When Playboy shuttered its print magazine in 2020, it signaled that the nearly-70-year-old company was still finding its footing in an world where anyone can access scintillating imagery either softer or harder than anything found in Playboy's pages with the stroke (ha) of a couple keys. Where does that leave the House of Hugh Hefner today?
Apparently, with a thirst for IRL experiences that recapture the lust and luxury of Playboy's pre-internet legacy. As the Playboy fleshes out its approach to digital content — including its first gay male cover star, Bretman Rock — the company is simultaneously hearkening back to the days of smoking jackets and Farrah Fawcett by launching BIGBUNNY, a luxury lifestyle brand.
Taking its name from the recently revived Big Bunny private jet — an opulent antique from the era of Hefner updated for today's affluent traveler — BIGBUNNY is designed for sophisticated types who actually would read Playboy for the articles.
Whereas mainline Playboy merch has been available (and quite popular) for years, BIGBUNNY is of a loftier flavor.
"Playboy represents the freedom to be who you are and who you want to be, wherever you are," Rachel Webber, Playboy's Chief Brand Officer, told Highsnobiety. "BIGBUNNY is the ultimate expression of that lifestyle. It’s for a community that traverses the world — physically and digitally — seeking out new ideas on art, culture, identity, sex and self-expression."
"FLIGHT 001," the debut BIGBUNNY line, encompasses 25 polished pieces that only whisper of their Playboy pedigree. Prices start at $75 and reach $1,250 for the cashmere blankets, robe coats, silk lounge sets, leather safari jackets, and travel cases.
"[This first collection] is oversized wrap coats that go from the plane to the gallery meeting," explained Webber. "Silk separates that work as well lounging at home as they do at the party. Featherweight blanket puffers for comfort and warmth. Toiletry kits that double as elegant clutches and travel bags. Day to night. Comfort to chic."
"There are no more seasons or outdated ideas of formality and uniformity. We are all meeting up in new and exciting places around the world (and now the metaverse)."
Shot with all the gravitas of a high fashion editorial, the campaign imagery is deservingly lush, soaking in the feel of BIGBUNNY's well-heeled ethos.
"We had the greatest time concepting and developing this campaign," BIGBUNNY creative directors Pilar Zeta and Philippa Price told us.
"We poured over our amazing Playboy archives, watching footage of the original Big Bunny flights and gaining inspiration from the incredible 70s fashion and style. We wanted to capture that aesthetic in a contemporary way, a modern sophistication and a boldness."
To reiterate that stealth-wealth motif, garments are embossed with "N950PB" — the Big Bunny jet's tail number — and thematic text. The only real obvious bit of branding is the original Big Bunny logo, occasionally cut off below the nose or hidden in a graphic to further obscure its origins.
The willful obfuscation isn't because Playboy is attempting to shield BIGBUNNY from its heritage. Far from it: BIGBUNNY and the Big Bunny Jet are very much the bleeding edge of Playboy's urbane facelift and their low-key approach to luxury is demonstrative of New Playboy.
"From a business perspective, the launch of BIGBUNNY demonstrates the transformation we’ve made as a company — from a media business into a global lifestyle brand," said Webber, citing collaborations with Supreme, Amiri, and Hatton Labs as indicative of Playboy's high-end crossover appeal.
"The Playboy brand today is bigger than ever before, generating billions of dollars of consumer spend around the world on products and services that allow our community to express itself and embrace a lifestyle of sophistication, individuality, pleasure and fun."
"We were particularly inspired by how diverse the community of passengers was on the original flights, and how much fun they all had together," continued Zeta and Price.
So, expect BIGBUNNY to be making plenty more flights in the not-so-distant future as it continues to mine its vision of contemporary, inclusive luxury. This ain't your grandpa's Playboy, nor does it want to be.