Tarnished by association: why a rival brand gave Snooki a Gucci bag

By David Smiedt

You know Snooki, yes? The trash-talking, over-tanned American-Italian stereotype from the hit MTV show Jersey Shore.

12:31PM, Aug 18

You probably also know Gucci, the venerable Italian house of style whose interlocking “G” logo has been a byword for luxury, style and sophistication.
What do these two media entities have in common? Pretty much nothing except an Italian heritage. Well, that was until Snooki – real name Nicole Polizzi – ditched her until-then-ubiquitous Coach tote for a Gucci number. And the change in choice of accessory didn’t go unnoticed by Manhattan’s fashion connoisseurs.

One of the most switched on of these is Simon Doonan, style director of uber-luxurious fashion emporium Barneys. Writing in The NY Observer, he noted,

“Allegedly, the anxious folks at these various luxury houses are all aggressively gifting our gal Snookums with free bags. No surprise, right? But here’s the shocker: They’re not sending her their own bags. They’re sending her each other’s bags! Competitors’ bags!”

He even gave it a term: debranding. You’ve got to give credit to whoever it was (Mrs Prada, perhaps?) who delivered the offending tote to Snooki. It aimed to instantly de-value the high-fashion label in question, as potential buyers presumably recoil in horror at the prospect of wearing the same brand as that girl.

Of course, these luxe manufacturers aren’t the only A-list labels to have their status challenged by Z-list devotees. When a generation of rappers started equating luxury French champagne brand Cristal as the emblem of financial liquidity, the company’s boss, Frederic Rouzaud, referred to hip-hop’s support of his beverage as “unwelcome attention”. A miffed Jay-Z subsequently banned Cristal from his homes and clubs.

Another highbrow fashion firm to have its reputation unwittingly become mass market is Burberry – and its signature check pattern. In the late 1990s, counterfeit versions and the bizarrely patriotic chord it struck with travelling UK football hooligans saw the pattern slide on the prestige scale to the point where Burberry actually discontinued its once trademark baseball caps.

Which brings us to the problem with our current era of masstige. With designer brands now using the power of negative association, à la Snooki, it seems that 2011 will be the first year of the Chavs and the Chav-Nots.

Speaking of Snooki, here's what to do if your fake tan comes out a bit too Snooki-esque, as well as how to fix other beauty fails...

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