There's no question that BCBG Max Azria is entering a completely different market at the beginning of 2019 than the one it once dominated; as the world of mall retailers began to struggle in the late aughts, so too did the celebrity-beloved brand. In just the past few years, there were store closures, the departure of founder Max Azria, as well as his wife Lubov, who served as creative director and CEO, and, like so many of its peers, bankruptcy proceedings.
But there were signs of life in BCBG Max Azria, including reports that the brand was thriving on resale sites — surely giving new owner Marquee Brands hope that BCBG Max Azria could find a new audience in this brave new world. So this year — the brand's 30th anniversary — Marquee Brands set out on the task of reviving BCBG Max Azria for today's customer, tapping Bernd Kroeber to serve as creative director and, for the Spring 2019 campaign, bringing on Kate Young as Creative Consultant. It was an exciting task for the Hollywood stylist — and a nostalgic one.
"You know, I used to shop at BCBG a ton when I first moved to New York and I was an assistant at Vogue; a lot of us would go to BCBG on Madison and buy outfits to wear out for the weekend," Young says, describing one red, layered chiffon dress that was an obsession of hers at the time. "That's how I think of the brand: It's very on-trend and stylish, but approachable and not so expensive that it's an impossible thing for someone who's young to wear."
Young worked alongside Kroeber and his team to make suggestions about everything from the cut of a trouser or a needed pop of color to fabric choices and embroidery details, helping to shape the new BCBG Max Azria into something that wouldn't just appeal to the daily needs of women, but to their desire for something fashionable and fun, as well. The inspiration was "Modern Goddess" — more millionaire CEO than marble statue — resulting in soft yellow and pink suiting, striped day dresses and sexy, draped choices for evening. It was the range of offerings that was most appealing to Young.
"BCBG is interesting to me because it provides clothes for women for all the different things that most women have going on; like, it has a great suit that you can wear to work, and it has a fancy top that you can wear to drinks, and then it also makes these evening gowns," she explains. "They are something that was sort of out of fashion for a long time, but I feel like they make a lot of sense right now — look at all the female congresswomen. We're trying to become as powerful as we've always known we are in the real world, and I think there's something really fun about wearing a suit, and also confidence-building."
That theme of female empowerment carried into the campaign, shot by Zoey Grossman and dominated by women on set with an all-female team. When it came to choosing the star, the brand went with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, model-turned-actress-turned-mom-turned-businesswoman — in other words, the kind of multi-hyphenate woman BCBG Max Azria is going after in this new iteration.
"That's what's alluring about Rosie: We all know she has lots of different roles in life, and I think that we want the clothes to work that way too," Young says. "We want to have a top go to work, and then take the jacket off and have it be practical for a dinner or cocktails. The clothes really fit the modern lifestyle, how a woman needs to use her clothes to feel good, strong and cool."
For her part, Huntington-Whiteley was drawn to the female empowerment theme, something she says she tries to relay in every one of her projects these days. She recalls the experience on set as being a "very seamless, relaxed" environment, adding, "It's not always that way when you do a campaign shoot; the energy was mellow and relaxed and calm and I think that's really reflected in the images."
"For me, it was kind of like a no-brainer and I was just excited to be part of such a special brand," she continues. "Kate's done such an incredible job at BCBG this spring; she's got such an incredible eye and she's done such a great job of selecting the color and the artwork and the fabric and embellishment. That's really just gone along to make this collection so beautiful."
Whether the new BCBG Max Azria collection will appeal to the non-supermodels amongst us remains to be seen, but certainly, having the stamp of approval from a busy woman like Huntington-Whiteley is an auspicious way to start out.