Fashion and movies strut the runway together

Derek Zoolander and rival model Hansel wear Valentino on the catwalk; are we in a film?

Announcing a film sequel is a little like debuting a fashion collection — you need to get creative if you want to truly make a splash.

To officially confirm the start of "Zoolander 2" — a long-discussed follow-up to the over-the-top 2001 satire of the fashion world — costars Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson made a surprise appearance Tuesday at the Valentino show at Paris Fashion Week in character as air headed rival models Derek Zoolander and Hansel.

As the two strutted the runway and pouted for the cameras in what may well wind up as a scene in the film, Paramount Pictures announced that the sequel — which, like the first film, will be directed by Stiller — will hit theaters Feb. 12, 2016.

In an era when the boundaries between film and fashion — realms equally obsessed with beauty and image — have grown ever blurrier, here was a case of Hollywood literally hijacking the haute couture world. The carefully orchestrated deal, which was months in the making, served to simultaneously promote one of the most venerable fashion houses (Stiller and Wilson were both clad in Valentino) and the sequel to a comedy that grossed just $45 million in its original release but went on to become a much-quoted cult hit.

"Fashion is a very niche industry, and by doing this, you break the bubble," said Joe Zee, editor in chief of Yahoo Style, who served as a fashion consultant on the first "Zoolander." "Fashion and film have always had a relationship, but this is where you finally see the merger of fashion and pop culture. A lot of people today probably read the news and have no idea what Valentino or Paris Fashion Week are, but they're so excited they saw Derek and Hansel from 'Zoolander.' "

Hollywood has had a long history of trying to leverage pop culture's passion for fashion both on-screen and behind the scenes. There may have been no "Zoolander" without director Robert Altman's 1994 film "Ready to Wear," which took place against the backdrop of Paris Fashion Week and featured designers including Sonia Rykiel, Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian LaCroix in cameos.

In recent years, as funding for films has tightened and marketing budgets have shrunk, studios and filmmakers have been exploring ways to bring the fashion element beyond the multiplex. Inspired-by clothing lines and movie-merchandise tie-ins have become the norm. To piggyback on the release of its new live-action "Cinderella," the Walt Disney Co.'s consumer products division is offering everything from $4,595 Jimmy Choo glass-slipper-inspired shoes to light-up fairy godmother wands.

Some films have forged even deeper relationships with the fashion business. Catherine Martin mined the Brooks Brothers archives for her Oscar-winning costume design work in director Baz Luhrmann's 2013 remake of "The Great Gatsby," with Brooks Brothers returning the favor by launching a Gatsby collection of ties, jackets and accessories. More recently Arianne Phillips, costume designer for the action film "Kingsman: The Secret Service," designed an entire Savile Row inspired 60-piece menswear collection pegged to the launch of that movie.

Meanwhile, actors have all but entirely replaced models as fashion designers' muses and the faces of their collections. Jennifer Lawrence has done several campaigns for Dior and almost always wears Dior on red carpets. Some actors have even stepped into the role of designers, issuing clothing collections that bear their imprimatur, such as Matthew McConaughey's JKL line, which debuted in 2013, while, on the flip side, designer Tom Ford made his directorial debut with the stylish 2009 drama "A Single Man."

"It's all about partnering with people that makes sense in as organic a way as possible," said Annie Georgia Greenberg, senior style editor at the fashion website "It's the industries capitalizing on each other."

And if that partnership affords the sometimes humorless fashion industry a chance to loosen up and laugh at itself, as with the "Zoolander 2" stunt, so much the better. "It's like we're in on the joke but we're also the brunt of the joke," said Greenberg. "If more people are let into this exclusive world, no matter if it's making fun of it, I think it's ultimately positive."

For his part, Stiller has been attempting to mount a "Zoolander" follow-up for years. In a 2010 interview with MTV, he explained that the sequel's story, written by Justin Theroux, takes place a decade after the events of the first film, with Derek and Hansel now struggling to reassert their relevance.

"In the fashion world, if you go away for a year, it's changed," Stiller said. "It just happens so quickly."

The same could be said, of course, for Hollywood.

Times fashion critic Booth Moore contributed to this report from Paris.

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