Let me bring you a quick, incomplete list of the luxury collaborations that made their runway debuts in New York, London, Milan, and Paris over the past fashion month.
Miu Miu x New Balance on sneakers; Givenchy x Josh Smith and Givenchy x Shin Murayama on a range of products and objects of artistic inspiration; Lanvin x Batman on chunky shoes; Balenciaga x Crocs and of course Balenciaga x The Simpsons on a special 10 minute episode of the series; Fendi x Versace and Versace x Fendi alias “Fendace”; COMME des GARÇONS x Solomon; Richard Malone x Mulberry; KNWLS x Marco Panconesi on retro jewelry; Moncler x basically everyone; Botter x manufacturer of Piganiol umbrellas; an SS Daley x The National Youth Theater. They were only those who were in plain sight. Now what do they all have in common? Well, absolutely nothing, and that is exactly its purpose.
If this latest fashion season – the first full dress in front of a predominantly live audience in over 18 months – could be translated into a metaphor, it would be: “Let’s throw it all up against the wall and see what sticks.” This was the approach taken for show concepts (think Chanel’s low-budget ’90s runway, Fendace, and Balenciaga’s fictional-non-fictional red carpet), for design directions (from the year 2000). to clever minimalism), as well as for collaborations that ranged from the mundane of product combinations to creating successful luxury-over-luxury partnerships and collaborations that spanned other creative disciplines.
It is the latter that will stick. While it is easy to applaud luxury brands for experimenting with various collaborative formats, it is clear that most of them are lost at sea when it comes to formalizing their collaboration strategies that have too much long relied on ad hoc elements with little long-term thinking. Now, in the age of the internet where it’s impossible to plan for the next viral product, it’s understandable that brands are taking their chances by trying everything.
Collaborations are often a safe testing ground for gauging consumer reaction, which could indicate in which direction the brand will grow next. They also provide the opportunity to learn from a partner’s categorical expertise, leverage their supply chain, and reach an audience through employee marketing channels.
Still, all of this is nothing new considering the number of collaborations that have flooded the luxury market over the past five years. As new formats are tested, it’s still surprising how few brands have dedicated collaboration strategies in place that go beyond quick hits. At this point, not only should brands be more familiar with the very clear benefits and pitfalls of collaborations – and collaborations should be a central part of their marketing strategies – but brands should go crazy for them. Venture out of your bubble of luxury comfort. It is the nature of the beast.
This means building long-term collaborations at Nike x Sacai, Asics x Kiko Kostadinov and Moncler x Craig Green. It means venturing outside of your own space with unexpected collaborations in art, food and drink, pop culture, automotive, design and technology. It means breaking the cycle of always working with the usual suspects when it comes to creative behind-the-scenes collaborations. It means hiring young people who are more in the know than you, keep that door open. Most of all, it means you have to see collaborations for what they are, to expand your brand universe. Surprise us. We promise we’ll be nice. May be.