Costume Designers Are Now Fashion Influencers And Trendsetters


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Costume designers yield much power for fashion brands - and are overlooked as brand partners. The right clothes being cast in roles are something that many people need to consider. Unless it is a period piece where clothing is stitched and created, costume designers act like stylists in that they pull together creations from accurate Fashion in everyday life.

And those designers and fashion brands they ask to send clothing from as product placement? Mega winners - when they stop and head the call of opportunity.  In this blog, Hollywood Branded introduces you to the newest influencers brands should be paying attention to, the costume designer.

The New Influencer Costume Designers

The Top 10 Article Of WWD This Year

Earlier this fall, I was interviewed about costume designers being the new influencer by Booth Moore, the West Coast Executive Editor of WWD.  The article was incredibly well-written and insightful, providing how-to advice for brands to align with trending costume designers by developing campaigns around their work and themselves as individual influencers. 

A big congratulations go to Booth, as that article was nominated as a top ten for WWD, and she released a follow-up further expanding upon how costume designers continue to grow into being seen as influencers through series including White Lotus, Wednesday, Stranger Things, and Euphoria. 

You can read the articles at:

  • Original article on the WWD site (really great publication to subscribe to - they provide a ton of insight on pop culture. Fashion is a significant pop culture driver that brands of all types should be tuned in to.)
  • Follow-up article on the WWD site.

Product placement works for fashion brands and every other type of brand out there.  When your brand is on screen, helping bring a character and the story to life, you win - every single time. You build brand clout. Traditional advertising doesn't do that in the same impactful way. 

Product placement is not only practical - it is efficient.  You can secure exposure on the screen based on an "I scratch your back, you scratch my back" relationship builder - where you provide complimentary products on loan or trade to the very receptive prop masters, set decorators, transportation coordinators, and costume designers who are working on a budget to bring their set to life. Product in exchange for onscreen exposure aligned to massive celebrity talent... well, you can't argue the efficiency there.

Or you can provide cash fees paid that I promise you are more efficient than any ad you will ever buy - as that series or movie will keep on delivering just like the energizer bunny.. going and going and going. You are repeatedly airing, year after year, and driving CPMs down to pennies.  

Besides blogging or creating your own branded content that lives 'out there' on your owned and operated socials and website platforms - what other advertising tactic keeps on delivery even a decade later? Very few, if any. 

So take a few minutes now to dive into those links above - you'll also get to read what I had to share on the subject. 

One Of The Most Famous Costume Designers Ever... Was A Woman

Costume designers have been recognized by fashion houses since the beginning of the first silent screen moments, and used to help drive sales - like James Dean did from his wearing on-screen undershirts. One of the most famous costume designers in history was Edith Head, who worked for Paramount for 44 years until she left for Univeral to design for Alfred Hitchock.

“What a costume designer does is a cross between magic and camouflage. We create the illusion of changing the actors into what they are not. We ask the public to believe that every time they see a performer on the screen he's become a different person."

– Edith Head (Costume Designer)

Mind you, she was 70 years old at that time - and she stayed at Universal until her death at age 84 in 1981. That was one hard working designer, and she is a standout of standouts, having won a record eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design between 1949 and 1973. As a result, she became the most awarded woman in the Academy's history. She is today considered one of the most influential, and greatest, costume designers in film history. Over her career, she was nominated for 35 Academy Awards. 

Edith Head designed for the hottest celebrities of the time, driving fashion trends around the world. Celebrities included: Mae West, Veronica Lake, Ginger Rogers, Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Loretta Young, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Doris Day, Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth, Clark Gable, Sophia Loren, Natalie Wood, Julie Andrews, Elvis Presley, John Wayne, Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, Jane Fonda, Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn and so many more.

product placement infographic - free download

This leads me to... In 2023, I expect to see four major growth trends, with costume designers being highly sought influencers by brand partners. Read on...

Trend One

We’ll see an increase in Product Placement interest with costume designers by brands. At my agency, we’ve seen a significant uptick in interest by brand marketers to craft very strategic product placement programs.  

While providing loaned or in-trade clothing to television series and feature films is not a new marketing practice, it has always been highly underutilized by most fashion brands. In the last two years, we’ve seen a significant rise in interest from brands recognizing the power of product placement as a powerful sales driver.  It’s not new that onscreen exposure can be a sale catalyst for brands. What is driving this sharp increase are series airing on platforms like Netflix and HBO Max with content carefully produced and curated to appeal to Gen Z and Millennials.  With these younger and often edgier storylines, costume designers can have more fun and take more risks.  The series became extremely popular, seen by tens of millions of people worldwide, and obtained a massive social presence as viewers commented and shared.  The looks that are crafted to tell better and define each character’s story become part of that chatter – driving sales. 

Costume designers also place their easter eggs around character looks and provide a glimpse into character development.  It was the dress talked about worldwide when viewers clued in on how White Lotus’ costume designer Alex Bovaird provided a precursor to the future fate of Tanya, another ill-fated character in The Godfather. It makes the story even more interesting and press-worthy. It’s smart and results in more viewers of the show as the virality spreads across social media, driving their looks and names to gain more attention.

Trend Two

We’ll see co-branded promotional campaigns include the costume designer as an influencer and “celebrity”. Those promotions will be built to align and be truly authentic, showcasing looks from onscreen, and style insights from the designer who created them.  With the amplification by the media, and by brand partners, these designers will grow their social follower base and become even more desired to partner with. 

Trend Three

We’ll see an increase in fashion capsule collections built in partnership with costume designers, and the looks featured within the series or film. Licensing partnerships where brands partner with entertainment content to produce unique product lines is not a new practice. However, it used to be that those partnerships took a lot of heavy lift, and to launch a customized product or special packaging required upfront payment on royalty guarantees. Just like influencers, many content owners across the studios, networks and streamers have realized the potential for either monetary gain or content awareness building by working with brands to launch capsule collections timed to the release of the Hollywood property. When built well, these collections provide fashion, beauty and other brands an authentic connection with the content and a fun story to build PR around. Plus they are easier to manage, providing a bite sized partnership often driven by DTC and online sales. Brands will want to build more partnerships with designers, and we’ve seen a strong increase in requests from brands for costume designer partnerships. 

Trend Four

Partnerships with costume designers will no longer be reserved exclusively by fashion brands.

Series like White Lotus, Euphoria, and Emily In Paris are driving sales for fashion brands of all sizes. Other brands are taking notice of reported sales and the social media attention being gained.  As costume designers become more widely recognized for being the trend-setting influencers they are, brands across all categories will turn even more to them to design capsule collections and social content.

How Can Product Placement Help Your Brand?

Are you interested in integrating product placement into your entertainment marketing mix, but simply don’t know where to start? There is so much more to product placement than you may think,  and it is important to be educated about the key tactics to best fit your brand. Download our Product Placement 101 Infographic today to start learning more!

Product Placement & Co-Promotions 101 Guide