When Shonda Rhimes’ steamy period drama Bridgerton aired on streaming service Netflix late last year, it had an instant impact on fashion trends.
But Netflix and Shondaland, the TV production company behind the hit show, have plans for a much more direct relationship with the industry. The duo’s blockbuster production pact, signed in 2017 and expanded earlier this year, included plans to explore branding and merchandise deals. What that strategy looks like is beginning to emerge.
This week, Shondaland and Netflix announced they were teaming up with luxury footwear label Malone Souliers on a Bridgerton-inspired collection of shoes and accessories to coincide with the release of the show’s second season next year.
It follows a surprise drop of Bridgerton-themed Nap Dresses from lifestyle brand Hill House Home last week, released in collaboration with creative agency Phenomenal, which has stocked a line of Bridgerton-themed sweatshirts and tops since February. The special edition trio of the cult dresses sold out “in a matter of minutes,” according to the brand.
More tie-ups with fashion brands are on the cards in the future, said Chris DiIorio, chief strategy and business development officer at Shondaland. The opportunity to pursue fashion and merchandise partnerships linked to Bridgerton “was something that stuck out from the beginning,” he said.
For fashion brands, TV and cinema have long been powerful marketing vehicles, with brands boosting awareness and driving sales via product placements and licensing deals. For instance, Tom Ford dressed Daniel Craig in Bond films like “Spectre,” and sold a collection inspired by the wardrobe. Shondaland previously collaborated with online clothing retailer The Limited on a collection inspired by its hit ABC show Scandal in 2014, while reality TV show Love Island has an ongoing partnership with fast-fashion brand I Saw It First. But the way people interact with traditional media channels has changed, especially for the younger generation of fashion consumers. That’s opening up opportunities for new kinds of partnerships in a shifting media landscape.
“They [consumers] used to read physical magazines and newspapers ... They used to go to the movies, but movie theatres are going broke. They now spend inordinate amounts of time on social media, as well as on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and other streaming platforms,” Bernstein analyst Luca Solca wrote in a recent research note.
Earlier this year, New York-based Halston approached Netflix about launching a capsule linked to its series on the brand’s founder, Roy Halston Frowick. Halston’s web traffic surged 3,200 percent year-on-year in the month after the show first aired on May 14, while sales were up 631 percent. Shortly after the series debuted, the label released its limited-edition line of gowns inspired by the show. The dresses were priced between $945 and $1,595 and sold on Halston’s website and at Saks and Neiman Marcus stores across the US. The collaboration enjoyed an 81 percent sell-through rate on Halston’s own e-commerce site, the brand said.
“It was amazing, we saw tremendous amount of visitors to our website,” Halston brand president Andrea Scoli said. “We were gaining new customers, our engagement on Instagram went through the roof.”
Luxury’s biggest mega-brands have yet to forge formal partnerships with streaming services like Netflix, but experts say that could change down the line as they continue to gain traction.
“Brands in the future will probably cooperate more with Netflix rather than other traditional mediums, simply because these series have got a number of viewers that is pretty massive,” said Mario Ortelli, managing partner at strategy and M&A advisory Ortelli & Co.
There’s an upside for production companies, too. Partnerships with fashion brands are a way to further embed shows into the cultural zeitgeist. Shondaland is hoping partnerships like those with Hill House Home and Malone Souliers can help forge relationships with viewers that last long after they’ve finished streaming the series.
“We’re trying to allow as many opportunities as possible for our audience to continue to consume the content and be part of that Bridgerton world, even once they’re done viewing the content on Netflix,” DiIorio said.
Malone Souliers will release its 15-piece collection of Bridgerton-inspired shoes and accessories alongside the debut of the show’s second season in 2022. Netflix and Shondaland will provide marketing support to promote the collaboration, said Malone Souliers founder and creative director Mary Alice Malone.
The collection will span styles for men and women and will be sold via Malone Souliers’ own e-commerce site, as well as through the brand’s global network of wholesale partners. The companies declined to provide the financial terms of the deal.
“It does allow us a huge amount of new visibility,” Malone said. “And then also an introduction to, hopefully new consumers and an audience that maybe wouldn’t otherwise be aware of smaller, independent luxury brands.”
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on August 23, 2020. A previous version misspelled Roy Halston Frowick’s surname.