CFDA Members Design 'Haute Couture' Football Helmets

The initiative came about in conjunction with Bloomingdale’s and the NFL, to honor Super Bowl XLVIII being held in the New York area next month.

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with contributions from Marc Karimzadeh
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Diane Von Furstenberg

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Kenneth Cole

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John Varvatos

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It gives new meaning to fantasy football.

The roaring panthers, bucking broncos and lightning bolts on the macho helmets of surviving NFL playoff teams have been upended by happy florals, Mohawk streaks, moody embroidery, faux stretchy mesh and even a twinkling touch of Swarovski.

Fashion has finally landed on the gridiron, via a freewheeling array of 48 “haute couture” football helmets as part of the New York area’s inevitable Super Bowl frenzy, given its host status for this year’s game.

They’re one-of-a-kind helmets styled by members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America in conjunction with the National Football League and Bloomingdale’s, which also had its window design team create one of the helmets — a most treacherous one, with protruding miniatures of the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty that could do a lot of damage on the playing field.

Nicole Miller went feminine with a floral arrangement and stripes inspired by her spring collection; Dennis Basso didn’t go quite so soft, creating a helmet in fur, Mohawk-style, like a style-conscious warrior, while John Varvatos has a metallic, riveted look on his headgear, inspired by the gridiron gladiators. “Steel and rivets! What’s tougher?” noted Varvatos.

Donna Karan wasn’t exactly subtle, styling a helmet in bold DKNY lettering. Todd Snyder took it formal — a tuxedo helmet in gray flannel with a silk grosgrain stripe.

And Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman was unabandoned with her own artistic expression, creating a dark, almost neo-Gothic helmet covered in intricate embroidery and crystal accents. A native of England, Chapman knew practically nothing about American football until she got married to Harvey Weinstein. “He’s a huge Jets fan,” said Chapman, who regarded the project as “particularly fun — a football helmet is such a departure from what we normally design at Marchesa.”

Ya think?

On Jan. 15, with professional football’s postseason already in progress, Bloomingdale’s will unveil the helmets in the windows of its 59th Street flagship and online, and begin auctioning them off to support the NFL Foundation. The auction runs through Feb. 4 on Bidding on the helmets opens at $248, recognizing that it’s Super Bowl XLVIII.

Apparently, Bloomingdale’s has really caught the Super Bowl bug. The store has begun selling Super Bowl-related T-shirts, sweatshirts, tech gear, accessories and items for entertaining at home at select doors and online. Junk Food, Nike, Smart Turnout, Boelter Brands, Freshman Cap, Picnic Time, Nordicware and Brooklyn Brewery are among the brands participating. Other stores, like Macy’s, are also capitalizing on the Super Bowl, with pop-up shops and merchandise.

But Bloomingdale’s, a leader in fashion, has hardly been the go-to store for team jerseys or sporting goods. Fashion and football generally just don’t mix. That is unless it’s off the turf, as with Belk, for example, which has an exclusive men’s wear line with Cam Newton, the scrambling, tackle-evading quarterback of the Carolina Panthers, who are in the playoffs.

At Bloomingdale’s, “I don’t believe we have ever done a major collaboration with the NFL before this,” said Frank Berman, executive vice president of marketing. “Sports isn’t necessarily our strong suit. Certainly, players have made appearances for fashion labels, charities and special events. But there’s never been anything of this magnitude. The biggest piece is the collaboration with the NFL and CFDA.”

The Super Bowl, as Berman indicated, is more than just a championship game. “It’s one of the biggest cultural events in the U.S.,” he said. “It’s pop culture, and to be part of pop culture really is in our DNA.”

It’s also the right year for the New York-based Bloomingdale’s to really tie into the Super Bowl, considering it will be played in the New York area for the first time, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Feb. 2. Bloomingdale’s considers New Jersey its backyard.

The NFL saw a wider playing field for marketing, given the density of retailing in the New York area. “This is the retail capital of the world, and we took the opportunity to be totally unique,” said Natara Holloway, the NFL’s vice president of consumer products, brand, marketing and retail. Holloway said that although the league works with many retailers to sell its football and Super Bowl merchandise, Bloomingdale’s was not one of them, until this year. “This will allow us to reach a whole new set of fans and see the Super Bowl from a totally different perspective,” she said. “We have a retail development program, but there was no one in the luxury department store space.”

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