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The Euphoria Effect

The stars of the HBO high school drama are racking up brand partnerships, magazine covers and industry influence.
Euphoria cast tktk.
Euphoria cast members at the show's season two premiere. (Getty Images)

From Carrie Bradshaw’s eye-catching ensembles on “Sex and the City” to “Dynasty’s” shoulder pads, fashion and television have long been intertwined.

Lately, no show has personified that alignment more than “Euphoria,” HBO’s smash hit high school drama centred around Rue, a character played by Zendaya, a superstar of both style and screen. The show is a juggernaut not just on screen, but online: Euphoria is already the most tweeted about show of the decade so far in the US — driving over 30 million tweets since its second season premiere on Jan. 9, according to Twitter.

Since it first aired in June 2019, the show has become synonymous with loud looks in both fashion — ‘90s-inspired sets, cut-out dresses, mesh tops, vintage streetwear, dominatrix-inspired harnesses, lots of sparkles and fishnets — and beauty, as makeup artist Doniella Davy has brought new attention to facial glitter and colour experimentation.

“Euphoria” has helped brands like apparel label I.Am.Gia blow up and landed Davy with her own, soon-to-launch makeup line. But it’s also generated buzz that’s proved more pervasive than the likes of “Emily in Paris” and the “Gossip Girl” reboot, shows that are a bit more directly fashion-oriented. With its style success, though, “Euphoria” is bolstering its fashion chops. Since its second season premiere, the show’s styling has played more with higher-end fashion. Its first episode alone featured characters in Prada, Miu Miu, Jean Paul Gaultier and Amina Muaddi.

Outside of the show, the young cast members on “Euphoria” have the fashion industry and fashion media’s rapt attention, landing a growing number of brand ambassadorships, collaborations and campaigns, as well as magazine covers and spreads. The deals reach across the cast, from Zendaya’s relationships with Valentino, Lancôme and Bulgari and Hunter Schafer’s Prada partnership, to Barbie Ferreira becoming the face of YSL Beauty. Even Euphoria’s rookie actors are in the spotlight. Both ex-adult film star Chloe Cherry and street-cast Angus Cloud’s have been billed as fashion week fixtures.

Typically conflict-avoidant luxury brands are buying into the actors of the edgy show — whose subject matter includes drug abuse, sexual assault and abortion — because the payoff is worth it. The “Euphoria” effect is an undeniable cultural force. But it’s not solely tied to the show: Fashion brands’ investment in the show signals their conviction that these actors will be the fashion brokers of tomorrow and continue to create impact even after the show’s conclusion.

“[Brands] are looking for … who’s going to have stickiness in a long-term way,” said Brian Phillips, brand expert and former Garage magazine creative director. “What you’re getting with these actors is really compelling people in front of and off-camera.”

Of course, it helps that “they’re all just incredibly hot,” added Phillips.

The ‘It’ Factor

The “Euphoria” cast has found themselves in high demand for everything from front row seats at fashion shows to starring roles in campaigns with major brands.

Casting director Jennifer Venditti’s unconventional approach has contributed to the cast’s relatability and leveragability. Courtney Worthman, executive vice president of brand and agency partnerships at celebrity marketing agency Burns Entertainment, speculates Venditti’s experience casting models has lent her an eye for talent who makes an impact editorially, not just on screen.

Some of the actors already had dabbled in fashion before the show’s premiere: Hunter Schafer walked for big names like Dior, Miu Miu and Rick Owens, while Barbie Ferreira got her start modelling for American Apparel. Most notably, the “Euphoria” cast represents a variety of body types, sexual orientations, identities and racial backgrounds — often a rarity in TV, especially in an American high school drama.

From its pilot episode, the show — with costume designer Heidi Bivens at the helm — pushed fashion and beauty boundaries, and tied the two intimately to the story. Character development can be traced in everything from the characters’ clothes to their nail and skin care routines. Sydney Sweeney’s character Cassie descends into paranoia, marked by her intense 4 a.m. beauty routine and dressing in dramatically different looks to get her best friend’s ex-boyfriend’s attention; the style of Hunter Schafer’s character Jules gets darker as her relationship with Zendaya’s Rue intensifies.

These details have helped make the fashion in “Euphoria” more compelling than other shows, which tend toward “fashion for fashion’s sake,” like the aforementioned “Emily in Paris,” said Worthman.

“Euphoria” speaks to the zeitgeist at a time brands have recognised Gen-Z’s buying power and are looking to capture it. The show is indicative of their values, such as prioritising diversity and representation, said Worthman.

“If you’re not marketing to Gen-Z, you’re dying,” said Worthman.

With all that attention, the actors have been able to be picky about partnerships, playing the long game and targeting high calibre affiliations, said Worthman, who added that when she worked with Sydney Sweeney a few years ago on a Fossil campaign, her team already had their sights set on larger brands.

Going forward, Worthman is most excited to see what’s in store for Angus Cloud. He proved his star power during fashion week, when he generated $3.4 million in media impact value (MIV) for Coach after sitting front row, according to Launchmetrics. He was just named the new face of Polo by Ralph Lauren fragrances.

For the entire “Euphoria” cast, their influence in fashion is just getting started — the drama was renewed for a third season on Feb. 4.

Further Reading

Doubts over the reliability of advertising data from platforms and the dubious nature of so-called vanity metrics are forcing marketers to think smarter about how they measure success moving forward.

Brands have figured out how to go viral on TikTok, but holding young consumers’ attention for longer than it takes to swipe to the next video remains a challenge. Fashion must take a cue from the platform’s most successful creators and build an online persona that doesn’t need to hop on the latest trend.

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The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.
Voices 2022
© 2022 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions and Privacy policy.
Voices 2022