Thursday, March 14, 2013

Where Marilyn Monroe Collection Could Have Gone and Didn’t

The Marilyn Monroe Collection is geared toward the young, not so much the young at heart. Photo by Yours Truly.

ONE can’t exactly call the utter casualness of the Marilyn Monroe Collection a failing, since its audience is young females – girls, in fact – and they don’t dress up that often.

That written, the denim jacket can work. The pink T-shirt that reads, “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world” is a keeper. Ditto for the marine blue button-down sweater, tuxedo suit in black and pink, as well as the cap-sleeved “skater” dress in black, pink and red.

That is about the extent of the pieces in the Marilyn Monroe Collection that any female over 30 might feel comfortable wearing. When Authentic Brands Group (ABG) (http://www.authenticbrandsgroup.com/) indicated that it was targeting the so-called milennials – ages 13-30 – in creating the line with LF USA (http://www.lfusa.com/), the company was serious. Market research and anecdotal evidence have shown that the mystique of Marilyn resonates with the young.

A trip to the Macy’s flagship store a couple of days ago, nearly a week after the collection launched online and in 150 of the retailer’s stores, revealed that it is indeed young – very young. The fact that it is ensconced in the Mstylelab department inside the juniors section puts an exclamation on the point. In a press release, Macy’s said the collection offers “affordable fashion to girls who want to look confident, feminine and fun.”

Two words: Cropped. Short. Photo from Macy's.

An eyeball test revealed that the females shopping the collection were in the target age group. Though their spending power has less wattage, so far they are said to be parting with their money – from about $29 to $89 – for gingham, florals, solids and polka dots. Word from on high at Macy’s is that, so far the collection is doing good business overall. No surprise there. After all, a new project with a lot of marketing push behind it is more likely than not to come out of the gate strong.

“It’s doing pretty decent,” a sales associate at the flagship in New York’s Herald Square replied to a query. She declined to give her name. “I am usually here short hours and whenever I have been here, there have been people over there,” she added, nodding toward Mstylelab.

Guess what famous white dress this brings to mind? Photo from Macy's.

Fun, flirty and young are words that can be used to describe the line of mostly casual wear. Words that befit a few looks are cheap, cheesy and tarty. The collection broadly channels the style of Marilyn Monroe in film roles, not real life. The red and navy cropped gingham tops that tie in front seem most reminiscent of Marilyn in “River of No Return.”

While the mood of the collection conjures up Marilyn in ditzier roles (“The Seven Year Itch,” “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “Some Like It Hot”), the actual look of the collection is the actress in just a few on-the-farm type scenes in "River of No Return" and “The Misfits.” The blue jeans in particular hark to these films. Most looks are an amalgamation.

Women of a certain age can derive a certain level of comfort in the skater dress. Photo from Macys.com.

Stands to reason that if a company is going to use an icon’s name in what some would assert is an unseemly way, it would provide a more accurate rendering. ABT president and chief marketing officer Nick Woodhouse did not returns calls or emails to address such questions. Macy’s was mum, too. As long as the collection sells well why should Macy’s ask or answer questions, right?

Cropping figures prominently in the Marilyn Monroe Collection: halter tops, jeans, jackets, sweaters. If it’s not cropped (or short), it is form-fitting. The ruched mini dress with capped sleeves and bow at peekaboo bodice is so short – clearly a nod to the 21st Century – that it could be a Marilyn bathing costume or foundation garment. It is difficult to imagine Marilyn wearing the wisp of a dress as street clothes.


The ensemble is quite fetching for a very young lady; the dress could serve more tastes if it were longer, though. Photo by Yours Truly.

The b&w striped, detachable spaghetti strap dress with biased, overlapping panels at bodice hugs every curve. Form-wise, it references Marilyn in any number of films, including “How to Marry a Millionaire” and “The Seven Year Itch.” It’s cute. If only it were 5 inches longer!

Indeed, ABT missed an opportunity to invoke the name of the actress with styles that would attract older women with bigger budgets. While a 38- or 42-year-old won’t be so drawn to the white halter top and denim shorts with cherry print trim, she would cotton to iterations of the after-5 dresses and gowns that Marilyn wears in most of the aforementioned films. This is the case, too, for “Niagara” and “All About Eve.”

The red, ruched frock hanging there out front is a dress, not a tunic or bathing suit in case there was any question about it. Photo by Yours Truly.

Buyer and potential buyer be aware, if yours is a thick or Rubenesque figure, there’s nothing in the Marilyn Monroe Collection that is suitable for you. Despite all of the grumbling that Marilyn’s curves would not fit into these clothes (not true, incidentally), the sizes stop at U.S. junior size 15 or XL (or 42 Europe, 14 Japan and 17 UK). Marilyn was around a women’s 12. Do note, however, that today’s 12 is significantly larger than the one of Marilyn’s day.

ABG has owned the Estate of Marilyn Monroe for about two years. Leading indicators – cafĂ© and cosmetics – suggest that it may affix Marilyn’s name to myriad pop items. After all, she is a pop icon – though this should not give anyone license to plaster her name on flotsam, jetsam, lagan and derelict just to make a buck.

Some things in the Marilyn Monroe Collection for bodies of just about any age are T-shirts! Photo by Yours Truly.

In the works: jewelry, lingerie and shoes. It is not clear whether they will be carried by Macy’s or some other retailer. Yet another question that went unanswered by ABG’s NW. One can only hope that coming attractions are less casual, more upscale and more inclusive than the Marilyn Monroe Collection. Further, here’s to hoping that ABG can find that delicate as gossamer balance between pleasing investors and preserving the dignity of Marilyn’s name. A reality show, for instance, just would not do. It would not!

On a lighter note, at least one woman would be open to a height-appropriate interpretation of the smashing black pumps Marilyn sports in “The Misfits,” the last film she completed.

Visit http://www.macys.com/mstylelab to learn more about the Marilyn Monroe Collection. Rx

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