Browse all

A branding lesson from Charli XCX

And why Brat could become the new album of the year

A branding lesson from Charli XCX  And why Brat could become the new album of the year

By now, music and fashion travel on the same frequency, two industries that have intertwined during Fashion Week, between a DJ set by Kaytranada at the JW Anderson afterparty and an appearance by k-pop stars in the front row at Dior and Miu Miu, and which are now interdependent. One continuously borrows from the other, from ambassadors to references in song lyrics - cassö, Raye, and D-Block Europe's Prada is still stuck in our heads. In this light, a new method of communication is making its way among music artists: it draws inspiration from the fashion industry, both visual-wise and in the activation of communities made up of stars and TikTokers, but multiplies its reach exponentially. The most impressive example of this new phenomenon comes from Brat, the new album by Charli XCX. The project began to show signs of its success months before it was available for listening, with an acid green cover that made its rounds on the web long before the disco-hyperpop sound hit Spotify. As summer progresses, more and more listeners are gravitating towards the new tracks from the British artist, a marketing lesson on which the entire fashion system should take notes.

As often happens with artistic projects that achieve out-of-the-box success, authenticity is both a starting point and a launch pad for Brat. Proof of this is Charli XCX's choice to take the reins of the artistic direction of the entire album, infusing it with the alternative and bold energy she has always been famous for. She didn't try to resemble anyone, didn't chase any trend, she simply got comfortable in her artistic reality, her community. «More than ever now, people are rewarding the niche,» says Charli XCX in an interview with The Guardian. «Finally, it seems fine that I’m just myself, and suddenly people like it. It’s good to finally be accepted. I’m happy with the winding path I’ve taken, and with my status as more of an outsider, because sometimes I feel a bit awkward being in the club. I’m at peace with it all. It’s all cool.» It should be noted that the “niche” the artist refers to is currently not just a community of just quirky people, but a team of creatives and public figures who are, without beating too much around the bush, super hot, and not just aesthetically. The video clip for 360 features an amazing cast including Chloe Sevigny, Julia Fox, Isamaya Ffrench, Gabbriette, Emma Chamberlain, Alex Consani, Chloe Cherry, Hari Nef, and Rachel Sennott, among others, a sort of team of cultural revolutionaries sitting at the same table to certify the "new hot internet girl". The video (which currently has more than 4 million views) captures a snapshot of a Western zeitgeist we'll remember for a long time. 

To a community of stars and social media celebrities that perfectly reflect the interests of Charli XCX's fans, the album's simple yet effective visuals add to its appeal. The acid green background and Arial font hark back to the post-ironic wave that has made its way online and on statement tees in recent months. Additionally, being easily replicable and thus easily meme-able, the speed with which it has become a sub-cultural phenomenon on Instagram and TikTok has been staggering, almost like when Girl Math trended to justify female shopping, or when the reviews of Saltburn pushed Letterboxd and the film with Barry Keoghan to the top of download and audience charts. After all, in 2024, success comes through memes.

The final ingredient that makes the Brat project a pioneer of contemporary branding is the sound, both the core and the cherry on top of an album that we will be talking about for months to come. Because in addition to the community of artists it has gathered to promote it, and the instantly recognizable visuals, what will most benefit Brat is certainly the product itself, a collection of tracks that mix electronic music and pop in a celebration of club culture at a time when it seems everyone has become passionate about it. In this too, Charli XCX's commitment to honoring the world of clubbing is completely authentic thanks to her past - who can forget Vroom Vroom - and thanks to her totally radical and honest approach to the genre. She even called TikToker Addison Rae to scream on the Remix of Von Dutch, and then invited her on stage in Los Angeles. Perhaps this is the biggest takeaway Brat offers the fashion industry: don’t stray from your roots and have fun.