Star Wars: The Merchandise Awakens

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A model maker from the first film saved 1,950 figurines over time. His collection was auctioned off for charity in 2012.

The designer’s job is to take buzz and capitalize upon it. This is also the marketer’s job, and the ones who work for George Lucas and Disney Inc. are the best in the world.

Did you know a new Star Wars movie was opening December 18? If you didn’t, allow me to point out at least 10 tie-in merchandising/publicity stunts that will remind you in that old Taking-Your-Money sort of way. And maybe a few that won’t.

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Ad from Wired, December 2015


Ok, so I’m not going to show you that many, but I’m sure you could probably find 200 with a simple Google search. Here at FIT, the ones that interest us are the ones that tie into fashion.  So far, this line of socks is my favorite.


A quick glance at the PERS Display of hot current titles shows the print world’s obsession with marketing tie-ins. Just to offer a few titles which have Star Wars-themed covers:



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Main cast photographed by Annie Liebowitz, June 2015


Vanity Fair June 2015, 3Dworld Christmas issue, Elle US 12/15, Interview 11/15, TIME 12/15/15, Wired 12/15, and, of course, Entertainment Weekly 11/20/15 double issue .  That was without even looking. Imagine if I’d gone through more of the graphic design titles!

The Vanity Fair cover consists of adoring photographs of the major cast and crew, as you see.

It’s no surprise that a Star Wars film should be discussed in 3D World or Wired.  Not only is the content of those magazines more relevant to the film, but the magazine’s audience is squarely within the traditional audience for science fiction worldcraft.

Wired cover, December 2015
Wired cover, December 2015




But Star Wars has transcended the regular speculative fiction audience.  That first movie, released in 1977, has become part of American culture, one of our myths.

J.J. Abrams interview in Wired, December 2015
J.J. Abrams interview in Wired, December 2015







J. J. Abrams, the director himself, seems to have “left half his soul” on those worlds.  (Wired, Dec 15, 128)

CD World, Christmas issue, "Making Darth Vader"
CD World, Christmas issue, “Making Darth Vader”




And then there are the characters.  The mythos wouldn’t work without the many odd beings that inhabit it.  CD World tackles that angle, by interviewing Tom Isaksen, Character Artist for Darth Vader, among others (3D World, Christmas, 32-35).  Many of the characters and effects were the result of computer generation, which is the focus of this magazine.


Entertainment Weekly cover, November 20, 2015
Entertainment Weekly cover, November 20, 2015




But this passion is carried through some unlikely venues.  In marked contrast from the 1970s when Lucas pleaded with studios to get approval for the first film’s 8.25 million. Nowadays when the marketing team go to work, the film and its actors are everywhere.



Interview cleverly had Carrie Fisher interview Daisy Ridley, December 2015
Interview cleverly had Carrie Fisher interview Daisy Ridley, December 2015



New character Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) has been embraced by the media.  In Interview magazine,  Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia in the 1977 film) cautions Ridley that she’ll never be able to change her hair style again, because fan expectations will not age with her.


Popular culture has embraced the concepts of past (or future) empires which the Star Wars films have illustrated.


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Once considered nerdy, Star Wars themes are now used even in fashion world without question.   The references are so mainstream that they are understood with a minimum of context provided, as seen in Elle US’ December 2015 cover.


Elle US layout for Holiday, December 2015
Elle US layout for Holiday, December 2015




Ridley is again the star of the shoot. But Elle has made very little pretext at considering Ridley the actress or the woman. She is shot as a model, framed in pseudo-‘Star Wars’ mannequins, fashionable heels and holiday red. Huh?

Costume is a key element in how the characters interact.  Picture the sweep of Darth Vader’s cape, for instance.  In the current movie, costume director Michael Kaplan admits that a cool costume idea helped create a new character.



Joanee Honour, costume archivist at Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (and former employee of the FIT Library) points out that the many influences the original Star Wars designers used been reflected back by designers’ use of Star Wars as an influence on runway shows.  Honour cites gold “droid” leggings at Balenciaga in 2007 as but one example, but the excitement about the current movie has been caught by new designers as well.

Costumes inspire characters and designers

Avant-garde designers produce Star-Wars pieces

London designers show Star-Wars influenced pieces

Star Wars’ influence on menswear

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Clothing designers are hardly the only ones to get in on the act, as I mentioned above.  To choose just one more fashion-related example, Cover Girl has also gotten in on the act:

Details of the new Cover Girl “Star Wars” line





As I said, there are many more examples of merchandising tie-ins to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  If you want to read about them, all these magazines are on the 6th floor of the FIT Library.

From “Star Wars Storyboards”, p. 81


We have many cool books on Star Wars topics as well. I picked these two from the middle trilogy because they had such great images. For example, we have “Star Wars Storyboards”:

“Star Wars Story Boards”, by J. W. Rinzler

The motion depicted in these images blew me away.



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From “Dressing A Galaxy”, p. 171




And this one showing the costumes from the middle trilogy in loving detail,

“Dressing a Galaxy”, by Trisha Biggar

It’s great to be able to see the details on some of these costumes.




If you are a George Lucas fan, you know that his company, Industrial Light and Magic, designs special effects for many films.  Just in case you’re curious about what they’re doing next, take a peek:

Industrial Light and Magic’s website

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2 Responses to Star Wars: The Merchandise Awakens

  1. This is nice info at the end year. I like it….
    This topic is very helpful for me to advance learn industrial design. By the way, what is the best design trends in 2015 ?

Comments are closed.