Fashion Brand Collaborations Have Reached Saturation Point. Now What?

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If there is something that isn’t really news in fashion is collaborations. A lot of them. Whether it’s a celebrity-meets-powerhouse partnership or a cult-to-mainstream brand bond, collaborations have been the industry’s primary way to merge customer audiences and explore a few ideas along the way.  From Warhol’s iconic collaboration with Yves Saint Laurent in the sixties to the most recent Louis Vuitton x Supreme milestone linkup, collaborations become vivid documentation of the industry’s evolution from youth to oversaturation.

In today’s metaverse age, brand collaborations span almost every sector of the industry, from streetwear, luxury, independent brands, and everything in between. From the Moncler Genius ongoing collaboration project to Gucci’s ‘hacking” of fellow stablemate Balenciaga and  Vetements’ textbook anti-cool partnerships, the modem collaboration blueprint has been both a creative outlet and an exercise in branding.

In fact, Metafashion is the exhaustion of the actual house codes that characterized the brand and united a clientele, a target group or a followers’ cult. This is where collaborations actually enter and create meaning out of the cultural exchange of different audiences. Or even, construct meaning, if there isn’t one. With social media playing a key role in how collaborations are being executed, brand identity construction has been one of the trickiest and most fraudulent endeavors. We come across so much information on the web that nothing can be really surprising or innovative. Its buzz after buzz, traction after traction.

Of course, there is always the exciting part. For Kate Sheldon, Founder, and CEO of Fashioneering, this huge shift towards collaboration and open sourcing can be the answer to the industry’s longstanding hermeticism problem “We have a generation of designers who have grown up in a sharing economy supplementing their education with YouTube and Google University who are most comfortable collaborating. How our industry and the fashion brands within it work is changing and these increasing number of big-name collaborations are indicative of that.”

For Bronwyn Cosgrave, best-selling author, and host of the fashion podcast A Different Tweed, cross-branded partnerships immediately create something new” Collaborations have been going for a really long time. I think H&M is very much responsible for popularizing them, not to mention Nadja Swarovski so did Dries Van Noten’s partnership with Christian Lacroix. When the work is artisanal and sincere, there is meaning” she notes.

And sales. According to Nya-Gabriella Peets, Director of Brand Partnerships at Digital Brand Architects, collaborations are great for both the creative process and marketing. “It’s a chance for one brand to introduce its audience to another brand where they see similarities and will increase the chance of consumer consideration” she notes.

The point is strong. Gucci’s unexpected collaboration with Balenciaga marked the end of an era; it was the first time two brands of similar status and overlapping audiences’ united power to produce a hybrid collection merge of both powerhouses’ DNA codes. With that milestone exceeded, what can we really expect from the future of collaborations?

For Bronwyn Cosgrave, it is all about youth energy and diversity “I would like to see a large brand owned by LVMH, Kering or Richemont collaborate with a young designer or an up & comer. In the way that Donatella Versace invited young designers like Christopher Kane and JW Anderson to interpret Versus or what Christelle Koché did with Pucci. But the mix needs to be diverse.”

According to Nya -Gabriella Peets, the future of collaborations is a more cross-industry approach: “I think we will start to see more out-of-the-box collaborations like The North Face and Pokemon Go or more collaborations with a diverse celebrity or influencer brands.”she forecasts.” Groundbreaking collaborations of the past aren’t so groundbreaking anymore” adds Kate Sheldon. “The shift we are seeing is reflective of far bigger generational shifts in how to navigate the world and in our value systems.”

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