Published on September 30, 2019, at 4:33 p.m.
by Christina Guyton.
What do you think of when you hear New York Fashion Week (NYFW): expensive garments, exclusive crowds, exquisite taste, esteemed brands? Does the guilty orange pleasure found at every gas station, represented by the coolest animated cheetah, seem to fit? While Chester Cheetah sports in-vogue, chunky, white sneakers and permanently adorned sunglasses that rival that of Karl Lagerfeld, this messy snack, with its signature fingerprint residue, should never see the inside of an atelier.
Despite its orange stains, the cult brand made a spicy entrance on the catwalk as Cheetos’ House of Flamin’ Haute Couture. The Cheetos-centric line hit the runway this month at NYFW, featuring looks inspired by fans on social media, recreated by fashion influencers and stylists. This attention-grabbing PR play culminated with a finale piece created by award-winning designer Ami Goodheart who has created for style icons like Lady Gaga and Ciara.
But this is not Cheetos’ first introduction to the fashion world. Earlier this year, Cheetos collaborated with Forever 21 to create a line, and the snack was featured in a 2018 Chromat Fashion Week show.
Cheetos has also been unofficially endorsed by major celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Britney Spears and supermodel Bella Hadid. Katy Perry’s 2014 Halloween costume saw her in a full-body Cheeto paired with a Flamin’ Hot Crunchy bag turned purse. Madonna’s ultimate cool-girl character in the 80s classic “Desperately Seeking Susan” made Cheetos the chicest snack, as she munched lying poolside and walking around NYC, dunking her white lace gloves into a family-sized bag.
Cheetos continues to expand its influence through unexpected partnerships. This unlikely NYFW campaign is a testament to the associative power of public relations. Positioning a brand with a likely pairing can elevate favorability within the anticipated crowd. But playing off surprising juxtaposition, Cheetos aligned itself with an event, industry and empire that many other brands strive to participate in. Without fail, NYFW garners coverage from its inventive creativity to the sheer clout the occasion has gained throughout the years.
Using existing NYFW coverage, Cheetos gained its own traction as physical and digital audiences were blown away by looks featuring fiery colors and trendy flame and cheetah-print motifs, showcased by models of all sizes, genders and ethnicities. Stylish up-and-coming rapper Saweetie’s red-hot performance complemented the energetic show, while audience members’ cravings were satisfied by Flamin’ Hot Sunrise cocktails and Cheetos-dusted sushi. The show could have flopped as a disrespectful jab to the fashion industry, but the comprehensive effort defined the initiative as creative and runway-approved.
The unexpected presence from this cult brand brought attention to the road-trip snack, riding the PR train of fashion’s biggest semi-annual event. New styles, brands and designers always emerge from Fashion Week, and Cheetos’ House of Flamin’ Haute Couture definitely made its neon orange, dusty mark.