WHAT WOULD Marilyn Monroe wear today if she were out for a night in the meatpacking district?
Designers have actually asked this question in preparation for a new collection arriving at Macy’s in March, one that, in the words of Macy’s, “reimagines the style of the greatest icon of the 20th century for the 21st-century fashionista.”
It’s big news in the world of fashion licensing, bigger than the Postal Service lending its motto to a “Rain Heat & Snow” collection, when a celebrity who died 50 years ago suddenly starts a clothing label. Macy’s plans to carry Marilyn Monroe designs in 150 stores, targeting younger shoppers with updated styles for modern blond bombshells. Not to sound prudish, but this means shorter, racier, Kardashianer.
Take a very little red dress for $ 59.50, a preview of what is to come, sold at Macy’s this month to benefit the American Heart Association. It evokes several famous Monroe looks, only she typically wore her dresses below the knee, as opposed to below the nothing. Denim shorts, $ 39.50, are cut short enough to see pockets.
While Norma Jeane jeans may sound peculiar in a competitive market dominated by living celebrity designers, like Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson and now Rihanna, Macy’s has done its homework. Monroe’s name still resonates strongly among millennial shoppers, roughly ages 13 to 30.
“If you hear them speak and what they like,” said Martine Reardon, the chief marketing officer of Macy’s, “they are very vocal about how short they want it, how baggy they want it and how ripped they want it.”
Two years ago, the Monroe estate was acquired by Authentic Brands Group, which plans to use her likeness to sell lingerie, jewelry, shoes. Last year, a Marilyn Monroe Cafe opened in Canada, and MAC offered cosmetics under her name. As a designer, she evidently has a lot to offer.
“Many celebrities of today, and I say that with air quotes, are one D.U.I. away from a disaster,” said Nick Woodhouse, a president of Authentic Brands. “With Marilyn, all of her dirty laundry has already been aired.”