What’s More Fun Than Poking Fun at Fashion?


The scene: Two hard-bitten dames clash over a man. At issue: Did one steal the other’s lover, then go on to marry … and murder him?

One of the women, Margaux Goldrich, is fictional. The other is the Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon, who performs a flinty version of herself grilling Margaux, an imperious fashion diva played by Patricia Black, about the character’s suspected role in her husband’s untimely death.

You won’t find this brooding melodrama on Netflix. The narrative spools out instead on social media as a string of darkly comic vignettes conceived and produced by the jewelry designer Alexis Bittar as part of an ongoing marketing campaign for his namesake company.

Mr. Bittar — who started his brand in the late 1990s, sold it to Brooks Brothers in 2015 and bought the business back three years ago — introduced the video campaign last fall. Ms. Sarandon, 77, is the latest and arguably biggest name to appear in the dozens of short episodes that have since been released on the Alexis Bittar Instagram and TikTok accounts. “I was drawn to what he has created with these satirical and unconventional skits,” she said via text message.

Other over-the-top, style-world personalities who have appeared as versions of themselves include: Mel Ottenberg, a stylist and the editor in chief of Interview Magazine; the model Coco Rocha; the nightlife fixture Amanda Lepore; and Kelly Cutrone, the tartly outspoken fashion publicist who has starred in her own reality TV show.

Then there is Ms. Black, 66, an actress, as the turban-wrapped Margaux, an Upper East Side harpy who throughout the campaign lobs icy highhanded demands at her long-suffering personal assistant, Jules, played by Julie J, a performance artist and drag performer.

Ms. Sarandon, as may be expected, gets gentler treatment from Margaux, who admires the floral-patterned biker jacket that Ms. Sarandon wears in the campaign (it was her own) and her upswept umber-tinted hair. Margaux also fawns over Ms. Sarandon’s stardom and left-leaning politics. “You were out there fighting for the people,” Margaux tells her, sliding in a coy reference to Ms. Sarandon’s ceaseless activism.

With the video campaign, Mr. Bittar, 55, wanted to “create a community,” he said, one he hopes would respond not just to the bangles and bags he has embedded in each episode but to the series’ crazily proliferating cast of barb-spewing characters.

I wanted people to speak their minds and say inappropriate things,” Mr. Bittar said, “the way someone, even in today’s woke climate, might actually speak.”

He also “wanted to create a love letter to New York,” he said. “Part of that love involves showing characters I’ve known through my years in the industry.” Some, like Margaux, “were horrible people,” Mr. Bittar added, but they have influenced him just the same.

Margaux, he acknowledged, is a heady composite of autocratic tastemakers — among them the Vogue editors Anna Wintour and Diana Vreeland, as well as Marina Schiano, a Vogue model turned stylist and fashion executive — reduced, intentionally, to a fashion stereotype.

Sasha Charnin Morrison, 59, who once worked for Ms. Schiano and toiled for years in the fashion departments of Harper’s Bazaar, Us Weekly and Elle, said that some viewers may write off Margaux and Jules as cartoons. “But I was Jules,” said Ms. Morrison, who is now a freelance writer and digital content creator. “That was my life.”

She added that the campaign evokes her nostalgia for the days when, as she put it, “you never knew on a Friday if you were fired, but you would always come back for more abuse on Monday.”

Those who can’t relate to a fashion dragon like Margaux may still find the character familiar. “We all worked for somebody who has been a Margaux or had a mother who was that,” Ms. Black said. “These relationships exist, so why not lighten up and make fun of them?”

Ms. Cutrone, the publicist, was thrilled at the chance to play her bawdy, trash-talking self “times 100,” she said. She speculated that Mr. Bittar’s video series may be the start of “more fashion people going into directing and owning their content.”

She, like Ms. Sarandon and other participants, received no monetary payment for her appearance.

So what made her take the job?

With a hoot, Ms. Cutrone replied, “I will work for bangles.”



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