The Age of Impressionism

‘Past Lives’ star Greta Lee’s red-carpet run was one of the more remarkable examples of brand building in recent history.
‘Past Lives’ star Greta Lee’s red-carpet run was one of the more remarkable examples of brand building in recent history. Photo: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images
Lauren Sherman
January 25, 2024

Earlier this week, when the Oscar nominations were announced, my mind immediately generated an image of Past Lives star Greta Lee, who was snubbed in the best actress category by the Academy. As others were lamenting a missed opportunity to recognize a great performance, I selfishly wondered what this would mean for the Oscars red carpet. Would she still be invited? Would she show up? Lee’s red-carpet run, in collaboration with stylist Danielle Goldberg (and made possible, for the most part, by custom gowns designed by Loewe’s Jonathan Anderson), is one of the more remarkable examples of brand building in recent history. Both for Lee and Loewe.

Why has it felt like Hollywood magic? Lee seems like the kind of person who might carry a Loewe bag in real life. And Anderson, through Loewe, only seems to be willing to work with actors like Lee, for whom his admiration is believable. If Loewe suddenly hired a Kardashian, I’d feel uneasy about it, and so would other consumers. Watch, now that will happen… but let’s hope it doesn’t. 

If 2023 taught us anything about the fashion industry, it is that being bigger isn’t always better. And that’s what I see in Launchmetrics’ 2024 Voices of Fashion report, on which I advised. I’ve been using Launchmetrics’ data—which offers a 360-degree view of the online conversation around fashion brands and fashion people—in my reporting for years. I trust it because they don’t just scrape the web; they weigh both the qualitative and quantitative, and attempt to offer an honest, accurate picture of what consumers are thinking by evaluating social media posts, replies, press mentions, and pretty much every other piece of so-called content you could find in the virtual world. If I want to prove a point about brand sentiment, I go to Launchmetrics to cross-check. (Surprise, I’m not always right, and the narrative sometimes changes because of what they unearth.)

What I learned this go-round: It’s never been harder to get attention, no matter the size of a brand’s paid marketing budget, share of voice, or name recognition. Today, the most likable brands aren’t necessarily the biggest in the world (although that helps), or the most outrageous (although that helps, too). What they have in common is an understanding that, as our culture continues to fragment into oblivion, you can’t be everything to every person. It’s why brands like Alaïa and Mugler, featured heavily here, have a fighting chance against better-funded competitors. You should download the whole thing, but for those of you who aren’t numbers people, here are the core narratives emerging from the data.

The Celebrity Game…

Brand partnerships with stars only work when it’s the right place, right time, and right person. Consider the case of Beyoncé. No doubt an icon, but a fashion icon? 

Not unlike Taylor Swift, the performer’s popularity has historically been less about what she is wearing and more about what she’s doing. However, in the past few years, as Beyoncé began working more closely with the stylist Shiona Turini, the greatness of the fashion started to match the greatness of the performance. This past summer’s Renaissance Tour, during which every single outfit was documented by multiple media outlets, garnered 10,000 placements altogether that equated to $54 million in Media Impact Value. (Launchmetrics devised the MIV metric—based on the number of posts, tags, likes, comments, etcetera—some 15 years ago to measure the success of a campaign, event, or another piece of brand marketing.) The big brand winner of the tour was Balmain, taking a $14.6 million slice of that overall MIV.

Beyoncé had months of shows to make those outfits stick, but on the other hand, nobody was sending fashion credit alerts on Swift’s stage looks. (Anyway, Swift is more interested in cultivating her black car-to-dinner style at present.) But even bona fide fashion stars don’t always pop on stage if the right place, right time, right person equation doesn’t balance out. Especially if you only get one chance to impress. For instance, the launch of Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty sports-themed collection at the 2023 Super Bowl halftime show only garnered $4 million in MIV, while the news that she was joining Pharrell Williams at Louis Vuitton as a brand ambassador pulled in $23 million in MIV. In this case, the LV show was bigger than the Super Bowl. 

Regarding Influencers…

For me, the biggest surprise in this data set was the insight that sponsoring an influencer’s wedding—the way Chanel dressed Sofia Richie, or Dolce & Gabbana hosted Kourtney Kardashian—provided an equivalent marketing opportunity to staging a destination fashion show. It’s also certainly cheaper, even if it’s obviously orders of magnitude more tacky and depressing. 

For instance, the engagement on model Barbara Palvin’s wedding posts—she wore a Vivienne Westwood gown—were 54 percent higher than those on her fashion week posts. (Overall, wedding mentions are 81 percent more effective than other posts, according to Launchmetrics. Makes sense, since lots of these people only get married a few times in their lives…) For Vivienne Westwood, Palvin’s post was the social media peak of the year.

The Owned Media Piece…

Brands are spending more money than ever on their own content and direct marketing. But no consumer wants to see product shot after product shot—real news still gets the most attention, no surprise. 

That’s why creative director appointments can be so powerful. The Pharrell Williams announcement, for instance, garnered $616,000 worth of MIV on Louis Vuitton’s account alone, and $38 million in total. The second-biggest announcement was Sabato De Sarno at Gucci, followed by Peter Do at Helmut Lang, Future for Lanvin, and Julien Dossena’s guest appearance at Jean Paul Gaultier—which I heard was a huge success for Dossena overall, driving sales to Rabanne, his full-time gig. 

Lastly, Collaborations…

Collaborations often attract attention for the wrong reasons (see: Nike x Tiffany’s lame factor), but they can still work. The key is that you either need to flood the market, like Mattel did with Barbie—generating $15 million in MIV on Zara x Barbie alone—or you need to do something unexpected. Prada partnering with NASA to design astronaut suits for 2025 missions, Dolce & Gabbana designing a collection for fancy fridge maker Smeg: these are the kind of out-of-left-field partnerships that consumers love.