Renaissance Licensing, Italian Style

CPLG is launching the Michelangelo Collection based on the famous artist’s private works. The art has survived the test of time and will now be a re-imagined brand for today’s marketplace.

With its newest property, U.K.-headquartered licensing agency CPLG is adding a new dimension not only to its global portfolio, but also to the interpretation and branding of an historic and iconic figure.

CPLG is representing the archive of the personal works of Michelangelo and developing an extensive lifestyle brand licensing program based on the original artwork and drawings of the celebrated Italian Renaissance artist.

While Michelangelo's most notable works such as the David and Pieta statues and the Sistine Chapel frescoes are not included as part of the licensing deal, CPLG still has access to more that 2,700 archived images that include letters, sketches, architectural designs, poems and personal correspondence that have stayed in private ownership since Michelangelo's death in 1564.

Steve Manners, executive vice president, CPLG

The partnership and development process began some 18 months ago, according to Steve Manners, executive vice president, CPLG, through extensive discussions with Associazione Metamorfosi, established to manage Italy's heritage and cultural assets, and Casa Buonarroti, the museum in Florence that houses and owns Michelangelo's private artwork.

"This is one of the most unusual and exciting projects that I have worked on in all my years in licensing," says Manners.

However, because of the vast amount of Michelangelo work, it was not immediately obvious which direction the brand should take.

 

"There wasn't a clear Michelangelo brand because what is owned by the Casa Buonarroti museum represents such a large percentage of his remaining work, but it was possible to trademark the Michelangelo signature," explains Manners. "The Metamorfosi Foundation partnered with the museum to take ownership of Michelangelo as a brand and to determine the possibility of commercializing some of the assets."

According to Manners, when Michelangelo knew he was dying, he began destroying his private artwork. But his nephew, who lived in the family's Casa Buonarroti, saved as much as he could and it has since stayed in private ownership with the museum, which owns 80 percent of the remaining artwork.

 

"It was a challenge going though 2,700 different images to see what could resonate from a consumer product point of view," says Manners. "We narrowed it down to a few of what we thought were the strongest images that could be used creatively from a design perspective."

Manners says CPLG and Associazione Metamorfosi then partnered with design agency Watermelon to help provide style and color direction, creating a style guide that features the look of Michelangelo's original designs in a contemporary way.

 

"We wanted to bring in a company that could do excellent trend analysis, understand the future direction of 'in' textiles and fashion apparel and develop color palettes that are relevant but that are also empathetic to the overall project," says Manners.

Some of the original designs that have become the basis of the new style guide are Michelangelo's portrait of Cleopatra, a shopping list with illustrations, sketches of the Sistine Chapel and, of course, his signature.

At Brand Licensing Europe, CPLG will feature five innovative key themes–Geometrie Preziose (Extravagant Geo), Eleganza Floreale (Vivid Elegance), Purezza Classica (Neutral Ornate), Armonie Pastello (Fresh Discovery) and Colore Moderno (Retro Revival).

The Michelangelo Collection is initially positioned as a mid- to high-end brand and Manners says CPLG Italy is currently in discussion with several Italian fashion companies for co-branded collaborations. CPLG is also appointing sub-agents in various territories including China and Japan, where Manners says there has been an exciting reaction to the program.

Publishing opportunities and licensed gift products for museums are also in the works. Casa Buonarroti is currently exhibiting the Michelangelo artworks in various cities around the world.

"It's taken a long time to pull everything together, but it's such a unique project and it is offering incredible opportunities," says Manners.

The program is also a new direction for CPLG. According to Manners, because of the unique nature of the Michelangelo product, it has enabled CPLG to diversify its portfolio beyond its core entertainment properties, broaden its licensee base and focus on longer term opportunities.

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