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Anticipating 'Alice': A merchandising wonderland through the looking-glass

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Next Tuesday, Snoop Dogg's new album, “Malice in Wonderland,” drops. That's just three days after the scheduled opening night of a $3.5-million musical about a modern-day descendant of author Lewis Carroll ("Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure") at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, and two days after the Syfy channel debut of  "Alice" a miniseries that re-imagines the titular character in a modern-day setting, (Alice is a martial arts instructor) and puts the Red Queen (Kathy Bates) in charge of a casino.  And, as our compatriot blog Hero Complex reported a few days ago, an original 1871 copy of the sequel "Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There," once owned by Alice Liddell (the inspiration for her fictional namesake) is expected to fetch between $100,000 and $150,000 when it goes up for auction later this month.

Maybe it's escapism from -- or commentary on – the world around us that seems as nonsensical as the one Alice encounters. Or maybe it's no more than a calculated strategy to draft in the wake of Tim Burton's

highly anticipated live-action "Alice in Wonderland," which Disney is set to release in March, but whatever the reason, it seems you can hardly swing a flamingo croquet mallet these days without hitting some pop culture property that references the storyline or characters from Carroll's classic canon of literary nonsense: "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" first published in 1865 by Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (under the pen name Lewis Carroll). 

In September, we reported Disney's early efforts to wrap a fashion element into the movie merchandisng -- an Alice-themed Las Vegas tradeshow flashmob/tea party that ended with the slogan "Alice is the New Black," and the news that one of the many tie-ins would be Tom Binns jewelry that would sell for as much as $2,000.

After viewing a video of the event that Disney Consumer Products (DCP) had posted to YouTube, an alert reader tipped us off that in addition to Tom Binns' name, the keywords tagged to the video included the name of another designer: Stella McCartney (other tags include makeup label Urban Decay and nail polish brand OPI).

The folks at DCP haven't tipped their hand (our recent calls and e-mails to inquire about the McCartney-tagged video have yet to be returned) about what's coming back out of the rabbit hole in the new year, but even without knowing what Disney has up its frilly sleeve, there's surely no shortage of options for those who want a Wonderland wardrobe. Back in September, All the Rage noted that Donatella Versace cited "Alice in Wonderland" as inspiration for her spring 2010 collection, and other fashion designers to head down the rabbit hole in recent seasons include Jason Wu (who reportedly counted Burton's upcoming movie remake among the fairy tale inspirations for his fall/winter 2009 collection) and Kenzo's Antonio Marras (who used the story as a jumping-off point for his spring 2009 women's ready-to-wear collection.)

Rage_uniforms And then there's the quirky Swedish men's label Uniforms for the Dedicated, a self-described collective of  "musicians, illustrators, designers and more" whose fall 2009 collection (titled A Play of Nonsense) claims inspiration from "the imaginary literature of the19-century whose Lewis Carroll mastered the art of transforming everyday objects into a new and challenging meaning."

Think Alice in Silver Lake, a world filled with baggy canvas trousers with rolled cuffs ("the Walrus"), oversized hipster cardigans with colorful contrasting cloth buttons (that'd be "Alice"), plaid flannel button-front shirts with patch pockets set slightly off-kilter so they clash like one of those "did I really see that?" tests at the optician's office ("The Mad Hatter"). The line recently landed stateside distribution, and pieces of the Carrollesque collection are currently available at the new Little Tokyo boutique No. A  (74 East 2nd St., in downtown Los Angeles).

From here it's probably only a matter of time before the local Target is sprouting mushroom cap bean bag chairs and the local smoke shop is stocking up on caterpillar-shaped hookahs.

Somewhere, Lewis Carroll is sporting a huge Cheshire cat grin about it all.

-- Adam Tschorn

Photos: At top, Versace's spring/summer 2010 women's ready-to-wear runway collection in Milan drew inspiration from "Alice in Wonderland," according to the show notes. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson and Peter Stigter / For The Times. Middle, a model "Alice" wears a mock-up of a Tom Binns for Walt Disney Signature collection necklace during an "Alice in Wonderland"-themed tea party/flash mob at the MAGIC trade show in Las Vegas on Aug. 31. Credit: Disney Consumer Products. Bottom, The fall 2009 collection from Swedish menswear label Uniforms for the Dedicated is envisioned as "wearable cloth[es] that have fallen down the rabbit hole before they climbed up in a new fashion." Credit: Uniforms for the Dedicated.

Disney takes fashion down the rabbit hole with 'Alice'

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In reference to: "From here it's probably only a matter of time before the local Target is sprouting mushroom cap bean bag chairs and the local smoke shop is stocking up on caterpillar-shaped hookahs." This type of merchandising isn't as tacky or far fetched as you might think!



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