Fashion Collabs: Are They Still Relevant for Brand Awareness?

fernando aguileta de la garza ELLE Business Fashion Collabs
The nature of fashion collaborations has radically evolved in the last twenty years. Purely, its essence is still intact: create a dialogue with the present times with the best possible partner. Under uncertainty, are we better together than alone?
ELLE Education Business
TopicFashion Collabs / Brand Awareness / Communication

Everybody who is anybody has done a fashion collaboration. That is a fact and a mantra inside the fashion industry. No matter the market segment or the size of the company, everybody is now allowed to collaborate. 

That spirit of joint work was not very common decades ago due to politics of secrecy, competitiveness, and design as a valuable asset that was not supposed to be shared. 

In today’s market, “no man is an island”, globalization and technology continually work under a convoluted roadmap, where the cooperation of fashion players is mandatory to survive. 

In 1999, Target broke the mold along with the Architect Michael Graves introducing its first designer line of products. Isaac Mizrahi, Philippe Starck, Proenza Schouler, and Rodarte are part of the group of designers that have collaborated with the mass-market store over the years. 

Marc Jacobs introduced the global contemporary art scene in 2001 at Louis Vuitton (the century-old luggage luxury brand that once was the temple of the aristocratic traveler), thanks to Stephen Sprouse’s collection that featured a classic monogram canvas revamped with graffiti. 

“Art and fashion were not strangers (think of Elsa Schiaparelli’s relationship with Surrealism) still, its renewed encounter under new century business rules changed how luxury was perceived globally and how it could interact outside of its Parthenon.”  

Swedish giant H&M went further, establishing an unseen dynamic between a retailer chain and a high fashion brand. It all started with Karl Lagerfeld’s collection back in 2004 that became an international formula to success. Designer clothing at affordable prices was here to stay as the customers went crazy about it and demanded more.   

Today’s landscape is utterly different. The «fashion collab» arena has merged into a crowded marketplace where everybody wants attention and immediate financial results. From the music industry to entertainment, passing by the internet stars and the heritage fashion houses; all of them open to collaborating, joining efforts to double sales or gain public recognition. 

This unalike cocktail of ingredients is making the collaboration field either a gold mine or a battlefield. Like never before brands have been sharing their ideas, mixing their processes and combining the DNA of the brands, finding new results to drive innovation.  


You Collab, They Collab, Everybody Collab: How Did We End up Here?

According to Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts & Cultures, innovation evolves across disciplines and disparate industries. The intersection, “as the point as the point where established concepts meet, connect, clash, and combine, where remarkable innovations are created and new, groundbreaking ideas emerge”.

A fashion collaboration is about a dialogue between the brands, their legacies, and the core values that define them. An unknown territory where everything can be possible and the outcome should reflect the syncretism of this experimental approach. The Medici’s analogy could serve as the template for a “cross-fertilization of ideas” approach to collaborations. Just like the Florentine banking family did in the fifteenth century, breaking conventions and mixing disciplines and cultures to start the Renaissance period. 

Creating a fashion collaboration to gain brand awareness remains relevant as a corporate strategy. The action may get media coverage leading to call-to-action purchases. In addition, other goals can be achieved, such as introducing the brand to a new demographic, rejuvenating the brand image, or changing the brand’s positioning. 

Today, some of the fashion collaborations do not follow the classic playbook. As the strategy has entered the mainstream, brands must keep up surprising and plan their most unexpected move. 

Fendi X Skims collaboration is the latest example of two brands seemingly at the opposite end of design. Shapewear and a revered roman house specialized in fur and high fashion, seemingly opposites attract. Kim Jones, Fendi’s Artistic Director, was a pioneer in the collaboration trend due to his partnership with the athletic brand Umbro back in 2002. 

Exclusive and massive segments united, a luxury house in partnership with a streetwear brand, celebrity pop star meets high-end retailer, technology company loves analog artisanal luxury brand; all of them are fascinating examples of today’s unprecedented collaborations. 

The sports and 3D reality videogames are infatuated with luxury sports brands and heritage Maisons. The latest collaboration of Fornite X Moncler and Xbox X Gucci both are obvious proof. Tiffany X Supreme, Telfar X Uggs, and the “Gucciaga” hackering experiment between Gucci and Balenciaga (now in stores) are the ultimate warming up for the holiday season. 

When consumers are witnessing the launch of a brand collaboration almost every month, wouldn’t it be reasonable to talk about the quality and intent behind each novelty attempt? Are those collaborations bringing something valuable in terms of design? Are they environmentally conscious within their processes? Are they being truly creative? Are they more of the same? 

These are tough but legitimate questions that soon the fashion industry will have to address if the collaboration purpose, which fosters innovation and creativity, is honestly beyond profit.

Originally published at: ELLE Education Business >