HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Ken Doctor: Why The New York Times hired Kinsey Wilson
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Sept. 24, 2009, 10 a.m.

Gray Lady couture: New York Times has a fashion hit

The top-selling item in The New York Times Store this summer was a set of rakish rain gear with a literal spin on journalistic transparency. Isaac Mizrahi, the clothing designer and reality-TV host known for democratizing couture, fashioned a see-through rain coat and umbrella for the Times, which offered the set for $99. (See photo at left.)

In his monthly memo to staff yesterday, Times president Scott Heekin-Canedy, channeling the Style section, called the ensemble “a summer sensation for The Times Store.” The umbrellas have sold out, and the rain coats (sold separately for $65) are in short supply, though I’m told more of both are on their way. The items were produced exclusively for the Times, but neither has the newspaper’s branding on it.

Though hot-selling merchandise will hardly cure the Times Co.’s cashflow woes, the collaboration with Mizrahi points to potential revenue streams for news organizations selling tangible, private goods. The Globe and Mail, in Toronto, sold out 500 spots on a luxury cruise with its journalists last year. And The Telegraph, in London, has found success selling items from tulips to panama hats. Obviously, newspaper stores aren’t just for framed reprints anymore, although Heekin-Canedy noted that a 40th-anniversary edition of the Times’ famous “Men Walk on Moon” front page, signed by Buzz Aldrin, was “one of the store’s most popular items” this summer, despite a $795 price tag.

The Times first collaborated with Mizrahi earlier this year, when he produced a silk scarf and leather hand bag in a warm palette that Adolph Ochs might have found garish. (A recent Times review of Mizrahi’s work described it as “awash in gorgeous color.”) The hand bag included a gothic “T” medallion on its handle, a subtle form of branding that’s absent from the rain gear.

In addition to its Times Store wares, the newspaper recently launched a wine club at $90 or $180 for six bottles. (The Wall Street Journal and USA Today are also hawking vino.) In his memo, Heekin-Canedy said that Times employees, many of whom absorbed a 5-percent pay cut earlier this year, can get a 30-percent discount on their first shipment from the club.

I kid about all this, but merchandise sales, whether t-shirts or transparent vinyl rain coats, are likely to play a significant role as news organizations scramble to replace print advertising revenue. Mizrahi, who gained fame as a designer for Target before moving to Liz Claiborne last year, once said of his work: ”My goal is that you won’t always be able to tell the difference between what is Target and what is couture.” For the Times, the idea is you won’t be able to tell the difference between a newspaper company and a fashion label. Stacy Green, a Times spokeswoman, told me in an email, “We are looking to work with other designers in the future as well.”

POSTED     Sept. 24, 2009, 10 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Ken Doctor: Why The New York Times hired Kinsey Wilson
The former chief content officer at NPR will be moving up I-95 to one of the most important digital positions at the Times.
Why Google is taking another shot at helping readers pay for news
Google Contributor is the latest tool the company has designed to help readers pay for what they read online. But its previous experiments in supporting paid content have had limited success.
In Canada, newspapers’ attempts to experiment with ebooks haven’t seen much success
A number of papers across the country started ebook programs in the early part of this decade, repurposing their archives or producing new work. They haven’t been the moneymakers some had hoped.
What to read next
718
tweets
Ken Doctor: The New York Times’ financials show the transition to digital accelerating
The numbers may look flat, but they contain a continuing set of ups and downs. Up next: executing on a year’s worth of launches.
540Here’s some remarkable new data on the power of chat apps like WhatsApp for sharing news stories
At least in certain contexts, WhatsApp is a truly major traffic driver — bigger even than Facebook. Should there be a WhatsApp button on your news site?
502Controlled chaos: As journalism and documentary film converge in digital, what lessons can they share?
Old and new media types from journalism, documentary, and technology backgrounds gathered at MIT to share practices and discuss mutual concerns.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
The Ann Arbor Chronicle
SeeClickFix
IRE/NICAR
The Washington Post
Seattle PostGlobe
Voice of San Diego
Public Radio International
Forbes
Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism
Drudge Report
The Daily Show
WikiLeaks