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'Geisha': It's the essence of retail spinoffs

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A nice, blended green tea to follow your rice face wash, perhaps?

Those are just two of the spinoff products, already on store shelves, inspired by the film Memoirs of a Geisha, which doesn't even open until Dec. 9.

"Opportunistic synergy" is how John Barker of DZP Marketing Communications describes the retail partnerships.

"I can't think of another movie that has prompted retailers to go into new product lines," he says.

Most of the products are, predictably, aimed at women.

Memoirs, based on the 1997 best seller by Arthur Golden, tells the story of a poor Japanese girl who grows up as a servant in a geisha house and becomes the legendary geisha Sayuri. The book's lavish tea ceremonies, fashions and beauty rituals are at the heart of the retail partnerships with Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Banana Republic, for example, has launched a limited-edition line of Asian-influenced apparel and accessories including a kimono-inspired dress and tops, shoes, handbags and a jacket.

"We do see the film as appealing to our customers -- they appreciate fashion, art and cultures from around the world -- and this film combines all three," Banana Republic's Chris Nicklo says.

From The Republic of Tea comes Spring Cherry Green Tea, a Japanese Sencha green tea blended with cherries, rose petals and white tea buds. Its packaging features the film's star, Ziyi Zhang.

Tonner Dolls introduces a Geisha collection early next year. Tonner says its designers studied the movie's costumes for the dolls' fashions, which include a kimono and 1940s street attire.

Fresh, a beauty products company partnering with Bath & Body Works, is offering a Memoirs of a Geisha collection that includes Rice Face Wash, Flower Petal Mask and Shimmer Powder with Crushed Pearls. The cherry blossom packaging is inspired by a kimono in the movie.

Sony won't discuss marketing strategies, but Lev Glazman of Fresh says the partnership between his company and the movie "connects to what we do but reinforces what Sony does on their end in terms of how they want to position the movie and what its image should be."

Books -- the more traditional movie tie-ins -- are still in the picture. Vintage has released several paperback versions of Memoirs with covers featuring Zhang in her role as Sayuri.

Newmarket has published Memoirs of a Geisha: Portrait of the Film, an art/photography book with an introduction by Golden -- which, not so incidentally, is being sold at Fresh and Banana Republic outlets. The author is making some personal appearances.

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