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Name Brands: Celebrity, R.I.P.

Posted by: Rachel Bernard on March 17, 2010

by Rachel Bernard and Emma Cofer

Remember the celebrity apocalypse? Here’s a quick and incomplete reminder: Bea Arthur. Billy Mays. Farrah Fawcett. Michael Jackson. Ted Kennedy.

Whether or not 2009 qualified as an all-out apocalypse, it wasn’t a winning year for many famous folk. For our purposes, these people are more than humans. They’re human brands, recognizable figureheads who toppled off of various empires into the abyss.

It may be too soon to predict the longer-term response to our early 2010 losses, but the tragic suicide of designer Lee Alexander McQueen drew a media buzz that’s still humming. In the fashion world, name-as-brand is a heightened responsibility because you aren’t just branding what you do; you’re branding what you create. McQueen’s clothes go out on the runway and out to consumers, wearable pieces of his personality and aesthetic. The recent semi-private display of his unfinished, final collection indicates that the public is unready to let him go.

Luxury/fine living blog Luxist reported on the postmortem show, quoting editors who found the spectacle “difficult to watch because it was soon clear that McQueen was fixated on the afterlife.” It was even set to the opera music the designer had been listening to as he worked on the collection.

Is this poor taste, fetishizing a tragic situation? Is it an appreciative farewell? Where is the brand going?

Alexander McQueen, as we see it, has several strategic options to move forward. This fashion label, which leaned so heavily on the personality and unique design of its founder, can stand alone without him by learning from the success stories of other brands that have survived the loss of a leader and namesake.

Stay tuned for a follow-up blog from our luxury experts.

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