Does the future of fashion run through the studio back lot?
Fox Consumer Products, the licensing and merchandising arm of Twentieth Century Fox, thinks it might. The folks who made it possible to purchase "The Simpsons" skateboards, "Avatar" pinball machines and "Cosmos" wall calendars inked a long-term licensing deal earlier this year with high-end but under-the-radar Italian menswear designer Domenico Vacca, whose self-named label has just a handful of boutiques but a star-studded client list that includes Daniel Day-Lewis, Mickey Rourke, Alan Arkin and Jeremy Piven. (Vacca has outfitted the last both offscreen and in his onscreen "Entourage" persona of uber-agent Ari Gold.)
The arrangement — which marks Fox Consumer Product's (FCP) first full-fledged foray into fashion — gives the designer and his 12-year-old brand instant access to that company's global licensing infrastructure.
"Fox has something like 90 people around the world who sign licensing deals for Fox shows and characters — who follow the licenses and develop them," Vacca said during a recent visit to his local boutique at the Montage Beverly Hills. "So it's practically like I acquired a licensing department with offices around the world. [They will] represent us not just for [licensing deals] but on different platforms as well."
Vacca's exquisitely handmade suits, made from ultra-luxurious fabrics, are characterized by bold checks, stripes and color choices, and they are filled with subtle sartorial touches such as a second shirt collar button that's designed to keep the collar from slipping under a jacket lapel.
An off-the-rack dress shirt starts at $490, a suit jacket at $2,600 and a suit at $2,900. Custom suits can cost as much as $25,000. The quintessential Domenico Vacca man? Think Daniel Day-Lewis, who chose the designer for two trips down the Academy Awards red carpet, taking home his lead actor Oscar in 2013 clad in a custom-made, royal blue Domenico Vacca tuxedo with a black grosgrain shawl collar.
Though familiar in celebrity, stylist and menswear magazine circles, the designer and his label are far from a household name. He currently has only seven boutiques worldwide. In addition to Beverly Hills, U.S. stores include New York City and Miami Beach, Fla.; Mayakoba, Mexico; Milan, Italy; London; and Doha, Qatar; (Palm Beach, Fla., and Abu Dhabi doors are set to bow in July and September respectively). For Vacca, the licensing deal is part of a long-term plan to grow his overall business, particularly his retail network.
"I see 40, maybe 50 stores in major markets around the world in the next decade," Vacca said. "And at the same time [I want to] grow the licensing business in categories that are important for us — like fragrance for example. Maybe someone can't buy a $3,000 suit but they can go home with a $160 to $200 fragrance."
But Vacca says the first order of business is a book project. FCP is helping him shop around a book that combines style advice with the designer's stories of dressing Hollywood elite. ("Not gossip, though," Vacca is quick to add.)
Also under consideration? A possible TV show. "I don't want to do a reality TV show, I have something to lose," Vacca said, "We have to come up with a different format, a different concept — [and] we're almost there."
Room for growth was one of the things that made a licensing deal attractive, said Fox Consumer Products President Jeffrey Godsick.
"I think Domenico Vacca has done incredibly well on his own," he said. "He now has [almost] 10 stores, he's incredibly high-end, he uses the absolute best fabrics … and now we're going to be able to take that to a broader consumer — not necessarily mass by any means yet — but to a broader consumer [and that's] a good opportunity for him and a good opportunity for us."
Godsick said it was too early to talk specific plans, but that the licensing deals and more traditional brand extensions would be the first fruit borne of the partnership.
But it's the future potential for leveraging Vacca's sartorial skills on behalf of big- and small-screen Fox projects that make the relationship worth watching down the road.
"If you look at what he has done for 'Entourage,'" Godsick said, "It gives you a good example of one of the kinds of things we could be talking about [doing]. I think a big part of [Piven's] Ari Gold character is the clothes that he wears, so, in that sense, having a relationship with a true high-end designer who can work with us on some of our shows to create character traits or character looks like he has done for that show could be very beneficial."
And that, pun only partially intended, is Vacca's strong suit. In addition to working with "Entourage" costume designer Olivia Miles to create clothes for Piven's character on both the HBO TV series (which ended in 2011) and upcoming Warner Bros. feature film (slated for mid-2015 release), Vacca has had a hand in the onscreen look of characters in more than a baker's dozen TV shows and movies including Denzel Washington in "American Gangster," Forest Whitaker in "Street Kings" and Dustin Hoffman, Will Ferrell and Queen Latifah in "Stranger Than Fiction." (While Vacca makes women's clothes and accessories too, it represents a much smaller part of his business.)
Godsick points to what he calls the "tremendous success" of efforts to leverage FCP's premier property in the luxe fashion arena, licensing the cartoon residents of Springfield for use in Jeremy Scott's Fall/Winter 2012 collection and more recently with streetwear brands such as Japan-based Bathing Ape and L.A.-based Joyrich.
"I think [fashion] is now so closely aligned with entertainment because of some of the TV shows that focus on it, like 'Project Runway' and 'America's Top Model,' and look at pop culture magazines," Godsick said. "Fashion is no longer just for people who are interested in clothes. It really overlaps with so many different things.
"Because of that, I think there is a tremendous opportunity — from a collaboration standpoint — with entertainment, starting from the ground up."