Call them what you want: exclusives, limited editions, collabs, drops—when remaining authentic, fashion collaborations are still viable ways for both brands and retailers to create a sense of urgency and buzz, reach new consumers, and boost bottom lines. Here are some recent examples of how brands and retailers have gotten it right.
To celebrate its 20th anniversary of collaborations, Target announced the release of a limited-edition capsule of its past limited-edition capsules! “20 Years of Design for All” will be available in September and is described in a press release as: “opening [the] archives to bring back nearly 300 limited-edition items from 20 past design collaborations.” Featured brands include Proenza Schouler, Anna Sui, Missoni, and Lilly Pulitzer, among others.
Iconic streetwear brand, Supreme has created an empire (and some very long lines at its store on Manhattan’s Lafayette Street) through some of its limited-edition collaborations. What might make Supreme’s collaborative past most impressive is that their partners have ranged from brands like Hanes to luxury fashion houses like Louis Vuitton, while consistently maintaining the brand’s authenticity, relevance and demand.
In some cases, collaborations can bring a brand into fashion.
Take Crocs for example. At a recent seminar during New York’s PROJECT N:OW Forums, Rachael Dimit, WGSN’s Senior Consultant highlighted Crocs as a “Cinderella Story” largely due to rapper Post Malone’s celebrity endorsement.
Dimit explains that Crocs unlikely rise to fame in the fashion world started with Post Malone “touting his rubber Crocs on Instagram; tweeting, ‘you can tell a lot about a man by the Jibbitz on his Crocs.’
“Apparently what the fans have been asking for is a Croc clog with special-edition Jibbitz, the buttons you can stick in the holes of the Croc including ones in shape of his ‘stay away’ tattoo above his eyebrow and his Posty Co logo. Madonna even commented on Post Malone’s Instagram post saying, ‘OMG I love those. How can I get some?’ With their impressive hail mary to Gen Z with the Post Malone collab, Crocs realized that nods to kitschy, ironic accessories would be their saving grace.
The numbers are pretty impressive for Crocs and their turnaround. The first collaboration with Crocs and Post Malone sold out in 10 minutes, with the second selling out in only 10 seconds. The brand saw its share prices and quarterly revenue skyrocket after the collaboration increasing their quarterly revenue by 7.3% and their share price increasing by $6.”
While some collabs can bring a brand to the forefront of fashion, others can help escalate a newer niche brand’s awareness. Chris Green, GMM of Totokaelo and Need Supply spoke at another seminar at the New York PROJECT N:OW Forums mentioning that while they’ve collaborated with well-known brands like Our Legacy, Dries Van Noten, and Issey Miyake, he’d like to continue to work with and nurture smaller brands.
When asked about his dream collaboration, Green responded, “The big thing for us [is] to continue incubating some of the smaller brands we’ve worked with.” He talked about emerging brands like Evan Kinori and Eden Power Corp. “[Evan Kinori] is a brand that needs support from a larger retailer to tell his story. And we don’t have to be the end story for him. We can be that launch that then gets him to a major department store or to land a major account.”
Exclusive product is another way for stores to differentiate themselves from the competition. At a recent seminar at MRket NY, Justin Berkowitz, Men’s Fashion Director of Bloomingdale’s said that they work with brands on stocking essential products. He explains, “We work with our brand partners like Theory, Ralph Lauren or some of our brands that have big footprints in our stores on core essential items. Sometimes they’re already a part of their line and we ask them to expand and sometimes we ask them to develop it just for us. But that way we have this essential product that the customer always needs and always wants”
Collaborations have proven to be more than a fleeting trend in fashion. Whether it seems like a natural fit or an unlikely friendship, when executed well, opportunities for brands and retailers are plentiful.