Mad Men

'Mad Men' as Fashion Muse

AMC Hit Has Brought Back the Skinny Tie, Slim Suits and Pearls -- and Inspired a Michael Kors Line

By Published on .

NEW YORK ( -- "Mad Men" has conjured up nostalgia, hostility and more than a few Emmy nominations. And now the slick world of Sterling Cooper is inspiring fashionistas everywhere.

Betty Draper, Mad Men
Mad Men Bloomingdales

From Madison Ave to Fifth Ave: Many designers have cited the show as an influence and retailers are stocking their shelves accordingly. This month, John Slattery (Roger Sterling) is featured in a six-page fashion spread in GQ.

The 1960s-era AMC series is causing a stir in the fashion world this fall, with designers citing it as their muse and retailers stocking their shelves accordingly. Thanks to Don Draper, Joan Holloway and the gang, slim suits, skinny ties, sheath dresses and pearls are finding their way into the closets of consumers.

"As far as TV shows go, ["Mad Men"] probably has the most influence [on fashion]," said Kevin Harter, VP-fashion direction at Bloomingdale's. "And we're going to see this influence continue."

Bloomingdale's is doing plenty to expose the show. The retailer has featured "Mad Men" in store windows and launched shops-in-shops that stock clothing, accessories and barware in keeping with the show's sensibility. The shops have been so successful, said Mr. Harter, that they will stay open through the fall season. An event with cast members at the end of September will be the culmination of the campaign.

The timing of the series, it seems, was perfect, offering a refreshing alternative to the flip-flops and baby-doll dresses that had become de rigueur. Michael Kors, who has cited the show as an influence for his fall collection, was tired of casual, dressed-down looks, said Billy Daley, VP-communications for the label. "[Michael] wanted to return to a polished, more dressed, more grown-up look," he said. "And he realized he was obsessed with 'Mad Men.'"

Fruitful friendship
Mr. Kors began watching the show last summer and eventually met creator and executive producer Matthew Weiner. The meeting led to a private screening of the season premiere for friends and fans of Michael Kors, as well as a newly launched gift-with-purchase promotion.

"It's been an amazing thing to be inspiring so many fashion designers," said Katherine Jane Bryant, the costume designer for "Mad Men." "I was really surprised. ... But it's been a long time coming. American fashion has been so comfortable for so long."

The show's influence and audience are growing quickly -- the series premiere pulled in nearly 2 million viewers -- and will only gain steam throughout the fall. Mr. Harter predicted that the cast will be regulars on the fashion circuit before long, noting that GQ features John Slattery, who plays Roger Sterling, in a six-page fashion spread in its August issue.

"Take a power magazine like GQ, and they're basically endorsing the show and certainly the style of the show. [GQ] has a lot of influence over the way men dress," Mr. Harter said.

Is that Draper down the runway? A sample of Michael Kors' fall show.
Is that Draper down the runway? A sample of Michael Kors' fall show.

AMC is fully embracing its newly minted fashion status. On July 30, the network launched a blog called Fashion File, which is authored by Faran Krentcil, founder of the website Fashionista. And although Target is the only official fashion or retail sponsor of the show, it's likely only a matter of time before new partnerships emerge. Linda Schupack, senior VP-marketing at AMC, said the Bloomingdale's partnership shows that the series can successfully live "off air."

"We're so pleased to get the fashion coverage because it's just another way into 'Mad Men.' And it's an important way in," Ms. Schupack said. "It's just a furthering of 'Mad Men' being a part of the pop-culture conversation."

TV can boost book sales, too

Michael Kors isn't the only one getting inspired by "Mad Men." Don Draper is also responsible for sparking a revival in sales of Frank O'Hara's poetry. After a few moments of exposure on a recent episode, sales of "Meditations in an Emergency," a book of poems published in 1957, skyrocketed, perhaps proving that for budget-starved book publishers, one smart brand integration can make all the difference.

'Meditations in an Emergency'
'Meditations in an Emergency'

Eric Price, associate publisher at Grove Press, would not reveal exact numbers but said that sales for the O'Hara book increased more than 218% compared with this time last year. Those are remarkable numbers for any book -- and unheard of for a collection of poems by an author who died more than 40 years ago.

Grove was not seeking a product placement. "'Mad Men' contacted us a few months ago for permission to show the cover," Mr. Price said. "They don't have to -- it's just a formality." Naturally, he was thrilled with the huge jump in sales.

Amazon could not release exact sales figures but said the title is now out of stock, and reviewers' comments on the site reveal they saw the book on the show. Amazon also confirmed it had only had one copy of the recently issued O'Hara anthology, "Selected Poems," in stock.

In the episode, Don Draper sits next to a beatnik type reading the book at Larre's, a midtown cafe where O'Hara composed some of his poems. The reader tells the suit-wearing Draper he doesn't think the book is his kind of thing. Draper later buys and reads it. At the end of the episode, he reads aloud part of "Mayakovsky," the last poem in the book:

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do, perhaps I am myself again.
"It's wonderful when a backlist book can get exposure to a younger audience," Mr. Price said, "especially when it's poetry."
-- Sherry Mazzocchi
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