Brand Posse | Staging brands and performance: Rodarte

Design, community, embracement, love — how does the crowd gather round?

And when they do, what is the story that they tell?

It is about truth, telling, holding, relationship.

Talking today, about the early days (several years back) reviewing the transitioning of Yves Saint Laurent, the bridging was between the current positioning, with the lead designer in play — Stefano Pilati and the chief leadership of Valerie Hermann. I was working with the American team, answering questions, finding soul — what’s the nature of the US audience, to the global audience, and the storytelling that bridges one to another. If there’s a story, who cares about it? This exploration leveraged the world wide strategy of Valerie Hermann’s dictum — but in the evolution of persona — and design leadership — the link between customer relationships and the bridge to Monsieur Yves Saint Laurent (there was love), Tom Ford and Stefano Pilati’s emergence. Things have stabilized.

But during those investigations, what we learned was about passionate commitment — customers of the brand telling stories about their relationship with YSL – that might’ve been the founding legacy of the Monsieur. Or it might have been about the splash of Tom Ford’s design inventiveness, captivating the fans of both Gucci and YSL — an evolution, a revolution. And finally — who, in the current audience, is captivated by the power of Pilati’s fashion treatments? Treatments — the seasonal response — the story of the season. Watching fashion closely, I wonder about the idea of the sequencing of the story — season to season. Lagerfeld, McQueen, Karan, Jacobs. And Rodarte. Each, a conceptual treatment, per season, the ring of the next four months.

What I was fascinated by is the degree of commitment — the posse-like framing of the relationship; people that hold that bond tight, listening, believing in, and retelling the story on story on story. That idea of an ambassadorial connection — those that lead the story of the brand on the outer rings, that’s a kind of staging of the story. The brands that manage that effectiveness will live in the realm of staging — creating platforms of relationships. That would be one — the customers, but as well — two, the connections that weave round that relationship. Crowds surge — and so too, the clustering of groups of people and their “sourcing” of the poetry of the brand.

I do believe in that idea of a deeper spirit in the relationship — and the passionate embracement of crowd “clustering” around the support of the brand. You might think of the positive positioning of the evolutions of Burberry, or the disdain of Gap’s failure to link appropriately in the (r)evolution of their approach to holistic identity. Starbucks — a new story emerging, what will the telling be?

The ringing of relationships might be thought through in the staging of the Mulleavy sisters and their perpetual performance, the strategy of the seasons — their treatments.

Brand Posse | Staging brands and performance: Rodarte

To that idea of staging, contemplate the link between their work on the storytelling of the film “Black Swan” — this alliance, strategic as I might see it (tactically fun as they might see it) — and building a design and staging that further entrenches the connections to their audience. It’s about the nature of the crowd, the gathering round — and even building opportunities. Black Swan, for example.

The Mulleavy sisters thrive on collaboration — their open door strategy matches the character of the openness of their creativity, such was the opening of their connection to the mysterious script — Black Swan.

Horror Ballet — according to Fashionologie’s notations, “Someone in LA said to us, ‘I don’t know if you’ve heard about this secret script that’s going around Hollywood, but I think it would be perfect for you to do something with this film.’ It’s basically a ballet horror film, which we had done a whole collection of. It went really well. I think what we do aesthetically worked for what he needed for the film. It’s like a whole Swan Lake with a demon and everything, it’s really cool. I think when you see it, you’re gonna freak out.”

To the concept of posse — that clustering, the audience, the relationships around the brand, and in this instance, around the Mulleavy’s are all jostling for the closeness of that connection. Interestingly, the sense of opening — the enthusiastic staging of connections — is really far more about the truth. Speaking of brand, of truth, of authentic character – an audience of clients (aspirational or otherwise) — that passionately tell the stories that circulate, web or mouth to ear, texted or mailed.

The premise that I consider is the idea that brand is an entity of dimensional vitality. Speaking to someone today — talking about that simplistic equation — brand isn’t enterprise, alone; it’s something that designed with humans in mind, made predominantly by humans, to gather more humans. That fired intention could be soul-ful, powerful and engaging — and embraceable if it is loved. If it is loved, it is protectable. The stage, the posse, the gang, the clan, the cult, the fan, the cluster. If there’s love, it will burgeon — that link is far more empowering than the propositions of product relevance or utility alone.

It’s enchanting. So too, the Mulleavy’s — their design, the drafts of theatricality and storytelling majesty.

t i m | Portland, Oregon

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