MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA--Colombia Moda 2010: The show of local designer Camillo Alvarez is about to start. As I sit down at my seat, I find an unexpected freebie awaiting me: a canvas bag with the logo "Blancox" is filled with a range of washing powders--for whites, colors, wool. Quite a change from Mark Fast tights awarded to London Fashion Week goers.
The catwalk is also heavily branded with Blancox, the local equivalent of Persil detergent. And there’s more--before and after the show, the sponsor’s extensive advert is screened, and nobody seems surprised.
Over the week, I gradually collect free fabric softener, chocolates and fluorescent g-strings. A show, sponsored by a fridge factory, even hands out their store’s catalog, and holds a fridge demonstration outside the show (but gives no freezer away, sadly).
Sure, fashion weeks round the world have seemingly unrelated sponsors--Mercedes-Benz for Berlin Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week is one the most visible examples. However, in most cases, the sponsors remain slightly more under-the-radar than what I witnessed in Medellin.
But regardless, why was I so disturbed? Perhaps it's because these live infomercials break the theatrical bubble catwalks create, and brutally remind viewers they are watching a purely commercial event?
As Santiago Duque Mendoza, 24, local fashion student and socialite explained, “This isn’t like in Europe. Brands pay and there is little negotiation. The sponsor wants the highest brand visibility, and doesn't care about being subtle.”
What do you think? How much branding is just too much?