Client: Donna Karan
PR Team: Club 21(in-house)
Campaign: Opening of Donna Karan’s first European stand-alone store
Timescale: 26 September, 1996
Cost: dollars 400,000 PR and advertising (excluding launch party)
Donna Karan’s name has become familiar over the past ten years since her
label first appeared in Browns in London. Since then Harrods and
Selfridges have opened Karan concessions and her trendier, younger
designs with the DKNY imprint have become hot property since the five-
storey DKNY store opened on Bond Street two years ago.
Karan’s new 12,000 sq ft flagship store on New Bond Street is something
else again, designed to speak to customers ‘emotionally’, with -
according to the press information - ‘suspended stone floors feeling
like shifting planes of volcanic earth... a lacquered gnarified wood
stair rail inspired by a Masai warrior’s walking stick’. It will sell
top-end Karan clothes and accessories (ladies suits pounds 1,200, men’s
pounds 1,400) from shoes to ‘eyewear’.
The aim was to emphasise the difference between DKNY, with it’s young,
clean, basic black and white lines, and the much more sophisticated -
and expensive - Donna Karan label at the new store.
Although most people are familiar with Karan’s women’s wear, her lines
for men are less well-known, and the team wanted to promote this aspect
of the label. It was also a chance to raise money for the Gilda’s Club
(the cancer charity imported from the States by a Sunday Times fashion
journalist who persuaded Donna Karan to support it) and Marie Curie
Cancer Care. Guests were asked for a minimum donation of pounds 75.
The store opened in the week prior to its formal launch party, in what
was termed a ‘soft’ opening, but it was the party - held during London
Fashion Week - that Club 21 intended to be the centre of the media’s
‘We wanted to create something that London had never seen the like of, a
lump-in-the-throat beautiful kind of thing,’ said public relations
manager, Elaine Sullivan.
The first half of the evening was dedicated to a fashion show,
previewing Karan’s 1996 autumn collection, while the rest of the evening
was given over to serious partying. Admission was by designer
invitation only (many guests asked to keep them as souvenirs) and the
guest list was published in advance.
Top of the bill were Kylie Minogue, Noel Gallagher and Richard Branson,
‘people who aspire to be her customers’ according to Club 21.
Photographers and journalists from consumer and trade press, covering
fashion, building design and style were invited along too. The Demi
Moore and Bruce Willis ad campaign kicked off in mid-August, supported
by PR-planted stories focusing on everything from Karan’s designs for
men to profiles of Karan herself in the Guardian.
Articles appeared across a wide spread of newspapers and magazines, some
appreciated by Club 21, such as the Telegraph’s six-pager on celebrities
in fashion focusing on the Moore/Willis role in Karan’s campaign, as
well as coverage in Harpers and Queen, Tatler and Vogue.
Perhaps a measure of the saturation coverage of the opening is evidenced
in the six pages OK gave to Karan that week - which according to Club 21
was not negotiated. In the first week of the store opening, it sold
pounds 300,000-worth of clothes, and on the first Saturday alone, it
sold pounds 85,000.
Club 21’s soft approach succeeded in differentiating between the DKNY
youthful approach and the more aspirational classic lines at the new
By piggybacking its celebrity party on the advertising campaign
featuring Willis and Moore, while at the same time securing broadsheet
and glossy fashion magazine coverage of Karan the guru and her vision,
Club 21 manage to create that ‘elusive feel of exclusivity’.