A little TV can go a long way. Just ask Christian Soriano. The fourth-season winner of Project Runway now dresses major celebrities for the red carpet, has a high-profile contract with Payless, and sells his collection in department stores across the United States. Retailers, on the other hand, have to pay big bucks to sponsor the highly-rated show. Banana Republic, Bluefly.com, and Piperlime.com have all ponied up to have their accessories used on-air.
Janet Goldman, CEO of Fragments, a boutique retailer in New York City’s SoHo, hadn’t even entertained the thought of a pay-for-play partnership with a reality TV show when a serendipitous—and free of charge—opportunity arose. “Nancy Garcia, a stylist and fashion consultant, had been to the store in the past and figured we’d have the perfect jewelry for a new show she was working on,” Goldman explains. “She was looking for a specific price point and aesthetic and knew that Fragments has something for everyone.”
This new fashion-themed show is Lifetime’s 24 Hour Catwalk, which debuted on Jan. 10. Hosted by British television personality and style “It” girl Alexa Chung, the hour-long reality program gives fledgling fashion designers just one day to create a themed collection for a panel of celebrity judges. Fragments, which often uses the tagline “The Trend Starts Here,” was a natural fit to accessorize the glamourous runway shows seen each week. Although the store has worked with television shows in the past including Friends, The View, and Gossip Girl, Catwalk’s format offered the added value of built-in brand awareness.
The cast of Lifetime’s 24 Hour Catwalk, including Alexa Chung, second from left.
In order to participate, Goldman knew that flexibility was key. TV’s long lead time means that pieces were pulled in August 2011, a full six months before the show’s first episode. Goldman wasn’t surprised, as she often works with editors, stylists, and producers on projects that aren’t seen until nearly a year later. In fact, Catwalk hadn’t actually been picked up yet, so Garcia couldn’t even promise that Fragments would ever see a return on its time investment. “We appreciate and understand the importance of press and visibility and we’ve learned that it pays to be patient and manage our expectations,” Goldman says. “But we will always go above and beyond to strengthen industry relationships and keep our partners happy – and they do the same for us.”
While most retailers won’t be able to score a partnership with a nationally televised show, Goldman suggests co-branding with businesses that have likeminded interests. “Fragments is a high-end fashion brand, so it’s important that we collaborate with brands who hold a similar position in the marketplace,” she says. “It also helps to be openminded and to learn about the brands who might be interested in collaborating with you and see how you can effectively work together.” Besides raising your profile, she says, it’s a great way to find new clients.
Finally, Goldman recommends putting in the legwork to find an out-of-the-box partnership. “It helps to research brands that you are interested in collaborating with and not being fearful to approach them,” she says. “Make sure you’ve accumulated the knowledge you need and then be as creative as possible. This business is all about relationships on every level – being respectful of all of them so long as they remain respectful of you.”
You can catch Lifetime’s 24 Hour Catwalk every Tuesday at 10/9c.
Author of A Girl’s Guide to Buying Diamonds, Randi Molofsky has covered the fine jewelry and gemstone industries for 12 years. A noted contributor to fashion and business publications ranging from W to New York, and the former fashion editor at National Jeweler, she also serves as a strategic consultant for industry organizations and high-profile designers. Randi muses on personal style and design at pimpsqueak.com.