We’ve just experienced the time of the year again when retailers release their festive/holiday collections. These limited-edition collections tend to be the most buzz-worthy releases of the year, in part for the exclusive designer collaborations that fans are eager to get their hands on.
The demand and hype for these one-off collections make the holiday season a perfect opportunity to release these collections. Customers are already shopping for party pieces to wear for upcoming events, items that these fashion collaborations usually feature, and such exclusive products make for highly-coveted presents to open on Christmas day.
Why are we talking about Christmas when it’s 11 months away? Because in true PYT-fashion, we want to challenge the marketing/designer/partnerships professionals amongst us to start thinking ahead and own the season when it comes around.
Aside from the holiday season, fashion collaborations and limited-edition drops have become an important part of many retailers marketing strategies as a way to build hype and gain access to a new customer base.
The most common type of fashion collaboration we see within the apparel and accessory industry is that between a luxury designer house and high-street retailer. Designer brands were once hesitant to associate their name with that of a fast-fashion retailer in fear of diluting their prestige image, but this all changed back in 2004 when H&M launched their first designer collaboration with the legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld (RIP). Despite sceptics, it sold out within minutes of the launch, setting the precedent for many future high-street and designer collaborations to follow.
Such collaborations help to elevate a fast-fashion retailers presence within the fashion industry, whilst allowing the designer and luxury house an opportunity to make their designs available to a larger audience – who may, in turn, become a future customer – and build brand familiarity by offering styles in the house’s DNA aesthetic. For instance, a red tulle maxi dress in this years H&M collaboration with Giambattista Valli is the perfect example of an instantly recognisable piece from the designer, featuring their signature ultra-feminine and ruffle details that fans of the designer will buy as an investment piece.
There is also a place for designers to partner with resale, rent and discount sites for exclusive collections that similarly, draw upon signature designer styles or details. Consider queen-of-patterns Mary Katrantzou’s latest collaboration with Net-a-Porter’s discount site The Outnet. What’s special about this collaboration, in particular, is that all the pieces are made from up-cycled fabric from her archives – fabric that otherwise would have contributed to fashions alarming waste problem. As brands and retailers are focused on making more sustainable efforts, collaborations like this are a great way to reduce waste whilst creating new products at the same time.
But these exclusive partnerships are not just sought after by mass-market retailers, luxury brands also want in on the action. The most popular example, in this case, is the iconic Louis Vuitton x Supreme collaboration in 2017, which highlighted the rising influence of streetwear on the runway – also known as the ‘trickle-up’ effect. The sell-out collaboration also emphasised the importance of drop culture and the thriving resale market where items from the collection, such as a red duffle bag, were sold for almost six times their original sale price online.
In this case, the pairing enabled the historic fashion house to reshape their image to attract a younger and ‘cooler’ consumer, particularly millennials (which is also evident in Louis Vuitton’s latest hire of Off-White’s Virgil Abloh as Creative Director for menswear).
Rising, fast-fashion brands such as Missguided and Boohoo have built their brands from the ground up through influencer and celebrity collaborations and many new, cult brands have heavily relied on social media to build their direct-to-consumer brand. These retailers have successfully made influencer collaborations an integral part of their overall marketing strategy, with brands like In The Style revealing on their BBC documentary ‘Breaking Fashion’ that they aim to drop new collaborations every 2 weeks.
Last year, the founder of Leandra Medine, the founder of ManRepeller, collaborated with high-street retailer brand Mango for a Fall capsule collection. The success from this partnership can be attributed to how well Leandra slots into Mango’s aesthetic and current customer base. The retailer also worked with its army of #mangogirls to promote key items from the collection across their social accounts, such as a sold-out floral cardigan.
As the majority of influencers followers are engaged on Instagram, it’s important for brands to start utilising the app’s new shoppable features. Danielle Berstein of WeWoreWhat released her second collection with Joe’s Jeans earlier in November and the retailer was one of the first to use Instagram checkout and the drop reminder for the launch, enabling followers to opt-in to be notified when the collection was released, along with a direct link to shop.
Whilst these collaborations are an effective way of reaching new markets, audiences and selling out collections fast, retailers need to be wary of becoming too reliant on influencer collaborations. In order to sustain themselves as a retailer, fast-fashion brands have to ensure that their own product can sell outside of collabs in order to sustain themselves long-term. Nasty Gal, owned by Boohoo, recently announced that they are focusing on bigger influencers and less collaborations for greater impact, which is evident in the hire of model Cara Delvegine as the face of their 2019 holiday collection. Moves like this indicate that the constant stream of influencer collaborations may be becoming less impactful and fast-fashion retailers will soon need to reign back on constant drops and release less frequent collaborations to make a bigger splash.
Perhaps the most interesting of all fashion collaborations are those that seem the most unexpected. As we already know, fashion does not just exist within the confinements of itself but extends its influence into many other industries such as music and most recently, homeware with Virgil Abloh’s “MARKERAD” collection for IKEA. Such collaborations allow designers to establish themselves and their image as more of a lifestyle brand that customers can buy into to mark their affiliation. Over the years, Hermes x Apple Watch and Beyonce x Balmain for her Beychella performance are just some more examples of unique collaborations that we’ve seen in the last decade.
What collaborations would you like to see or work on in 2020?
Words by Heather Ibberson