There aren't many soft drinks I can write a 600 word piece about, but when Diet Coke asked me to give up some of my memories of the drink, it all came flooding back. Growing up, the mere act of ordering a Diet Coke in a restaurant felt like a rebellious rite of passage, even better if they came in the old fashioned glass bottles. That felt like a “proper” soft drink - the real thing. Call it naivety but drinking it was akin to attaching oneself to what I perceived to be a glossy image of grown-up sophistication and glamour – something which stemmed from seeing all the popular girls at school swigging Diet Coke after school in their brand new Ford KAs and spanking clean Nike trainers. I also remember the school getting well excited over the arrival of a drinks vending machine. 40p for a swig of sustenance and a chance to take the piss out of the iconic ads of women coo-ing and minxing over the Diet Coke hunk.
When Diet Coke started collaborating with fashion designers in the early noughties, it would only serve to strengthen its ties to a female dominated legion of Diet Coke devotees. When Patricia Field collaborated with Diet Coke in 2008 and put four sassy women on the bottles, you could see women drawing parallels between the bottles and the characters of Sex and the City, the series, which Field so successfully styled.
The Coca-Cola Light bottle as a canvas also served as a print vehicle for designers that had a highly recognisable visual language such as Versace’s baroque scrolls, Conseulo Castglioni of Marni’s graphic gradiated dots, Angela Missoni’s zig zag knit patterns and my favourite of all, Moschino’s tongue in cheek humour festooning the bottles in the form of 3-D moulded clouds, gigantic bows and flamenco frilly dresses. They became collector’s items - branded souvenirs that also happen to look pretty on a shelf. I remember trying to collect a full set of Matthew Williamson butterfly designed Diet Coke bottles that were only on sale in Selfridges, representing that particular moment in fashion when butterflies, feathers and bohemian insouciance were king.
When Karl Lagerfeld entered into an audacious collaboration with Diet Coke and then extending the partnership the following year with striking bottle designs that incorporated his infamous silhouette, it was an unprecedented move for such strong personal branding of one individual designer. In fashion, there are few like Uncle Karl, who can hold his own, stand tall on a bottle, with his signature ponytail and high-necked white collar on show. An instantly recognisable silhouette that goes hand in hand with the iconic status of the drink itself.
Last year, we also saw Jean Paul Gaultier give Diet Coke his own treatment, with three bottle and two can designs that were pure Gaultier through and through. The famous cone-bra corset, the blue Breton stripe and the provocative tattoo snaked their way around a Coca-Cola Light bottle, the shape of which strangely bears similarity to his own distinctive torso perfume bottles or the scantily clad women, who have walked his shows over the years.
Now we have Marc Jacobs re-enacting that Diet Coke hunk, a figure to be mocked or someone that you secretly fancied, depending on riot grrrl you were feeling (in my school, we had the whole spectrum from hardline "no boys allowed" feminists to those that physically swooned at the H2 bus driver). It’s a cheeky and timely collaboration, which a) is likely to make you go "Marc Jacobs is 50 next year?!? and b) segue into Diet Coke’s 30th Anniversary, celebrating everyone’s own memories of “just for the taste of it”, including my own.
Full Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.