Beene Counters Cancer with Philanthropic Initiative

Lookin’ good Colin Jost! The Saturday Night Live writer/performer was revealed yesterday as the new spokesmodel for the fall Geoffrey Beene menswear line to a few select members of the press at a power luncheon chez Michael’s. While Beene, the inscrutable multiple award winning American designer who mentored former apprentice Alber Elbaz and others, is gone, his name lives on in a men’s global lifestyle brand with an extremely charitable angle. When I received the invitation to the luncheon I assumed that Jost would be attending however I soon realized that the ad campaign photos, encased, brick-like in heavy clear glass blocks would be as close as we would get to having him avec nous.

In the current ads featuring the tagline “GBGB Geoffrey Beene Gives Back,” (the logo is in a similar typeface to the fabled punk club CBGB), the company displays their commitment and promises more than most fashion brands. One hundred percent of all net profits (that’s right, 100%) are given to fund revolutionary new cancer research at the Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  Since the beginning of this initiative in 2006, which was the brainchild of company CEO and president Tom Hutton,  the Beene brand will have donated $144 million to date this year. Beene died of cancer in 2004 and would surely approve of the company’s wholehearted mission to further research and treatment “He couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a cure” said Russell Nardozza, SVP and COO of the company.

Colin Jost

How was Jost anointed as the brand ambassador? “A lot of people are looking at comedians as the new face of entertainment,” said Andrew Egan of CoolGraySeven agency, the creators of the print, outdoor and digital media campaign. “Colin Jost can wear the clothes as well as appear in a video about the Foundation for Cancer Research. He’s the face of the brand and the talking head, so we were able to marry the two.” Egan added that the agency sought a lighter approach to the philanthropic program, not wanting to be too heavy- handed with the message. “Millennial customers like brands that give back to charity. We had to find a tasteful way to communicate the message. Colin Jost got on board straight away,” he said.

Colin Jost

The campaign will be a “360 degree all touch point enterprise” and Jost will be doing his part by using his social media accounts to promote the line, available at Macy’s.  As the brand is represented by a licensing business model under non-profit structure there is no designer specified for each of the U.S. and International licensees. Instead they are overseen by Merle Sloss, Executive VP and President of Licensing. All areas of men’s and boy’s apparel are represented as well as accessories and home goods such as towels and bath rugs.

Upon examining the ad photos my first impression is that Jost appears more rugged with his slightly scruffy beard than the clean shaven pretty boy seen on SNL. Egan, in his delightful British accent, recounts that the show’s costume designer was with him as they selected clothing for the ads yet it’s doubtful that Jost kept anything from the shoot as many of the clothes were reportedly too large on him. It’s good to know that if Jost’s comedy career is derailed for any reason ( ahem…”Staten Island Summer”), he can always “Zoo-land(er)” a modeling job.

Mr. Nardozza, who has been with the company since the days of the legendary Mr. Beene himself, mentioned that their offices still occupy the same space and house an archive of around 1,500 pieces of women’s wear. In response to a question I posed regarding whether Beene (one of many to have had a falling out with WWD publisher John Fairchild) had any friends in the industry, Nardozza mentioned that he was very fond of famed publicist Eleanor Lambert whose 100th birthday party both he and the designer attended. Sadly, she had ordered a Geoffrey Beene jacket just two weeks before her death.

If you should find yourself at Michael’s, I highly recommend the delicious chicken paillard (hold the fennel) and a seat facing into the room so you can check out the famous faces. Ensconced by the large bay windows, I kept a constant vigil on the stormy weather (sky darkening, umbrellas up, umbrellas down, rain falling sideways), but was unable to see anyone of note over my shoulder (was that Jeffrey Katzenberg?) in the main dining room.

At exactly 2:31 p.m., there was a loud and long buzzing alarm sound as everyone in the restaurant’s phone signaled a synchronous flash flood warning in unison. I hope this never occurs during a performance of “Shows For Days.” As Patti Lupone is not an octopus I can’t imagine how she’d deal with that!

– Laurel Marcus

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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