By Anna Merlan
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When an invite to the First Annual Sprite Street Couture Showcase arrived in our mailbox, we were confused. A fashion show to celebrate the rebirth of the Sprite brand, with a new bottle and an ad campaign? What exactly would the participating steetwear labelslines like Rocawear and Triple Five Soulbe featuring? Bottlecap bustiers? Gowns in a come-hither shade of lymon? The whole event sounded peculiar, about as odd as using Rocawear to sell more Sprite and Sprite to sell more Rocawear. But in a final press release, Sprite's Group Director, Don King, connected the dots for us: "Emerging fashion, hip-hop music, and authentic street culture have been part of Sprite's DNA for nearly two decades. By bringing together five fashion companies with distinct styles for the first Sprite Street Couture Showcase, we are celebrating the brand's roots in a fresh, contemporary way."
Well, all right. Just as long as it's part of Sprite's DNA. One can picture the ol' conference room where this deal was inked, the Sprite marketing execs whispering the lusty S-wordnot sex, but synergyand savoring visions of the new Sprite bottle in the hands of rap's latest and greatest. One could hate, but really, it's time to marvel at the marketing wizardry.
So we went last week, and we can tell you that Kanye West is just as excited about the new Sprite bottle as you. The national relaunch of a soda that had been on the market forever didn't seem like a watershed event, but Kanye, Missy Elliot, and AJ Soprano (Robert Iler) were among those who made an appearance. We couldn't see them past the flashing cameras and mass of bodies at Guastavino's, where the event was held, but Sprite swears they were. Across the runway from us, boxer Lennox Lewis managed to squeeze his massive frame into the tiny gray plastic seat with 10 times more grace than we did. (Don't ask us why the former world heavyweight champion garnered a crappier spot than Farnsworth Bentley.) In other news, James Marsden (Cyclops from the X-Men) looks exactly like that too-hot guy in college who nobody gets to sleep with, the one with the plastic-surgery-perfect schnoz.
We had fears the Sprite logo would be plastered across the breasts of models as they stormed the catwalk to "I Like the Sprite in You," exclusive DJ AM remix. But the event really was a bona-fide opportunity for Rocawear, Triple Five Soul, Etnies, WESC, and LRG to feature their Fall 2006 collections in a proper fashion show. This was streetwear in the hands of dream stylists: Rocawear showed a fur-lined denim jacket paired with zebra-print stilletto boots, hot pink bomber jackets with matching patent leather high heels, and Nanook of the North furry boots; Triple Five Soul put Top Model's Kim Stolz in a printed gray hoodie long enough to double as a dress, and dressed mohawked models up in Fair Isle sweaters; WESC (short for We are the Superlative Conspiracy), a Swedish clothing line started by surfers and skaters, accessorized its current collection of flouncy spring dresses with leggings and colorful cinch belts.
But the night really belonged to LRG, the southern California brand favored by rappers like West and Just Blaze. The focus was on the company's new women's collection, pieces clearly not intended for the shy: skintight overalls, denim short shorts meant to ride up; camo zip-up dresses, and jeans with rhinestone-studded pockets all made a noticeable appearance. Mid-segment, music video director Coodie (the mind behind West's "Through the Wire" and "Jesus Walks" videos) stormed the runway with video camera in hand. The event closed out with the fierce-looking Dominican supermodel Omahyra (Arclight in the latest X-Men) and Sports Illustrated swimsuit favorite Jessica White flanking one satisfied-looking male model in a green LRG jacket.
It was all so engaging that we almost forgot about the night's corporate sponsoruntil the lights flashed green and the Sprite logo popped up on video screens.
That's more like it.