Working a Celebrity Collaboration to Your Advantage

Sophie Lin and Cheikh Lam

An endorsement from an influential person can go a long way toward creating buzz for a business.

But nurturing that celebrity relationship and then utilizing it to help your brand can be tricky.

Chicago designers J.Cheikh seem to have pulled it off this month at New York Fashion Week.

The husband and wife team, Cheikh Lam and Sophie Lin, have long had a relationship with celebrity photographer and director Mike Ruiz. And when it came time to compile their Spring/Summer 2012 collection, they asked Ruiz if he'd like to participate.

"He's been wearing our stuff for years and really liked it, so we decided to ask if he'd do a capsule collection. He was launching a t-shirt line at the same time and he wanted to do a full line, so it was really good timing," Lam says.

It also didn't hurt that Ruiz is currently shooting a reality show called "The A-List: New York" for the Logo network, and it naturally followed that a NYFW show would be the perfect place to shoot a segment.

"That influenced Red Bull Space opening their doors for us, and if we didn't have that concept, they wouldn't have been as receptive to having us there," Lin says.

More sponsors followed, and helped significantly cut down on overhead costs for what otherwise would have been a costly production.

But even more importantly, it gave the design team focus for this collection.

"It definitely reached a target demographic that we were looking for, the LGBT community in New York," Lin says. "Every season you have to be very clear about who you want to see your collection. If you leave it to open it gets to wishy-washy, and you're not as passionate as a designer."

A week later, the couple is already seeing the residual effects from the show. The calls and emails are coming in, and they've received inquiries both locally and nationally from retailers and magazines.

"As soon as you have product, it doesn't mean you're necessarily ready to sell. We weren't ready the first time we showed in New York, but now I think we are, and it took years of work to figure that out," Lin says.

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