Alongside blue-chip art pieces and celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Gwyneth Paltrow, fashion and beauty brands were among those joining in the Frieze LA festivities over the past week.
With an estimated 35,000 attendees flocking to the art fair that ran from February 17 through the weekend, Frieze LA’s pandemic comeback was a prime branding opportunity for luxury labels. While less brand-heavy than Art Basel events, Frieze saw its fair share of activations by labels seeking an audience interested in the finer things in life.
Matches Fashion, a sponsor for the event, had the heaviest presence at the fair itself. The luxury e-tailer sponsored a booth featuring fashion items by brands including Balenciaga and Jacquemus paired with art pieces. Offsite, it set up an IRL shopping experience at a Beverly Hills mansion that doubled as a site for VIP dinners and events throughout the week.
“We find Frieze a very relevant partner, in terms of their audience and our audience, and this sort of crossover generally around creatives,” said Jess Christie, chief brand and content officer at Matches Fashion.
Now back in action following a pandemic hiatus, the world’s top art fairs continue to attract luxury labels. Matches Fashion began sponsoring Frieze fairs in 2019 after running surveys of its customers and finding that they consider art a top interest.
Also active over the Frieze LA weekend was Prada, which hosted its seventh Prada Mode private club, at famed restaurant Genghis Cohen, which held talks and celebrity-studded parties throughout the week.
For luxury startups, art fairs serve as a way to gain visibility with a relevant audience. At the Matches Fashion booth at Frieze, visitors had the opportunity to scan a QR code to sign up for the e-tailer’s mailing list and receive a $100 voucher. They also received an artisanal chocolate bar with a “golden ticket” directing them to a Beverly Hills mansion, where they could receive an extra $100 and shop in person from racks of designer clothes set up throughout the property.
This has proven to be an effective strategy for Matches Fashion in the past. For a similar promotion at Frieze London, 10% of attendees signed up, adding over 10,000 customers to the retailer’s mailing list.
While luxury fashion has long been active in the art world, more beauty brands have also been taking part in the art fair circuit in recent years. Eight-year-old luxury French fragrance brand Ex Nihilo, a favorite of Hailey Bieber, specifically chose the week of Frieze LA to open its first standalone U.S. store.
“We are really related to the art scene,” said Benoît Verdier, co-founder of Ex Nihilo, noting that the brand’s customer base is the “artistic community that you can find in Miami, Los Angeles, Paris.” The brand invited customers in town for Frieze to a store opening party.
Art fairs are also a key time for brands to connect with their top VIP customers. Matches Fashion, for example, offers free tickets to Frieze art fairs to its biggest spenders. For Frieze LA, it invited 80 VIPs, who were also able to take part in the fashion dinners and parties it hosted throughout the week at its mansion pop-up.
“We see loyalty — really rewarding and looking after customers — as critical,” said Christie. “If you’re a luxury fashion brand, now, it’s really important that you look after the customer [and] that they feel very rewarded and also very heard.”
Cultivation of a VIP customer list can be both an art and a science. For Ex Nihilo, building up its VIP list, which includes many collectors and gallerists from Paris, is “really organic,” said Verdier. “It’s mainly friends of friends and a lot of networking.”
For brands, that includes an ongoing involvement with the art world. Ex Nihilo plans to incorporate more art into its new Los Angeles store, including commissioning and selling works in-store, as well as creating olfactory signatures and scent diffusions for local art galleries.
“We do something with art through our content every month, at least, and through the talent that we work with in partnership,” said Christie. “Our strategy often revolves around art, and it will continue to be one of Matches’ real pillars of the business.”