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(Published: 2012-03-28)

Those of you that tuned in to Mad Men’s long-awaited return last Sunday must have noticed the dramatic set and fashion changes. Where the first four seasons of the Emmy winning series took place in the prim and proper early 60’s, the 5th season plunges viewers head first into June 1966. The Civil Rights movement is in full force, and a swinging fashion, music and sexual revolution is on the horizon.

Watching it, I kept thinking how fresh and new the show looked and felt, despite the familiar retro feel. Don and Megan’s mid-century modern luxury apartment featured white shag carpeting, and the SCDP offices, although smaller and more cramped, looked very contemporary, with a backdrop of white walls, glass and chrome accents, and sleek neon furniture. The fashions were harbingers of the mod era to come. Legs were on show with shorter skirts, the cuts and fabrics were modern and sleek instead of classic and structured, and the colors much brighter, bordering on neon.

That got me thinking about fashion cycles, and how so often “everything old is new again.” It’s an interesting coincidence that Courreges, the iconic French brand from the Sixties, has just been relaunched. Founded in 1961 by Andre’ Courreges, it was conceived as a futuristic brand (famous for launching the mini skirt!), whose hallmarks were pure lines, simple silhouettes, and lots of white with signature pops of primary and fluorescent colors.

Recently, two former co-presidents of the Paris branch of Young & Rubicam acquired the brand from Courreges’ widow. (Ironically, Y&R was the rival advertising agency shown in the opening scene of Mad Men, with three yahoos dropping water bombs out their Madison Avenue window onto unsuspecting protesters.)

The French duo is determined to revamp the brand for the 21st century. They want to keep the spirit of the “old” Courreges look, but modernize it for today. I call the look Retro Mod. The new owners envision an “elegant, colorful, fun, and optimistic” brand. White remains a signature, with primary and fluorescent colors popping the collection.

Practically everything is being done differently from other high-end designer lines. The new owners refuse to become celebrity-driven. Instead of hiring a hip young designer, they have a creative team of 10, reporting to a “creative coordinator.” They disdain seasonal collections and runway shows, a mainstay of the traditional designer lines, and plan instead to offer a steady stream of “new fashion classics” throughout the year.

Andre’ Courreges was ahead of his time, and the new owners seem headed in the same forward direction. Aiming to be the fashion equivalent of Apple, they boldly envision a modern lifestyle characterized by smart shopping and positive living. The online shopping sight features a curated selection of music tracks that complement the brand, and plans are underway to launch a limited edition electric car. Rumor has it that Jonathan Ives is a fan of the brand.

Sounds like they’re on the road to success.

Courreges Retro Mod

Courreges Electric Concept Car

Robyn Waters is president and founder of RW Trend, LLC. She is the author of The Trendmaster’s Guide: Get a Jump on What Your Customer Wants Next, and The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape. Learn more about Robyn at All Rights Reserved.

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