(Bloomberg) -- Bet you never thought you’d utter the words "Anna Wintour" and "Cadillac" in the same breath.
Well, think again, bucko.
Last week, Cadillac hosted arguably the hottest ticket during New York Fashion Week this season when it allowed Public School to show its Autumn/Winter 2015 mens- and womens-wear collection in the automaker’s new offices at 330 Hudson St. The space is a huge, white, loft-style building dropped plum in the middle of the city’s coolest ’hoods: SoHo, Tribeca, and the West Village.
The Vogue editor sat front and center as Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow sent their long black and gray coats, loose urban pants, and strong wool tartan down the runway.
This is the building of which Cadillac scandalously (to some Detroit die-hards) announced late last year it will occupy 32,000 square feet as its national headquarters.
It was a move toward energy, creativity, relevance, and culture -- a move made all the more intelligent because of how subtly it was construed. There was no big announcement about the fashion-show get, no fanfare, no real badging, even, to announce that Wintour and Grace Coddington and Russell Westbrook and Mary J. Blige were all supping in Cadillac’s kitchen, as it were. I wonder if they even realized.
I like that strategy because I know fashion people. The moment they smell something corporate -- a sponsorship, a favor, a mandate -- they turn up their noses. “Ugh, this party is so corporate.” “Ugh, look at all that branding—fashion is so over.” “Ugh, all the collections this season are just about making money."
You get the idea.
Which is particularly difficult for automakers because automakers love branding. Love it. Go to any launch -- even a posh one for Ferrari or Ducati or Bugatti -- and you’ll see logos everywhere. On the napkins, on the pens, on the mouse pads and walls and table centerpieces.
But Cadillac, somehow, resisted the siren call of selling out to branding mania. (I’m sure Osborne and Chow’s team had plenty to do with that fact, and there was a depressingly gray-green Caddy parked inside at the New York menswear shows Cadillac sponsored several days prior, but, hey, baby steps.)
This discipline bodes well because it mirrors global luxury brands. The idea is that a product should speak for itself. In recent years the trend among high-end handbag makers and clothing designers is to forgo labels and tags on everything from packaging and accessories to the pièce de résistance itself. If an object is designed well, performs its function, and is of high-quality material, those who matter will recognize it regardless of place or space.
But back to Caddy. This show is just the start. We can expect to see more of this sort of thing from this fresh leadership team (Johan de Nysschen at the helm) as it officially opens shop in New York later this year.
If I don’t miss my guess, five years from now we’ll be talking about Cadillac in a whole new (sunlit-loft) light.