Some of the most influential names in fashion, including journalist Suzy Menkes, Lanvin creative director Alber Elbaz, designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana — are shilling for…"The Minions"?
No, you're not being punked.
The first short film produced by publishing giant Conde Nast's new, dedicated video division, which posted Monday at Vogue.co.uk, enlists a who's who of British style to talk about the little yellow stars of the upcoming Hollywood summer movie "The Minions," which opens July 10.
The four-minute video, "Vogue Presents the Minions," was created for Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment, and features Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes interviewing designers about the influence of the cartoon characters on their work.
"What's the most famous name in fashion? Why Vogue of course," Menkes says in her British accent. "There's only one other name that everyone in fashion knows and loves, "The Minions"!
"They're the ones that help, they're the ones that tells me what to do," says Lanvin's Elbaz.
"When they say 'yes,' I know the fashion world will say 'yes,'" says milliner Stephen Jones without cracking a grin.
"Their Minion yellow hands have been all over my empire," adds shoe designer Rupert Sanderson.
The film, a blending of commercial and entertainment content, provokes a smile, if not an all-out chuckle. It was created by the new Conde Nast Digital Video team, led by Danielle Bennison-Brown, and directed by Danny Sangra.
"Video is a key strategic opportunity for us, and with our dedicated team we will be evolving content for a new generation, as well as for our existing audiences," Wil Harris, head of digital of Conde Nast Britain, commented in a news release.
"Collaborations are an important part of our strategy, as evidenced in the partners we have worked with across this initial phase of programming," Bennison-Brown says in the announcement.
It certainly is an interesting collaboration, which flies in the face of branding co-opportunities traditionally seen around animated summer blockbusters, which tend toward the Happy Meal and DQ Blizzard variety. If Conde Nast is at the luxury end of this high-low collaboration equation, "The Minions" are most definitely at the baser, pop culture end.
But maybe that's the point—the fact that it is such an unusual collaboration is attention-grabbing. It's a signal that Conde Nast and Vogue don't take themselves too seriously, that fashion can be fun and accessible, just like a summer popcorn flick.
While the audience for "The Minions," a kids film voiced by Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm among others, is presumably a little young to be reading Vogue, it's probably never too early to start cultivating brand awareness. And there is a British flavor to the film to support the British fashion tie-in. Set up as a prequel to the 2010 "Despicable Me," "The Minions" has its yellow cast working as henchmen for an evil queen in London, who instructs them to steal St. Edward's Crown.
The populist approach has certainly worked for Vogue before; one of Vogue.com's most popular features has been "73 Questions," a breezy video series shot in one take that asks fashion personalities what they like and hate, often to hilarious effect. (When asked to name the movie version of her life, Victoria Beckham deadpanned, "Hunger Games.")
And the appeal of associating with Vogue is a no-brainer for Universal Pictures—access to a high-end audience, including moms who, in on the joke, might now choose to take their kids to see "The Minions" themselves, instead of sending them with the babysitter.
The launch of Conde Nast Video is the latest in a series of efforts by fashion magazines to reinvent their business models to compensate for declining print revenue, and appeal to younger, digitally oriented audiences. Several magazines have launched e-commerce sites, including Harper's Bazaar and Elle. But Conde Nast, which owns Vogue, Glamour, Allure and GQ, among other titles, has been the most aggressive about moving into the entertainment space, announcing in April that it plans to produce 2,500 new videos across 18 branded channels in the next year, working to translate the editorial vision of the magazines onto the screen.