Traditionally, fashion houses pay celebrities large sums of money to wear their designs. But on Tuesday, clothing company Abercrombie & Fitch took the unprecedented step of offering a US reality TV star a "substantial" amount if he agreed to stop wearing their clothes. By REBECCA DAVIS.
It’s accepted wisdom in the fashion industry that you generally want people in the public eye to wear your clothes as prominently as possible. This is why popular celebrities are paid large sums of money to don certain pieces to events guaranteed to garner publicity. In 2005, for instance, Best Actress winner Hilary Swank was paid $90,000 by jewellery house Chopard to wear a little pair of their diamond earrings to the Oscars.
This week, the practice was turned on its head by Abercrombie & Fitch. The American retailer, which specialises in “casual luxury” wear for consumers in their early 20s, issued a press release on Tuesday night explaining that they would generously pay off reality star Mike Sorrentino if he agreed to “cease and desist” from wearing their clothes.
Sorrentino, better known as “The Situation”, is the star of reality show “Jersey Shore”, which follows the lives of a hard-partying group of young Italian-Americans. Abercrombie explained: “We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino’s association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image. We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans.”
Viewers of the show will know that Sorrentino is a pretty badly behaved young man, but it’s hard not to discern traces of class snobbery in Abercrombie’s decision. The episode is reminiscent of UK luxury goods group, Burberry’s, attempt to distance itself from the brand’s enthusiastic adoption by ”chavs” the derogatory term for low-income Britons. Burberry eventually discontinued several of its more popular lines to regain its aura of exclusivity. And Cristal champagne, the favoured tipple of hip-hop stars, found itself in hot water in 2006 after its MD told The Economist that although “we can’t forbid [hip-hop artists] from buying it”, he was sure “Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business”.
Mike Sorrentino has yet to respond to Abercrombie’s offer, but it seems a good opportunity for him to retaliate by plugging an alternative clothing line – his own. DM
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