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Cookie Chic: See How Saks Markets “Empire”-Inspired Fashion

Saks Fifth Avenue launched a character-driven fashion line inspired by Cookie Lyon’s dysfunctional clan. Now the company has to market it.

Cookie Chic: See How Saks Markets “Empire”-Inspired Fashion
[Photo: Chuck Hodes, courtesy of FOX]

People love Cookie on Empire, and why not? As played by Emmy-nominated Taraji P. Henson, the fierce, flashy ex-con music mogul dresses however she pleases and cuts rivals to ribbons with so much “did she really just say that?” flair that Saks Fifth Avenue has launched a fashion line inspired by Cookie Lyon and her outrageously dysfunctional clan.

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“Cookie’s bold and speaks her mind, so her style reflects those traits,” explains Saks Fifth Avenue marketing boss Mark Briggs. “We see Cookie in layered statement jewelry, leathers, animal prints, bold color accented with power heels and boots.”

Empire, which begins its second season September 23, spawned its own merchandise line a few months ago when Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products approached Saks. Briggs recalls, “The draw for us was not only to partner with the number-one show on television, but also to celebrate its tie to fashion,” Briggs explains. “We’ve seen Empire actors featured in Vogue and other fashion media, so clearly there’s style synergy. That became for us a compelling reason to partner with Fox on this project.”

To translate Empire‘s flamboyant vibe into affordable consumer products, Saks turned to fans of the show, including jewelry designer Alexis Bittar (serpent-inspired collection); Cushnie et Ochs (silky jumpsuits); and MCM accessories (backpacks and handbags). “The goal was to make the collection easy for our customer to achieve the characters’ looks,” says Briggs.

Character-Driven Footwear

Saks also partnered with Jimmy Choo to design footwear tailored to the show’s big personalities. Choo pays homage to Cookie with leopard stiletto knee-high boots. Her smooth-criminal ex-husband Lucious (Terrence Howard) inspired textured gray flannel lace-ups. And fans who want to emulate their rapper son Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) can check out Choo’s suede high-top sneakers.

Pop Culture Couture

Empire is not the first pop culture phenomenon to spark Saks-branded fashion. The retailer teamed with Disney on a Cinderella-themed line of shoes that reimagined glass slippers for the 21st century. Shonda Rhimes’s Scandal also served as jumping-off point for a line of clothing, while the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special inspired Elizabeth James to design outfits based on the show’s goofy Spartan Cheerleaders.

Empire As Eye Candy

This time around, Saks is pushing out its couture campaign through a massive 272-page magalog and “How to Build Your Own Empire” events staged at the retailer’s nine major market stores. Through October 7, flagship stores in New York and Beverly Hills aim to further excite customers with Empire-themed window displays. Briggs says, “We want this line to be reflective of all the eye candy you see on the show–distinctive cars, big, lush offices, richly decorated modern homes and curated wardrobes. The characters on Empire are so varied, it really allowed Saks to showcase the breadth of our merchandise.”

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About the author

Los Angeles freelancer Hugh Hart covers movies, television, art, design and the wild wild web (for San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and New York Times). A former Chicagoan, Hugh also walks his Afghan Hound many times a day and writes twisted pop songs.

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