Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Amy, Fred and a couple of axioms

Fashionista has just come off the phone from a fellow fashion fiend who, in an attempt to broaden her vocabulary and enhance her insights, has taken up a new pastime -- reading. She told Fashionista that she was currently quite engrossed in a fascinating book which, while it didn't have much of a storyline, was rich in new ideas. When asked for its title she replied "It's called the Dictionary and, once I've finished it, I wouldn't mind reading something else by the same author, but it doesn't say who wrote it ..."

Fashionista's friend very much enjoyed the entries under "A", among which she discovered the word "axiom" -- and here are a couple of axioms over which Fashionista has been reflecting recently. One is "Fashion makes for strange bedfellows"; the other is "A leopard can't change its spots". Both these axioms were summoned into her mind when she read of the deal struck by Amy Winehouse with Fred Perry which will see the former design a range of womenswear to be marketed under the latter's brand, though "The polo shirts will have 26-year-old Amy's own logo on them, a twist on the classic Fred Perry symbol" -- something that trade mark lawyers, anxious about the way registered marks are used, will no doubt be having their own little ponderings.

Right: Perry and Winehouse -- from racquet to racket, or a brilliant ploy for the continuing evoluation of the Fred Perry brand?

Does fashion make for strange bedfellows? So it seems. For an older generation of consumers, the words "Fred Perry" summon up images of flapping flannels, sepia photos, black-and-white telly and the halycon days when British tennis players didn't get paid but did win the occasional big tournament. If they have heard of Amy Winehouse at all, their first thought is "what must that girl's poor parents have had to go through ..."

Left: not an immediate and obvious match for Fred Perry, but a good one?

How differently today's younger consumers view Fred Perry -- sporty, classic styles which ascribe an image which is smart, young without being juvenile and gently understated. The same consumer cadre Amy Winehouse conjures up a cocktail of talent, passion and at least a hint of personal tragedy, a sort of latter-day English version of Edif Piaf. One wonders how each of these two brands will function together: Odd Couple or Arthur Miller/Marilyn Monroe? And what, if any, break clauses might be drafted to enable the two to extract themselves if the synergy/reaction between the two threatens to damage either brand?

Can a leopard change its spots? That's a tough one to call. Fred Perry is undoubtedly a very different brand now, but how far can it continue to change -- and how far is it wise for it to seek to do so -- in a marketplace where competition is stiff, market entry is easy, celebrities spring up like Japanese knotweed and a strong brand message is easier to lose than to acquire?

Right: never mind the leopard, leotards have spots too!