Island News

Celebrity kiss of life

Written By : SUNFIJI NEWSROOM. A young, famous face can do wonders for the image of an out-of-touch label, writes Natasha Silva-Jelly. As the face of Australia’s oldest fashion label,
12 Sep 2009 12:00

Written By : SUNFIJI NEWSROOM. A young, famous face can do wonders for the image of an out-of-touch label, writes Natasha Silva-Jelly.

As the face of Australia’s oldest fashion label, it’s hard to deny Kristy Hinze has played a big hand in the recent evolution of Sportscraft.
At the ripe old age of 95 (that’s Sportscraft, not Hinze), the label appears to be shaking off it’s nanna tag and undergoing something of a sexy style makeover. Stores are being revamped, a new online shop is on the way and the clothes are receiving a much-needed hip injection, again with the help of Hinze.
Case in point: the 2008 “Kristy” bag, a woven leather handbag co-designed and named after Hinze, which sold out in two days. This was followed by a capsule collection of luxury knitwear last winter, based on styles and shades favoured by the high-profile model/television presenter/billionaire’s wife. Hitting stores next week is the latest Sportscraft-Kristy venture, a chic golf collection comprising mini-skirts, tailored shorts and polo T-shirts.
But before you assume Hinze’s interest in golf comes courtesy of her 65-year-old husband, Jim Clark, the fact is it’s the 29-year-old Queensland-born beauty who actually loves a round. Her first game was played against pro golfer Karrie Webb in a pro-am celebrity challenge on her native Gold Coast.
“For us, it’s been fantastic having Kristy on board,” says Sportscraft general manager Sonia Wong, who adds they weren’t actually searching for an ambassador. “She really embraces the spirit of the brand – she’s an optimistic Aussie with a hectic lifestyle who appreciates quality. We actually booked Kristy for our summer campaign three years ago and when we met her, we immediately liked her. She was so professional and as soon as we saw her in the product, that just topped it off.”
It’s not the first time the brand has worked with high-profile models. Indeed, the company has quite a history of it, beginning with a campaign starring Maggie Tabberer in the 1960s. To commemorate this and their 95th birthday – celebration plans are already in place to mark the 100-year milestone – an ad campaign starring Hinze alongside past Sportscraft stars, including Nerida Piggin, Jenny Hayes, Tanya Tozzi and Michelle Eabry, appeared in Vogue Australia’s recent 50th-anniversary issue.
“I already had pieces like the Sportscraft trench coat in my wardrobe, so it was great to come back to Australia after being away for a while and be associated with the brand, as it fits my lifestyle to a tee,” Hinze tells essentialStyle. “It’s the way I dress anyway, so it’s a perfect fit. I’m casual and classic and that’s always been the type of work I’ve done.”
When it comes to Hinze, it seems to have been a case of serendipity. Not long after signing on to Sportscraft in 2007, Hinze landed the coveted role as host of the hit fashion series Project Runway, a gig that would make her a household name. Then, of course, came the column inches she generated for her relationship with a dotcom billionaire 35 years her senior.
“The brand and the customer base is evolving and there’s no doubt Kristy’s profile has helped,” Wong says. “Kristy is also helping us understand the customer. We know that our customers are interested in golf and Kristy herself is passionate about it, so we collaborated together on something our customers enjoy.”
Hinze’s recent beach wedding in the Caribbean – for the record, Hinze was thrilled with her Oscar de la Renta dress and tells essentialStyle she felt like a princess – also provided inspiration for a new kaftan and resort collection, which is scheduled to hit stores in March.
“A few of us were fortunate enough to attend and some great ideas came from there,” Wong says.
Enlisting a famous face to flog your wares and refresh brand perception appears to be a notion catching on, particularly among labels that have long been relegated to a kind of grandma no man’s land. For Katies, the allure of small-screen veteran Georgie Parker, who was appointed brand ambassador earlier this year, appears to have paid off. When the actress appeared in her first campaign wearing a red trench coat, it literally walked out the door, according to a Katies spokesman.
Parker, who can now be seen spruiking the brand in television ads, print campaigns and catalogues, is a key component of Katies’ strategy to target the younger 30- to 35-year-old market and to appear more fashion-savvy.
Also on a rebranding mission is Portmans. No longer content to play second fiddle to tough chain-store competition such as Sportsgirl and Witchery, Portmans is again turning to the pulling power of a famous face to reignite interest.
Having enlisted Miranda Kerr to star in campaigns during 2004-07 – before the supermodel signed on the dotted line at David Jones in 2008 – for the new spring-summer season Portmans has jumped on the popularity of Australia’s Next Top Model, employing runner-up Cassi Van Den Dungen as the face of a new campaign styled by the fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar.
Also cashing in on the success of Top Model is Howard Showers, an iconic ‘80s label that has undergone an extreme makeover and appointed Charlotte Dawson as its launch ambassador.
“It has worked like a dream. As consumers, we all go to where we are most comfortable, so if you see a face you’re familiar with, it makes a brand more approachable,” says Danny Avidan, the chief executive of the Discovery Group, which owns the label.
And then there’s Sarah. A pioneer in the battle of the brand ambassadors, Sarah Murdoch gave everyday undie brand Bonds the celebrity kiss of life when she signed on. She was also a great distraction during the brand’s controversial decision to move manufacturing offshore – a decision Murdoch defended.
The task of making grandma’s Cottontails desirable was never going to be easy but that’s precisely what Murdoch did when she stripped down to her undies for print and television campaigns, prompting a surge in sales. Now she’s primed to do it all again with the recent release of Bonds’s bra range Supershape, which has sizes up to 18DD.
“Sarah has been a wonderful ambassador for Bonds – our customers can really relate to Sarah as fashionable,” the brand’s marketing manager, Tanya Deans, says.
Away from the spotlight, former model Murdoch, like Hinze, also lends her expertise behind the scenes. “Sarah actively involves herself in product development and trial, which is valued as we evolve new Bonds styles like the Supershape bra,” Deans says.

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