Friday, August 8, 2003

Lights, camera, fashion

Movies spotlight celebrity trends sure to be boutique blockbusters

By Jaimee Rose
The Arizona Republic

[IMAGE] Reese Witherspoon has spawned an industry of fashion watchers who track every outfit and accessory in the Legally Blonde movies.
(MGM Pictures photo)
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The biggest star of this summer's blockbuster movies isn't a gorgeous new starlet, another hunky boy with six-pack abs or even Demi Moore, regardless of whom she's dating and how scandalously young he is. This summer, fashion is ruling the big screen.

It's the secret weapon of Charlie's Angels, who flit about the country in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and change costumes every five minutes. (Think Cameron Diaz doing detective work in a tiny white bikini or fighting oh-so-hard in designer jeans.) In Le Divorce, an upcoming Kate Hudson movie, a $12,000 designer purse is so crucial that it may get more screen time than the supporting cast. In Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, Reese Witherspoon's fashions as Elle Woods are so influential that they were discussed on the cover of Vogue and heralded in trend bible InStyle.

Earlier this year, Renee Zellweger's retro clothes in Down With Love were more admired than the plot line, and many men dreamed of looking like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix Reloaded. There were even purse auditions for the bag Hudson carried in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

Fashion sensibility

This summer, says InStyle fashion editor Toby Tucker, the "blockbusters do have a fashion sensibility. It's a major character in the movie(s)."

Fashion and film are a match made in heaven, or at least in Hollywood, and always have been. Audrey Hepburn's wardrobe in Breakfast at Tiffany's launched a thousand little black dresses. Jane Fonda's look in Barbarella was the stuff of magazine cover legends. And women everywhere ripped up their sweatshirts after seeing Jennifer Beals wear one in Flashdance.

Now the marketing machine has taken over. When a movie features cute clothes, the clothes make it to the pages of magazines, where editors tell readers where to buy them, generating buzz for the fashions and the film.

"We give them a little piece of Hollywood," Tucker says. "They can be like Elle Woods for a moment because they've got the pink suit; it makes them feel a little bit more glamorous, more in touch with their favorite celebrities."

Of course, Americans love that. When a lipstick worn by a celebrity in a film was featured in InStyle, it sold out in four days.

Abby Traister, an owner of clothing boutique Healy Bea in Phoenix, is preparing for the fashion fallout from Legally Blonde 2. Witherspoon's Woods carries her itty-bitty dog Bruiser in a chic little purse, a purse that Traister made sure to have in her store. By Tylie Malibu, the purse starts at $275, and that's just fine for celeb-savvy customers.

Celebrities fuel market

"If a celebrity is seen or heard to carry or wear a certain item ... people can't wait to get to their hands on it," says Traister, 24, who dressed as Elle Woods for Halloween last year. When Healy Bea sold Poppie Couture tank tops, owned by Britney Spears and featured in People magazine, the store couldn't keep them in stock, Traister says.

Boutiques are happy to oblige films that want to feature their merchandise. The $12,000 red crocodile Hermes "Kelly" purse that plays so prominently into Le Divorce, was lent to the movie studio by Hermes, to be returned after filming.

Other companies happily give their products to TV shows or movies, hoping for a little bit of valuable screen time.

"Product placement in movies today has an immediate impact on sales," says Robert Chavez, president and chief executive officer of Hermes of Paris. "We note a quick uptick in interest and inquiries, which lead to higher sales."

Staci Hernandez, a 21-year-old university student, freely admits that one of the reasons she can't wait to see Legally Blonde 2, is because watching it will be like reading a fashion magazine.

"I'm excited to see the patterns and colors and the new styles (Elle Woods) comes up with," says Hernandez. "I like to see it, in all the glam lights."

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