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Why Pink and Express Recruited a New Kind of Brand Ambassador

Pink and Express are the latest brands looking to pop-culture figures and athletes to reach new consumers.

Darren Barnet, a teen heartthrob on Netflix’s “Never Have I Ever,” is the Victoria’s Secret subsidiary’s first-ever male brand ambassador, Pink announced Tuesday.

Pink will drop gender-free styles like shorts, T-shirts, matching sweat sets and accessories this year, with Barnet as the face of the campaign. This fall, the brand will debut an on-trend fleece shirt jacket, as the actor curates a list of his favorite Pink products for future marketing initiatives.

A selection of Barnet's Pink picks is available on the brand's e-commerce site.
A selection of Barnet’s current Pink picks is available on the brand’s e-commerce site. Pink

“Filming Never Have I Ever definitely brings me back to my high school days and reminds me of the insecurities and issues that we face as young adults,” Barnet said. “I know how it feels to not fit in, and how important it is to feel supported and accepted for who you are.”

“We are so excited to announce this partnership because Darren is such a positive role model for teens and young adults,” said Amy Hauk, Pink CEO. “As we focus on expanding our gender-free offerings and continue to evolve as a brand, we want to ensure our partners not only represent the diversity of our customers, but also embody individuality and self-confidence.”

Barnet, who said he was drawn to Pink’s mission and “focus on community and mental health,” will also participate in the brand’s Mental Health Awareness Month activations.

To kick off the effort, Barnet will serve as a judge for Pink’s With Purpose project giving 10 young adults $25,000 each to fund initiatives promoting people, planet, or another cause of their choosing. Brand ambassadors Chloe x Halle and plus-size model and influencer Remi Bader will also judge the fourth annual context.

Pink tapped TikTok personality and Revolve collaborator Bader in February as a consultant and fit tester to guide its size range expansion in underwear, bras, casual apparel and swim. The influencer has attracted 2.5 million followers by posting viral videos showing how many brands don’t make clothing that fits her size 14/16 frame. Earlier this year, Bader helped Pink launch its first swim collection through size XXL, with styles including recycled materials and products arriving in stores last month.

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Pink launched a range of swim styles up to size XXL in March.
Pink launched a range of swim styles up to size XXL in March. Pink

Bader said she appreciated Pink’s openness to her honest feedback and its “desire to see change.”

“Pink has made a lot of strides over the years to be more inclusive and focus on mental health, and I’m really honored to work with the team to help young adults embrace their bodies and be an honest voice for the amazing community I’ve built,” she added.

Hauk said Pink “admire[s] how [Bader is] real about all aspects of being an influencer, and how she’s been so open about her own mental health journey.”

Meanwhile, parent company Victoria’s Secret & Co. on Tuesday launched digitally native gender-free tween label, Happy Nation. The line of sweats, swimwear, bras, underwear and body care for ages 8 to 13 was inspired by the needs of real consumers, it said. Internal brand leaders (themselves parents of tweens) and external experts guided the brand ethos.

Happy Nation is a digitally native and inclusive brand for tweens.
Happy Nation offers inclusive, gender-free tween fashion. Happy Nation

“We heard from tweens and their parents that they felt like there isn’t an apparel or beauty brand that celebrates and lends a helping hand in their personal evolution,” Claudine Rankin, Happy Nation’s general manager and development lead, said. Happy Nation aims to “provide the authenticity that younger generations crave, while offering comfy clothing and body care products that kids and their parents can feel good about,” she added.

The brand is planning an activation in the metaverse through a popular children’s gaming platform later this summer.

“This is a new demographic for us, so we’ll be continually gathering feedback as more people get to know Happy Nation,” said Susan Anderson, vice president of creative for the tween label.

The tween market has recently gotten considerable attention from brands including Maurices, Francesca’s and The Children’s Place.

Meanwhile, Express also teamed with ambassadors who represent new territory for the fashion retailer. It enlisted Columbus football players CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba as its first college athlete style ambassadors joining Express’ community of influencers, style editors and others.

The football players will showcase their off-the-pitch style.
The football players will showcase their off-the-field style. Courtesy

“As we build and engage our styling community, we look for partners who embody our brand purpose to create confidence and inspire self-expression,” executive vice president and chief marketing officer Sara Tervo said. “CJ and Jaxon are two outstanding, influential college athletes from our corporate hometown of Columbus, Ohio. We expect that their authenticity and relatability will appeal to our current customers as well as draw a new, younger demographic to our brand.”

The athletes will use Express social channels and their own to share their sartorial choices over the next year. Stroud plans to connect with consumers through in-store appearances, digital content and marketing campaigns. “I’m excited to be the newest Express ambassador and talk about my personal style,” the quarterback said.

Stroud said the “special feeling” of putting on a suit “creates a whole new level of confidence.”

“I’m hoping to inspire others to feel that way every time they get dressed,” he added.