Two years ago I told Anna van Slee that she probably should skip out on PlayChic. "Don't get involved," I said, "there are already so many Chicago Toy & Game Week events, who knows if this one will even stick." Admittedly, I didn't get the vision. I have as much fashion sense as a chameleon in a bow tie, happen to be 98% color blind, and can't stand reality television, especially when it's about runway models. "As your business partner and pal," I said, "I think there are better aspects of Chitag to spend your time on."
I should mention now that the best thing about my relationship with my business partner is that she rarely listens to me. Gonna have to ask her husband Pat if I'm alone on this. Boy was I wrong about PlayChic – the toy industry's most alluring new event.
Last year, Anna, Mary Couzin and a huge team kicked off PlayChic for its inaugural run with tremendous success. A huge audience, amazing fashions, beaming sponsors, and worldwide media attention no one could have expected. Anna never said "I was right." Oh wait, yes she did. Like a hundred times.
This year, PlayChic returned, this time to a bigger event venue at the River East Arts Center, more elaborate staging (what was that insect girl thing?), brilliantly conceived fashions as thematic brand extensions, ear-to-ear beaming sponsors, and more media attention than the previous year.
Anna kicked off the evening with thank yous and a bit of set up. The host then took the stage and the music quickened and Bananagrams, Mayfair Games, and other brands strutted by in succession. A high-profile couture designer utilized brand beats provided by the sponsoring toy or game brand to craft each fashion look. Each designer seemed to tackle his or her challenge differently, be it abstractly, literally, etc.
Last but certainly not least, LeapFrog's Letter Factory / LeapPad inspired gown took stage. LeapFrog stole the evening with the most impressive fashion.
Hundreds of guests ate, drank and partied the night away before the lights went out and everyone had to go back to dressing normal.
I'm not likely to start caring much about fashion, watching those reality Project Runway Shows, or critiquing wearable art, but PlayChic is very obviously the shiniest gem in Mary Couzin's ChiTAG necklace. The event is a rare total success in merging industry, media, and public into a seamless event for those audiences.
And I'll admit I was wrong: Anna, that was pretty awesome.
In his roles as Digital Strategy Director of Consumer & Entertainment Brands at Manifest Digital, Co-Founder at toy invention studio Otherdoor Entertainment, and ChiTAG committee member, Brian Torney is an innovator in the play industries, kids entertainment, and product/brand initiatives. Refusing to grow up, Brian has been contributing to the play industries since the age of 15, when he worked at a Chicagoland Toys R Us store. He specializes in cross-platform brand storytelling. Brian also practices ancient Jedi techniques of mind control… These are not the droids you’re looking for.