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According to PLV chief executive officer Chris Nakatani, who joined the company in January from Kenneth Cole Productions Inc., where he served as president of wholesale, bringing Diaz on was “opportunistic” for the brand.
“She will engage her friends and associates to wear the product. That will be positive,” he said, while explaining that the PLV customer will be able to identify with Diaz.
“Our target customer is 35 years old, she’s affluent, she’s polished casual,” he said. “Cameron is very accessible, very down-to-earth. She earns a lot of money but she likes to know what she’s spending it on.”
Nakatani said that although Diaz won’t be the face of PLV — she does not want to be in front of the camera — her association with the brand will be “subliminal and subtle” and known to the consumer.
For Nakatani, the move is part of a larger strategy for the brand, which is in the process of re-branding in order to reach the next stage of growth.
“The biggest thing I’ve tried to bring is how the footwear and the handbags pair,” he said, referring to similar hardware and other details. “We don’t want them to match but pair, kind of like food and wine.”
Currently, he said the business is evenly divided between handbag and footwear sales. Since he’s joined the company, he has thought a lot about where PLV fits in the accessories market, and cites as competitors Tory Burch, Kate Spade, Rebecca Minkoff, Stuart Weitzman and Michael Kors.
For Nakatani, the next iteration of PLV’s re-branding is all about Diaz.
On the product side, the ceo hopes Diaz’s influence will translate to infusing the brand with a more “casual” style to offset more specialized, event-driven bags and shoes. According to the ceo, Diaz’s personal style will play a central role in the expansion of PLV’s everyday wear.
“When I first met Cameron, I asked her, ‘When do you wear jeans?’ She said, ‘Almost every day,’” the ceo said, explaining that the actress’ everyday wardrobe would be a sort of inspiration for PLV’s new direction.
If successful, other accessories categories, such as jewelry and sunglasses, will likely follow.
Although he would not provide sales figures, the ceo said PLV is looking for aggregated year-over-year growth of 20 percent and its retail distribution to double in the next two years. Started in 2007, PLV is carried at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, among others. The ceo hopes to extend the brand’s reach in Asia and Europe.
While that all sounds ambitious, it assumes Diaz’s appointment will be a growth driver and not viewed as a cynical attempt to bring attention to a scrappy midsize accessories company. And Nakatani is aware of that.
“The word ‘authentic’ is very important,” he said. “As we took a look at a number of brand associations and endorsements, one common theme we saw in the successful ones was the consistent contribution and pulse from the celebrity.”
He explained that the best partnerships had the celebrity engaged in cultivating the brand’s growth.
“We are not going to do a capsule collection that Cameron has her signature on because that doesn’t seem authentic,” he said. “We want her to have her influence on the entire line. This just can’t be another celebrity endorsement deal and that’s why she took an equity stake in the company. She has a vested interest in its long-term success.”
At first, David Giordano, PLV Studio creative director, confessed that the hire “seemed inauthentic.
“I’ve seen it done before,” Giordano said, referring to hiring a celebrity. “But what was exciting was that she wanted to come on staff and be part of the design team. She came in with this unblemished idea of what could be done. She didn’t come in with any preconceived notions.”
Giordano said while PLV wasn’t looking for a celebrity endorsement, it will likely benefit from Diaz’s life experience, which includes her background in film and exposure to travel, fashion and her A-list circles.
Diaz won Giordano over when they spoke about the contemporary market and her vision for the brand.
“Her career and life is about marketing and public perception,” he said. “She brings an expertise and vision for the brand that no one on the team has.”
And Diaz’s involvement will be “real,” said Giordano, who was putting together the actress’ schedule. While juggling a busy film career will be difficult — Diaz is currently shooting a movie and has a handful of films in production — she will take part in meetings either at the brand’s New York office or via Skype.
Whether Diaz will be a game-changer for the brand is still up in the air, but what PLV is currently working on is fine-tuning the product and launching an e-commerce site.
Social media will also play a large role in upping PLV’s platform. The company intends to spread the word about its new artistic director and her work on Twitter and Facebook, in hopes of expanding its reach.
With Diaz’s star still ablaze in Hollywood, PLV will likely accomplish the public relations bit rather easily. But whether the brand, with its new star by its side, can rise above its midmarket contemporaries once the hype fades, is another matter entirely.
“My general outlook on life is, I never try to imagine myself anywhere,” Diaz said, addressing her viability in fashion. “I just end up where I hope to be. I’m sort of focusing on what’s in front of me. It keeps me sane. I don’t worry about the future. It would really be stressful if I were trying to get myself where I need to be. It’s worked for me so far.”