Idina Menzel Gets Ready to Make Her Fashion Debut
Idina Menzel is about to break out in a new role.
Best known for playing roles like Elphaba in “Wicked,” and Maureen in “Rent,” as well as voicing Elsa, the ice queen, in the “Frozen” movies, the actress and singer has designed a sportswear collection called Encore by Idina Menzel that she will sell on QVC.
Menzel will be on air May 23 from 4 to 5 p.m., with additional hits throughout the day at noon, 4 p.m. and between 7 and 10 p.m.
The collection, which runs the gamut from jumpsuits to hooded rompers, ballet cardigans, fit and flare dresses, high-waisted crop jeans and French terry zip-front hoodies and pants, retails for between $40 and $100, with the sweet spot between $59 and $65. The collection ranges in size from XS to 3X. There will be a second drop this fall, and they’re already starting to work on 2023.
“I have to say I’m probably different than a lot of other people who have collections. I would never be a person who described herself as being into fashion. If anything, it’s always been anxiety-provoking for me,” said Menzel in a telephone interview. “It came out of a need and necessity to find things to wear that took the decision-making out of the process.”
She said she was looking for clothes that made things easy and that could be worn from sleep to street. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken my son to school and stood next to that mom that was perfect at 7:50 a.m. and had it all together and her hair was gorgeous, and my shirt was inside out,” said Menzel.
For her personal life, Menzel prefers to keep things casual. “My personal style is to be relaxed. When you’re in costumes and fittings all the time, the last thing I want is to feel constricted. It’s East Coast-West Coast. I like to feel confident and chic for my East Coast [meetings], from my days growing up on Long Island and New York City. And now I’m a California girl and I like to be relaxed and be barefoot. It’s kind of a combination. I like to play with something that feels flowy and feminine and then put on a pair of biker boots with it. I like to feel grounded, and that I can stomp along in my life,” she said.
Menzel said she developed the line several years before taking it to QVC, visualizing and executing what she wanted and felt really authentic to her. “I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get up and sell something that didn’t feel right,” said Menzel. She said she didn’t just want to license her name. “I’m not a good liar. I took a long time in figuring it out and what the story was and the narrative and making sure it always felt true to me and felt diverse and it was inclusive of all sizes.”
She is working with Newtimes Group, a sourcing, product development and supply chain management firm. She made a film with her various looks and spoke to QVC about what she wanted to do and the trajectory of her life and fashion. The reason she did a film was “so they could see someone who could talk to their audience, and I believe their audience is similar to my fans.
“My audience has grown up with me through the years through the different shows, and my characters speak to this sort of empowerment of women. I wanted to keep everything congruent, and we pitched it to them. They’ve been wonderful partners the whole time, and they embraced the idea,” continued Menzel
For starters, she has designed a signature piece that she’s calling, “The Swing Jumpsuit.”
“The swing is the person in theater who I respect the most and is the person who has to learn every role. For me, it’s a hooded jumpsuit. If you really wanted to, you can wear it to bed and wake up, throw on sneakers and get your kids to school, throw heels in your car, and if you have to go for drinks later, you can go out,” said Menzel.
From there, she added layering pieces and foundational styles — a ballet sweater and a cardigan. She said the first line is coming out for summer so everything is lighter, but still soft. “Plus there’s a great tank dress. There are really staple pieces that can go with anything in your closet,” she said.
Menzel added that they paid close attention to the details, taking into account her own body insecurities. For example, “I don’t like my arms. I think I have flabby triceps. If it’s sleeveless, it has to have something to go over it,” she said.
Being on-camera at QVC shouldn’t pose a problem. “I’ve been practicing,” she said. “It comes pretty easy to me. I think it’s just another way to connect with my audience. I’m not going to be singing to them. I think one of my strengths is connecting in an intimate way with my audience, whether I’m on stage or whatever I’m doing. This is just another way I feel I can do that and be very personable and they can get to know me,” said Menzel.
She invested in some equipment and set up her Encore studio in her home. If she’s traveling, she can set it up in a hotel.
Menzel called it an ongoing project. “We’re two years in already. You learn your customer really quickly and you can get a feel for what they’re liking and what they gravitate to,” she said.
Eventually, she would love to expand to other products, but for now, “I’m going to stay focused and not put the cart before the horse,” said Menzel. Her father had a pajama company and in his retirement he knits “the most beautiful blankets and sweaters.” She said she’d love to get into blankets, and they have some ideas to do some philanthropic work. “First I have to prove to QVC there’s a consumer for what I’m selling and earn their trust, and then it would be great to move into more things,” she said.
Newtimes is manufacturing the collection in Vietnam, India, the Philippines and China.
Menzel said the name Encore was a natural choice. “Obviously, I wanted it to relate to the fact that I’m a performer. I feel whether you’re a singer or performer or not, we’re all playing so many roles in our lives and have to multitask. We all deserve to stand in our spotlight and take it all in and have that moment on the stage, where someone says, ‘we applaud you, and you’re doing well in your life.’”
Rachel Ungaro, vice president, vice president and general merchandise manager for apparel at QVC, sees a lot of potential for the collection.
“We feel very good about her as a brand. Based on the way the first collection came out and how great it looks and looking at future development, we’re looking at a long-term relationship with Idina. We’re planning for a strong relationship,” said Ungaro.
Ungaro said they met Menzel a little over a year ago and from the moment they saw her presentation on why she wanted to partner with QVC “it just felt right from the beginning.”
The collection is geared to a women very similar to Menzel. “She’s a multitasking busy woman with a lot going on her life, whether she’s a working mom or in a different stage of her life. We have a very casual customer at QVC in our apparel business, and Idina is very casual,” said Ungaro. “Her collection is cozy, it’s warm, it’s got really beautiful knit fabrics, very comfortable and very effortless. It will appeal not only to our existing QVC customer and will also drive us to new eyeballs.”
According to Ungaro, Menzel was completely involved in the whole process. “Idina is not a classically skilled designer, but she has a point of view which is amazing. She’s able to explain that to somebody who can actually create a sketch of the garment. Idina was heavily involved in selecting the fabrics and the styling, and she touched and felt everything. She has worn all the clothes through her trials and through the photo shoots. There were a couple of pieces in the collection actually that were non-negotiable. The jumpsuit was so important to her because it’s how she wants to dress. It’s one of the key pieces we’re actually launching with,” said Ungaro.
Menzel is joining other QVC apparel brands such as Isaac Mizrahi Live!, J Jason Wu, Candace Cameron Bure, and Belle by Kim Gravel, all of which are strong sellers.
Menzel will work with a QVC host who will handle the logistics and help her present the collection on the live broadcast. Menzel will wear the collection on-air, and they’ll have a misses’ model, a petite model and a large size model to reflect the diversity of body types who can wear the collection.
Asked what she anticipates will be the bestsellers, Ungaro cited “the jumpsuit, the beautiful linen tunic dress that will look good with bare legs and a pair of sandals or you can put it over jeans, and some beautiful, soft sweaters that look great tied over your shoulders on a cool night on the beach or worn with a pair of jeans.”
In addition to the on-air appearances, the brand will live digitally. They will do a lot of promotion with their social team surrounding Encore, and “Idina will continue to push the brand through her own channels.”
Ungaro explained that the storytelling aspect “is our superpower.”
“The thing I love the most is Idina is definitely having fun with what she’s learning and doing, and I think that will come across when she comes on air next week. She probably found another career that maybe she didn’t know she had.”