How did it become fashionable to turn yourself into a walking advertisement for Coca-Cola? The sugary soft drink's red and white logo, around since 1885, has been plastered all over a number of high-end designer collections recently: there's a Marc Jacobs sweatshirt featuring a familiar wavy white stripe, a $1,475 Ashish top sequined with "Enjoy Coca-Cola Classic," and a line of remixed vintage Coca-Cola tees by Dr. Romanelli for the ur-hip brand Opening Ceremony. Next up, in June, is a Coca-Cola-themed nail polish collection from OPI. Such products tend to be so stylishly executed that buyers might not even realize they’re corporately endorsed.
That ambiguity is partly intentional, as Natasha Stagg explains over at V Magazine. Through the efforts of Kate Dwyer, style fanatic and head of Coca-Cola’s global licensing, the soda company has cozied up to the cool fashion kids. Dwyer's retail push started with a collection designed by Dolce & Gabbana in 2010—so blatantly Coke-branded it could’ve been mistaken as sarcastic. The beverage giant has since teamed up with high-end designers like JC/DC and Jack Spade. Marc Jacobs was named creative director of Coca Cola Light in 2013, and spruced up their can designs with fashionable illustrations.
Since trends travel top to bottom, the hope is that Coke on the runway will make fast fashion brands want to cash in. "What it does, is retailers like Uniqlo or Forever 21 end up carrying just our basic T-Shirts. It helps us stay top of mind," Dwyer says. Ultimately, this strategy helps target anxiously style-conscious teens, and serves to brand Coca-Cola as something so much more than a beverage—in a logo-obsessed age, it begins to seem a classic symbol that might even elicit nostalgia:
'Interestingly enough,' says Dwyer, 'teens and young adults spend twice as much on fashion than any other product category.' So, a core consumer group for Coke is spending more on clothing than they are on, say, iPod cases. And as we all know, the youth are evermore informed when it comes to what they’re wearing, and how it will look online (meaning forever). What Dwyer has tapped into is a projection of clothing-nostalgia that she knows, from personal experience, is extremely effective. 'The [Coca-Cola] rugby shirts that were big in the mid-eighties were actually designed by an unknown designer at the time, Tommy Hilfiger. So, I owned one of those and, you know, fashion and Coke to me have always made sense.'
Given Coke's history of being ironically incorporated into Pop Art by the likes of Warhol and Lichtenstein, self-identified anti-corporate types might even fall for the supposedly inadvertent advertising-through-fashion. As Stagg puts it:
"Appropriating the enemy, so to speak, anti-establishment types throughout Coke’s lifespan went from patching up their jeans with the label in a show of protest against it, to admitting they might, after so much exposure to it—like to drink it."
Some of Coca Cola's competitors are catching onto the strategy. Narciso Rodriguez recently announced a collaboration with Bottletop and Pepsi. Fashionistas actually paying money to sponsor the world's most valuable brand by wearing its logo around on $1,475 sweatshirts might sound like something from a satire of corporate America, but there you have it—it's officially cool to dress like a soda billboard. Just ask Mark Jacobs—when he's not too busy posing topless with cans of Coke in a photobooth.
[via V Magazine