70 and the brand’s core categories are dresses, jumpsuits and bodysuits, and biker jackets. There’s also activewear, footwear and intimates. It’s clear from Perez’ Instagram that she has fun with fashion, and for her WWD shoot at StyleHaul’s Hollywood headquarters, she didn’t hold back, donning a two-piece olive green crop top and pencil skirt paired with fishnets and pointy-toe lace-up pumps from the fall collection.
“Growing up in Guam, there weren’t too many places to shop, so I had to be really creative. I’d just go in my parents’ and sisters’ closets [she is one of seven children] and cut things up and put them back together,” she said. “Now, even when I work with stylists, it’s never like they are picking my outfits for me. I won’t wear something just because someone told me to wear it.”
She also managed to stand out at the recent Coachella festival in her Stefani-inspired camouflage cargo pants, combat boots and midriff-baring top instead of the prevalent bohemian, Native American or Western styles.
Perez said she’s been wearing Material Girl since she was 13, adding that she admires Madonna because “her confidence really attracted me and she can pull anything off. I take risks with fashion and Madonna always does, so she inspires me in that way. And I love her music like everyone else.”
One category in particular that Perez favors is the activewear. “For me, working out is a big part of my life. I do krav maga, I box, I did Pilates for a second, and I recently started doing CrossFit. Exercise is something you can see results in really quickly and that makes me feel good,” she said.
The campaign features Perez in several shots around the kitschy historic inn, including on the hot pink tennis court, wearing matching Material Girl leggings. Similar to Sarah Hyland’s recently revealed deal with Iconix brand Candie’s, Perez got to choose the looks and the photographer for the ads, and will also lend her fashion input beginning with the spring 2017 collections. “Although you can watch the runway shows, this new fashion director would be able to deliver what’s trending much faster to our product assortment because she would have a firsthand pulse on the fashion scene,” Singh said.
The partnership is slated to last 16 months, but the effects could be more lasting for Perez and Material Girl.
As Madonna, Goldwyn and Signh all pointed out, it’s Perez’ unique style that make her a standout. According to Perez, it comes naturally because it’s authentic, like her music. “Music is my way to get out what I’m feeling, and so is fashion. Those are the two ways I express myself exactly how I want to. When I’m onstage, you’re getting 100 percent of my life story. I’m not afraid to share things, good or bad.”
The same goes for her social following. “I run all my socials and I’m very interactive with everyone; it’s really me helping my fans take selfies or pick clothes. I never had that many friends growing up, so my fans are my friends. They always make me feel better,” Perez said.