Popeyes, it seems, no longer wants to be in the chicken business. That’s not to say that the fast-food chain will stop dishing out poultry — oh, no, never fear, it’s still going to be doing plenty of that.
But with its newest product lineup, the company is showing that it has ambitions loftier than merely selling us fried bird, however delicious those dang sandwiches might be.
This week, Popeyes is rolling out its very own fashion line. That is, if you consider a fast-food work uniform to be chic.
Popeyes has grown up, gotten a taste of the big time, and now it’s a lifestyle brand, folks. And will we buy it? Maybe. After all, we are the nation that lined up around blocks for its spicy chicken sandwich, ‘grammed the dish like we were being paid to do it, then turned on one another when supplies ran out. Maybe we will want to don a $30 tunic that the company claims is “as classic as our 3-piece tenders and as hot as our spicy dressing.” Perhaps the $20 cap emblazoned with the chain’s logo could become the must-have accessory for spring.
On its website hawking the goods, the company is hitting a very cool-girl fashiony note with its minimalist styling, real-people models (they’re actual employees), and of-the-moment branding (the line is dubbed “That Look from Popeyes).
Of course, all of this feels like some kind of joke that the company is in on, or maybe some extended piece of performance art whose thesis has to do with consumerism and viral fads and … I don’t know, the meaning of life? One clue that the chicken purveyor is winking as it offers its uniforms as a “limited-edition collection” is the obvious homage to another, similar-looking fashion line. In an emailed announcement, Popeyes positioned the lineup as an alternative for shoppers who were unable to snag something from the much-coveted collaboration between Beyoncé’s Ivy Park athleisure label and Adidas.
That collection had a few things in common with the famous Popeyes sando. It, too, was quickly snapped up and eventually sold out. And the color scheme of Queen Bey’s line of leggings and boxy tops did bear a familiar maroon and orange color scheme. As some pointed out on Twitter, it looked like Bey could have been inspired by … you guessed it, Popeyes.
Popeyes further leaned into the Beyoncé comparisons by styling and photographing its fashion foray in an obvious homage to the pop star’s own aesthetic.
So to recap this chicken/fashion/Popeyes/Beyoncé Venn diagram: Beyoncé debuts a fashion line that reminds people of Popeyes, so Popeyes brands its uniforms as fashion, styles them to look like Beyoncé’s designs, and comes out with its own label. Another nexus? Beyoncé is a known aficionado of the chain, which reportedly gave her a card entitling her to free chicken for life (though she said she was too embarrassed to use it).
While this was a strong move by the fast-food giant, it isn’t the chain’s first foray into apparel. The company offered its version of the now-cliche ugly holiday sweater, this one bearing its logo and an image of the chicken sandwich knitted into the design.
This isn’t intended to be a profit center: The chain said it is donating the proceeds to the company’s charitable foundation. But in case you weren’t already convinced that you’re watching nothing more than an elaborate marketing stunt, take heed of this sentence in the email announcing the new merch: “Based on the hype surrounding the brand in recent months,” a rep wrote, “supply likely won’t last long.”
So the company is already suggesting the possibility that the uniforms-as-fashion could sell out quickly. You know, kind of like its chicken sandwich did. Which doesn’t do a lot for those who suggested that the nationwide sandwich sellout was nothing but a gimmick to drum up more attention — and ultimately, sales.
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