NEW YORK, United States — For years, the fashion world has orbited closely around the Hollywood universe, as fashion’s biggest names have found ways to branch out from traditional product lines and branding opportunities. A new venture aims to further bridge the gap.
Fashion communications and events firm KCD and talent agency CAA are partnering for what they call a “joint venture” called CAAxKCD, in which the two will work together to create opportunities for their respective clients in the other's universe. CAAxKCD will be led by KCD’s Rachna Shah, Jarrad Serafine-Clark and Laura Birbrower along with CAA’s Christian Carino, Josh Otten and Alex Varga.
Both firms have had experience in each other's business, laying the foundation for the partnership.
As part of its entertainment business, KCD has worked on events like the Tony Awards, while CAA fashion division, launched only in 2019, has worked with designers like Prabal Gurung, Kerby Jean-Raymond, Tommy Hilfiger, and Tom Ford. Carino told BoF that while the two firms worked independently on the same projects in the past, they now have the opportunity to collaborate and broaden their reach by pooling resources and agreeing on which projects to pursue together.
“When we got into this business, we looked at KCD sort of as the vascular system of the fashion business, with a lot of their clients at the heart of the fashion business,” Carino said. "We just viewed it as a way to take our clients and plug them in… in a way that we could mutually build businesses for our respective and combined clients.”
For example, Shah said that many of KCD’s fashion clients (Alexander McQueen and Givenchy, among others) look for content opportunities — television shows, movies, podcasts — while the CAA team has a roster of writers, producers, and other content developers with whom it regularly works.
As much as the partnership embodies the vision that KCD’s late co-chairman Ed Filipowski had for the business, it’s also reflective of the difficulty that the coronavirus pandemic has caused for those in fashion and entertainment.
Within the fashion space, brands have slashed their marketing and communications budgets, moving services in-house and ending years-long relationships with their agency partners, while events are at a virtual standstill. Within entertainment, sporting events and music concerts — two major revenue generators — are unlikely to return in full force until 2021 at least. Layoffs have plagued both industries. Notably, CAA confirmed plans to lay off around 90 agents and executives in late July and to furlough another 275 staff members.
CAA’s competitor, WME, acquired model and talent agency IMG in 2013, and has faced challenges merging the two worlds. “Fashion is steeped in heritage and the way things were always done,” IMG Co-President Mark Shapiro told BoF in 2017. “The industry is reticent to change.”
As for the KCD-CAA mashup, Carino is optimistic. “[Shah] and I have found it sort of the perfect environment to reimagine and reinvent what these businesses can evolve to be.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Ed Filipowski was the founder of KCD. This is incorrect. He was the co-chairman.